‘The Hate U Give’ might end up the most divisive mainstream picture to release this year. Which is a fact that did not hit me until today. Not because of the films quality, but because many white people and the deliberately blind racists of this world have no interest in putting themselves in another persons shoes. A large amount of these people actually claim to be the actual victims and seem to think that because police officers have a dangerous job that they have a license to shoot any person they are worried about. That’s some pretty rough criteria when the stereotypical cop is natural inclined to fear blacks.
I waited a bit to write my review of this film so that I could get a glimpse at what the first audience reactions would be like, and they were not surprising. Half love and half hate the film. Again, not because of its writing, performances, or any technical prowess that the film puts on display, but clearly a partisan and bigoted divide on the films very existence. Most people I read seem not to have actually seen the film, but the fact it exists is an affront to them. And some actually make arguