A Face in the Crowd is one of my favorite films of all time. Andy Griffith plays Lonesome Rhodes, a smooth talking, tell-it-like-it-is country boy whose flamboyant personality sends him soaring into popularity with the help of Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal), a gentle radio host who initially sees his potential. Rhodes’ popularity soon grants him political power while his true self begins to emerge creating a megalomaniac that appeals to television viewers across the country. Screenwriter Budd Schulberg crafts a marvelous story that warns audiences against the tantalizing lure of populism, while director Elia Kazan paints a picture completely ahead of its time to drive the film’s point home. Have we learned anything from this 1957 masterpiece? We’ll find out on November 8th. Read my review of this gem, then SEE THIS FILM to understand its greatness and relevance and be sure to vote in the upcoming election.
Memory is faulty. Despite this truth, humanity relies heavily on it to validate our experiences. We place too much power on the memory of ourselves and others as if our brains are a steel trap capable of cementing a detailed moment for life. We put people in prison based on often times fraudulent memories that are easily distorted the moment the we take them in. Simply finding your car in a parking garage is an ordeal for many when you know for a fact where you parked. Science has reminded us time and again that we shouldn’t rely on our memories, and yet as a society we forget this lesson and continuously do so. The Girl on a Train capitalizes on this aspect by toying with the notion of memory in clever ways to explore how an unstable, alcoholic must unwittingly rely on her memory to prove her innocence in the murder of a woman she has become obsessed with.
Emily Blunt wades through heavy water works and one-off stares into space giving an impressively pitiful performance as Rachel, a motherless cuckquean wandering through life in an alcoholic stupor. Rachel is unable to deal with the loss of her family, more so how In Vitro Fertilization didn’t take and how happily her now ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), has settled in with his new wife, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), and their infant child. Adding insult to injury, the new couple lives in the home that Rachel and Tom once shared making for a mentally jarring train ride twice a day.
Rachel’s life is miserable. She manages to cope through an unhealthy habit of guzzling vodka masked in water bottles, after train martinis and ending her nights with a bottle of wine. This loopy existence only gives her enough mental awareness to make unannounced house calls to her ex and stare out the train window at what once was and what could be in Megan (Haley Bennett), the nanny and neighbor of Anna. Rachel develops a fantastical attachment to Megan and her obnoxiously sexy husband, Scott (Luke Evans). The couple gives Rachel hope for love, that is until she spots Megan locking lips with another man. This sends Rachel into a rage that gets stifled by a black-out, then ends with Megan’s mysterious disappearance.
The Girl on a Train aims high at psychological thriller status desperate to entice and enthrall its viewers. It misses the mark by wallowing in monotony and poor character development for the sake of psyching viewers out. The Girl on a Train spends the majority of its run-time setting up the final “gotcha” moment instead of truly delving into the connection between the three female leads and their mental hang-ups. The narrative unfolds in broken pieces that coldly bounces between characters and in between time, but surprisingly much of the film feels stagnant never quite getting to its point until the film’s 3rd act.
The meat of the story is thrown to Rachel which benefits Blunt, but leaves scrapes for other characters to gnaw on— although Ferguson gets a chance to exercise her acting chops for a smidgen of the film. Screenplay writer Erin Cressida Wilson adapts her script from Paula Hawkins’ acclaimed novel of the same name. Nevertheless, Wilson presents moviegoers with a cast of unlikable characters whose redemption’s are either never given, (for instance the psychiatrist who for some reason puts his practice and life’s work in jeopardy in order to sleep with a damaged patient or the sad and questionable Scott) or only granted asylum at the end, by which point there are so many loose ends to grasp at that you don’t care about the individuals anymore.
It was hard to sympathize with the people we follow based on the fragmented bits of them we see through director Tate Taylor’s vision. They are either annoying, rude, disrespectful or just plain unlikable. The mysterious mood needed to make The Girl on a Train thrilling and captivating is lost in part because of the oddly bright high-key lighting and Danny Elfman’s upbeat, melodramatic score. Admittedly so, the screenplay’s ability to test the moral compass of characters is intriguing as it slightly explores the complexities of human nature.
I admire The Girl on a Train for its heavy emphasis on emotional and mental abuse experienced by women at the hands of people who are manipulative and more socially powerful that they are. The Girl on a Train is more about reconciling social gas-lighting and how quickly we vilify members of society who have fallen by the wayside due to substance abuse. How an individual copes with pain through alcohol and sex are themes slightly touched upon but not fully unpacked to my disappointment. Instead, its time is wasted on giving Blunt room to weep and sulk so that we can all cheer when she regains strength. For some this is effective, for others it’s grossly expected and largely disappointing.
AVOID IT. I’m sure the book is much better as diving into this topic and story.
It feels good to be back on American soil after a much needed, extended vacation– although the comfort of being back in the states is comparable to returning to a cult. For the first time in my life I traveled across the Atlantic Ocean on a trip that took me through two states and around four countries. I’ve had dreams of visiting Paris since childhood thanks to an early obsession with Madeline and an exposure to the French language. These dreams of visiting France got superseded by even larger ideas to check out Berlin after realizing the only tickets available to see Radiohead on their current tour was at Lollapalooza. “Why stop there?” my rampant imagination contemplated. “You’ll be close to Prague and even Austria…why not go to Vienna?” Instead of denying my big dreams, I said yes to them and I am eternally grateful that I did.
Despite living in sheer beauty for three weeks of bliss exploring lands I never thought I’d actually see, I encountered decay and heavy-handed sorrow on my travels. Just like in America, Europe is ripe with social change and conflict. Their struggles aren’t in any images I’ve seen on television the way America’s struggle to admit its white supremacy has been. The challenges endured by the other side of the world is much quieter, albeit highly visual all over the streets of the inner cities.
Families of Syrian and African refugees lined the streets of Paris. The Champs-Élysées houses Syrian women with heads bowed begging for change. Families with toddler children run around barefoot on the streets camped out in metro stations and in front of restaurants begging for help. An entire park off the picturesque Seine river houses hundreds of tents where African refugees live washing their clothes in fountains of the park. All are waiting for the opportunity to make it to England where work and security is. Graffiti lines the walls of buildings in Berlin and Vienna vocalizing opinions on these social issues showing a strong mentality of socialist mindsets battling a nationalist rhetoric that shouts loudly across the media.
This vacation turned out to be a realization of the cataclysmic state this world is undergoing, an issue that is not isolated in America as I so ignorantly attributed in the past. The waging conflicts taking place in America is happening on a macro level on nearly every major continent on the planet. Every stretch of my trip exposed me to more truths and realities I didn’t know existed. In some respects it felt comforting having critical conversations with liberal-minded Parisians as well as Malaysians and Turkish visitors in a hostel of Prague that reiterated the insanity of clashes happening all over the world. But each time after these conversations fueled by passion for humanity and a disregard for injustice ended we were left with the same question; “well what do we do now?” That reassurance that we aren’t alone only became more despondent at the realization that we are all suffering together, and perhaps the only remedy is to let the tides crash and work in our communities to soften the blow for those who can’t help themselves.Nevertheless, these musings weren’t the whole of my trip, although I definitely welcomed them to take up much of my thought. I reveled in the wild nightlife of Berlin, the prismatic beauty of Prague, and the sheer opulence of Vienna. I loved every moment of my visit even when I was exhausted, drained, and ready to get back to the messed up home I know and love. It’s only natural that the highlights of each city were the cinematic glorification I received from each. I spent a night drinking beer and swapping movie recommendations with a German pal at Filmkunstbar Fitzcarraldo. The beers were cheap, the dance floor packed and moving, and the walls are lined with old posters and DVDs available to rent. I got to walk the streets of Paris imagining I was Jean Seberg in Breathless. A night out in Vienna introduced me to Top Kino, a comfy bar that houses an art-house theater in the back. But, it was in Prague that I marveled in delight at one of the most unique film exhibits I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience.
Tucked away in the back of the Galerie Rudolfinum is the fall exhibit, Last Year at Marienbad: Film as Art Exhibit curated by Dr. Christoph Grunenberg. In an exquisite, carefully constructed exhibition that mixes mediums and themes, Grunenberg allows Last Year in Marienbad to be the pulse of a larger body of work that explores techniques and influences based around the film itself. The exhibition cleverly plays on the form and structure within the film giving credence to the halls of various artworks related to Alain Resnais beautifully abstract film. A set of five televisions flatly line a dark wall; each screen frozen on moments of the film until it’s their time in the queue to come alive. Each screen suspires in cross cutting action coming to life for a minute or two before turning a new page where one screen begins and the others end for spectators to view. The images on the screens drip with sensual intrigue balancing sharp angles with pointed objects and rounded edges as the camera moves in placid formation. Thick books are attached to each seat for spectators to learn the history of Last Year in Marienbad’s inception.
The product of a collaboration between French director, Resnais, and Nouveau Roman author Alain Robbe-Grillet, Last Year in Marienbad is a film in which its charms exists in its extensive tracking shots, slow fluid panning, and surrealistic dreamlike nature. Robbe-Grillet adapted the stream of consciousness screenplay in painstaking detail for Resnais to bring to the screen, creating a story buried in confusion and brain fog. Their collaborative efforts allow lighting to play a major part in the existence of characters while simultaneously creating characters from the essence of shadows. The blocking of actors on screen is immaculate as the space between the leads exudes an angst and tension between them allowing the absence of objects to tell its own story. The score adds a layer of cryptic tension to the overall feel of the film, and there are moments of it where I almost lost all composure at how beautiful the shots were. Last Year in Marienbad is living art, a manipulation of time and space.
The exhibit wraps around the inner walls of Galerie Rudolfinum lining the museum with poster art, behind the scene photos, storyboards, and artists renditions of scenes inspired by the film done in pencil, mixed media, paints, and photography. More televisions fill other rooms showing creative uses of movement captured through camera that are direct, and indirect, influences of the film. Last Year in Marienbad is a film that prior to this exhibit I had never heard anything of. This is film that during its time received just as much criticism as it did praise due it to his ultra bourgeoisie theme and its dismissal of a clear storytelling structure. This lack of focus on reality was directly challenged by other filmmakers in the rise of the French New Wave. If this exhibit taught me anything, which I think the film itself intends in its own way, it is that despite the opulence and luxury one may see on the surface, reality is always a matter of perspective. All that glitters isn’t gold and though at times beautiful, life is a confusing, unscrupulous mess that we haven’t figured out just yet.
A few weeks ago, the BBC released a list compiled by 122 critics from around the world chronicling their favorite films of the 21st Century. From 2000 until now, cinema has continued to push the creative boundaries of what a film can and should do. Stories made for the big screen continue to reveal niche ideas and underrepresented moments in history to the masses. Each critic’s unique list reminds me that I have a massive amount of films to catch up on (y’all I still haven’t seen Lost in Translation or Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon), but in the meantime I have put together my own list to compliment the dozens of cinephiles around the world who made theirs. These films have not only reshaped the way I view movies, but they have prompted empathy for the world around me. What are some your favorite films of the 21st Century so far?
1. City of God (Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, 2002)
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
3. The Pianist (Roman Polanski, 2002)
4. The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
5. Bamboozled (Spike Lee, 2000)
6. OldBoy (Park Chan-wook, 2003)
7. Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aranofsky, 2000)
8. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012)
9. Selma (Ava DuVernay, 2014)
10. The Descent (Niel Marshall, 2005)
Amores Perros (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2000)
Kill Bill: Volume 1 (Quentin Tarantino, 2003)
Brick (Rian Johnson, 2005)
Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)
Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)
American Pyscho (Mary Harron, 2000)
Wall-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008)
Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001)
Blue is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)
A psychedelic experience can be characterized by a fragment in time when your perception of the world becomes altered, bending in ways that allows the observer to see what is arguably considered the “real world.” Experiences within these moments are segmented by a bolder, brighter view of one’s physical surroundings as the senses are heightened. The observer begins having deep philosophical thoughts on what is around and beyond their current focal point.
The entire premise of Sausage Party roots itself in the psychedelic experience as a form of storytelling. Sausage Party feels like a trip because it is unlike anything before it. I’m not saying that Sausage Partybeing a raunchy comedy veiled in the childhood aesthetics of animation makes it exceptional among those before it. There have been porn films staring puppets, a R-rated animated musical staring adolescents, and a police drama with marionettes that still looms in the public consciousness.
You know that shark attack in Deep Blue Sea after Samuel L. Jackson’s character gives an impassioned speech moments before a shark jumps out from nowhere and chomps him two? I wonder if Sharknado’s origins derives from that moment in cinema. Were the original writers of the franchise completely stoned out of their minds when they thought up the concept? It feels like they had to be, or at least for whoever wrote Sharknado 4: The Fourth Awakens. I’ve never seen any of the Sharknado films before. I don’t intend to see any of them– well with the right group of people I could. My introduction to the Sharknado world is owed to a random gif on tumblr that tickled me so hard I couldn’t help but let curiosity get the best of me to watch it. And oh my Lord, I’m so delightfully pleased that I did.
Sharknado 4 is stupid. It’s the most idiotic, wackiest plot with the cheesiest special effects you can imagine. That’s a given and duh, obviously it’s charm. But, Sharknado 4 is a lot smarter than it appears…I type this as two characters use two dead electrified sharks as a defibrillator on another character. Sharknado 4 is what it is, but what makes it so damn enjoyable is how straight it plays its own insanity. This is a film that realizes what its doing, and while everyone involved is in on its ludicrous nature, they all still realize this is a legit paycheck they wouldn’t come any other way which results in the team bringing their A-game. Tommy Davidson gives a rousing performance as the creator of the original “Sharknado” epidemic, Aston Reynolds. Ian Zeiring as Fin Shepard, the lovable badass lead, plays up his Evil Dead Ash inspired role with a genial humbleness. Most of the cast dives into their roles with awareness of action sequences and micro-expressions even when they aren’t the focus of scenes. And Tara Reid… poor girl does her best with the most she’s given in this film.
Most of the cameo appearances are well played garnering some fantastic death scenes. The overall direction of the film is tailored to provide a high-octane thrill ride that ultimately gets exhausting halfway in because this film just throws everything at you. That expression “everything but the kitchen sink” doesn’t apply to Sharknado 4: The Fourth Awakens, they’ve thrown the sink in, the pipes, and all the dirty dead bugs under it. I mean anything that you can think of when watching this movie will likely happen. But you probably wouldn’t think of them because really, how does the concept of a Bouldernado even get brought up? I thoroughly enjoyed watching Sharknado 4 and that was just by myself without a group of friends or the insane amount of alcohol that it will take to make this a greater watching experience. I can’t wait to rewatch it with both of the aforementioned items in tow. Until then, here are the best elements of Sharknado 4 that makes it worth the watch.
- The one-liners:
“Did you say Boulderando?”
“Sharkberg right ahead!”
“We gotta blow up the Grand Canyon.”
After a train wreck where (almost) everyone survives: “You guys alright?”
“But, no we gotta stay right here!”
- Major landmarks… only to see them blown up.
The Grand Canyon, Yellow Stone National Park, Salt Lake City Utah, and the Biggest Ball of Twine in Kansas; these are just a fraction of the landmarks they show before they succumb to various forms of destruction.
- Homages to other films:
It’s seriously too much, but so great when they happen. There’s homages from Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Wizard of Oz, to Men in Black, to Stephen King’s Christine There is no continuity, no consistency, no reason.
- The deaths.
A man dies from a sand-covered shark attack. Sharks defy gravity to kill humans. Humans develop extraordinary powers to defeat the sharks. Characters drop like bees on monocultured farms. Sharknado 4 pull inspiration from George R. R. Martin at times by killing off characters you wouldn’t expect and others you totally would.
SEE IT. There are a multitude of other reasons why this movie, in all of its stupidity, is so worth the watch. I can only imagine watching it in a crowd with a drinking game attached as a necessity.
There are two things I didn’t know existed in Japan during the 1960s: A hippie counterculture and an open community of LGBT citizens. Homosexuality in Japan has always existed, but I was never exposed to how Japan viewed this part of society. My knowledge of Japanese culture derives almost exclusively from cinema. The films that I have watched over the years curtailed any representation of Japanese counterculture pre-1980s to miniscule images. This lack of insight has giving me a very formal, skewed vision of Japanese lifestyles. Thankfully, Funeral Parade of Roses came into my life via an open screening by Atlanta’s underground movie rental spot, Videodrome. Funeral Parade of Roses metaphorically knocked me on my ass. Not merely for its stunning, avant-garde images, but for its unwavering eye into the world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll in the gay community with an Oedipus Rex twist attached to a brimming social commentary on the period itself.
Funeral Parade of Roses came during the zeitgeist of the French New Wave and Japanese New Wave movements. Godard and Truffaut are often lauded as the forerunners and stable forces within the “new wave” genre of filmmaking that took place largely between the late 1950s-1970s. My own ignorant knowledge has long attributed “new wave” to the French as so much of the movement was gestated, popularized and romanticized by the French. But, their methods of deconstructing linear plots, cutting up narratives, breaking fourth walls and begging the audience to engage their critical mind while watching wasn’t just limited to France. Japan, Czechoslovakia, the U.S., India and Brazil are among the many that sought to revitalize and deconstruct the art of cinema all around the same time frame. Film school, unfortunately, left this part of history out. Although it’s disappointing to know that there are movements I’ve been completely unaware of, Funeral Parade of Roses has led me down an exciting rabbit hole of great Japanese cinema to get lost in.
The social climate that Funeral Parade of Roses exposes is boldly astonishing for its time. Toshio Matsumoto forces a controversial lifestyle into the faces of viewers with strategic ease and brazenness. While America tiptoed around the topic of homosexuality in 1969 with Midnight Cowboy, Funeral Parade of Roses leaps into the topic with sensuality, rawness, and humor. We bounce around the city into the outings and interrelationships of a group of transsexual and gay individuals while the bitter rivalry between Eddy and Leda rage on in the film’s background. Leda is a Drag Queen in charge of a ritzy nightclub, but now worries about her place in her social group when a younger, more attractive Queen, Eddy, begins to draw Leda’s spotlight away from her. The battle between new and old rages through fashion and cat fights. Eddy’s youth grants her the trendiest outfits and accessories while Leda’s traditional kimono laden style of dress implicates her age as the warring battle of past versus present takes place.
Matsumoto does absolute wonders in this film through stunning visuals. Funeral Parade of Roses‘ radical film style completely sucks you in to the eye of the storm then pushes you out into a magnificent world of diversity and bold color despite living within a realm of black and white. Shot without color on 35mm, Funeral Parade of Roses jumps out in audacious tones and schemes. The lighting is a completely adulated physical aspect of the film that highlights all the right angles, expressions and nuances of these characters and their world. Matsumoto doesn’t want you to forget that this a film though. In one particular scene Eddy has sex with a gentlemen she meets at the bar. The low-key lighting of the scene shines from below her face that is framed intimately tight in a close-up as she moans. The scene lingers here putting viewers smack into the middle of this deeply intimate moment behind closed doors before a “cut” is heard. The scene then widens out to show the cast and crew and how the camera managed to make Eddy look so flawless and silver.
These moments of breaking the fourth wall with audiences repeat frequently throughout the film in ingenious bursts. We are shown interviews with cast members in their on-set wardrobe as they candidly discuss the notion of their sexuality. One must remember this was filmed in 1969 so the language seems harsh during Matsumoto’s questioning, but this marks the first time to my knowledge, that homosexuality had ever been addressed in Japan, with such gallant openness. Regardless, the interviews are warm and enlightening expressing the confusion of sexuality, the reality of a sexual spectrum and the honesty of both the joy and sorrow that comes with being non-cisgendered individual.
Funeral Parade of Roses does a lot in its hour and 47 minutes that should get viewed firsthand to fully enjoy. It’s a film that mixes hippie avant-grade experimentation with a social essay that holds a mirror up to society and begs it to study itself. My love of Jean-Luc Godard and the entire French New Wave movement only speaks to my biased love for what Funeral Parade of Roses does as a piece of art. It breaks apart preconceived notions of film to give visibility to members of society who don’t usually have a voice. All the while it completely draws you into its dramatic story while being able to shock and amaze all at once. It’s a shame more films didn’t follow suit… If they did, please suggest more to me!
SEE IT. And revel in amazement at this highly relevant, impressive gem.
Television has sucked me into a vacuum lately. My screen time has involved a copious amount of historical docudramas, most notably, documentaries and shows focused on famed football player and accused murder OJ Simpson. I’m not sure why in the midst of tragedy around the world I tend to be a glutton for more sorrow, but this long-term form of coping has always been one my defense mechanisms. This tragic head space began months ago with “American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson”. Each episode drew me into the horrific death of Nicole Brown Simpson and the unhealed wounds of systematic racism across America. Just when I thought I could breathe again once the claustrophobic, captivating effect of “The People Vs. O.J.” ended, ESPN’s “30 for 30” series made its way into my sights on the back of the ever-growing, current social unrest in America.
Despite everything I thought I knew of the O.J. trial based off my own experiences growing up with the case and having just finished “The People Vs. O.J. Simpson”, “30 for 30” managed to further school me on the radical nature of America at the height of the Simpson’s murder trial. Then, halfway into watching the series, news hit that Alton Sterling was killed by police as the chilling video made its way into my consciousness. I was completely at a loss for words and still reeling from the racial tensions already plighting the country. Any semblance of a band-aid of healing got ripped off repeatedly by the wall-to-wall O.J. drama I kept digesting. The next day news of Philando Castile’s murder hit and the video instantly transplanted itself into my memory. That’s when I shut down. I immediately felt drained. Every essence in my body, soul, and mind broke and a miserable depression fell over me. It felt as though I had devoted entire lifetimes on a solution only to see it explode into burnt ashes in my hand.
Over the course of 40 years in America it feels for many as though nothing has changed. This heavyhearted feeling is problematic. In 1965 Marquette Frye, a Black man in L.A. got stopped in Watts for reckless driving. The resulting scuffle between him, his mother, and officers caused Frye to get forcefully subdued by officers sparking anger in the Watts community of L.A. This predominately Black neighborhood subject to routine abuse at the hands of law enforcement fought back. A six-day riot took place. In 1979, Eulia Love, a mother of two, got shot to death on her front lawn by L.A. officers disputing a gas bill. In 1993, 13-year old Latasha Harling was murdered by a convenient store owner. Trayvon Martin’s death on 2014 ignited fervent anger and resentment as well as a chain reaction of Black bodies succumbing to their death at the hands of police on camera. There are hundreds of unnamed victims before, after, and in-between each of the aforementioned citizens. The Washington Post tallies 533* deaths by police in 2016 alone. The website Killed by Police counts 643*.
Alton and Philando’s deaths along with the shocking murder of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge shortly after had everything to do with me as an individual. Initially, it felt like an odd sentiment to hold, seeing as how these men were adults with their own lives and loved ones who feel a pain that I can’t imagine. I am me, a Black woman with relatively astute privilege in life that has lived ignorantly to the fear of cops over my body. I can only wish love and comfort for the families of these victims. I am not Philando Castle or Alton Sterling. But, these men are my people. Their deaths hit me hard. Once again the historical oppression I have always been aware of and the inherent fear of Black bodies that only recently began to truly get unpack and understood was reaffirmed.
I am all too aware of the painstaking hardships Black bodies have endured under the oppression of white authority. I am aware of the lynchings, house burning, beatings, forced labor and public scorn men and women of the African Diaspora have encountered so that America could rise to power. I know how Blacks have worked tirelessly to catch up to a society that has been allowed to speed ahead. And, whatever fruits African-Americans have come to own of their own accord have been spoiled and left to rot at the hands of others resistant to change and progress.
I know the long road of the Civil Rights moment, the Black is Beautiful movement, and how disparaging it was for Black citizens who finally felt they had a chance at true freedom, the pure taste of light, only to have their leaders killed, their organizations destroyed, and their people dissipated by crack, heroin, crime, systematic oppression, and violence. These issues were created and still held in place by a society that fears change and refuses to allow Blacks the same agency that they themselves receive. Racial tensions creep beyond skin deep issues, they are a socio-economic matter. This racial construct of “whiteness” even eluded Irish citizens who came to America in the early portion of the 20th century.
When Alton and Philando died it felt like progress once again not only hit a halt, but barely ever existed. Watching “30 for 30”, “The People vs. OJ”, and CNN’s underrated series “The Seventies,” I came to realize how the exact same issues that plagued our society barely 40 years ago are still chipping away at us today. This notion nearly defeated me and my charge for social and political justices. What’s the point of fighting it anymore? Our leaders were way more organized and closer to the zeitgeist of change in the 60s and 70s than we are now, and we’re still in fighting the battle. I felt depressed. Unwilling to do anything else except shut my brain off and cry.
Then a spark happened. While watching the 3rd part of “30 for 30” when the trial begins and the focus shifts to how the people of America, essentially aided in Simpson’s not guilty verdict. Black America felt so exasperated with the American justice system, a system that had just excused the actions of police involved in the Rodney King beating, that the masses took advantage of their power to mobilize. The trial of O.J. Simpson is an anomaly, a truly awe-inspiring event that changed the course of history leaving ripples along the way that still bubble at our feet today. On an individual level, Simpson somehow transcended race. He looked within himself to be the best and created an impenetrable wall around him that kept him exalted. He avoided controversy early in his life by living a parallel existence.
While Stokley Carmichael and Fred Hampton fought, got exhaled, and died for the equality of African-Americans, O.J. avoided politics, earned money, then franchised himself to become an entrepreneur that left racial issues in the dust. Simpson’s case is a rare breed, but it opened the door for dialogue on race and society that continues today. This is a topic that many are dying to ignore and others are dying because it’s undeniable. Skin matters. We may not want it to, but it does. The repeated deaths of Black individuals throughout history isn’t as simple as a racist with a badge and gun.
This complex reality is because we live in a society where Black bodies have been feared for centuries. Black bodies are despised. Coveted. Hated. Ignored. Looked down on. Centuries of this type of thinking has embedded itself into our psyche. So much so that it feels normal to avoid certain parts of town because it’s the “Black side of town.” It becomes commonplace to clutch a purse when around Black men or cross the street at night when a Black person is nearby. “Driving while Black” remains a dangerous reality. These biases exist for a reason, and when we don’t contemplate or discuss them in conversations with each other, they only fester to a point of fear and reaction.
We have become a reactionary society in our contemporary time. We react with anger ,then move on forgetting about the past instead of evolving to a better place. We can’t afford to be reactionary and despondent anymore. Innocent lives are hanging in the balance. Now is the time be creative and enlist community help. To change laws. To mobilize. A whole slew of Americans fed up with the lack of justice in their communities ultimately helped a murder, and possible sociopath, walk free to capitalize on his crimes. In 1995, it wasn’t because they didn’t know any better, or because they were race-baiting. It was because they were angry and tired of watching a criminal justice system work for some and not all.
We as individuals and on larger scale are allowing these injustices to continue when we just sit back and complain. Atlanta alone has shown the power of mobilizing in the wake of these issues. After five days of protesting racial injustice, the city got the attention and ear of the Mayor. We have the power to make change on a larger scale when we are faced with tragedy. We must remember to keep fighting, and not with fire or guns, but with our bodies and voices. We’ve all agreed to a social contract that pits people of color below whites. This social contract gives us credence to fear each other based off race. We are not bound to this contract. We can break it at any time. We must. Lives depend on it.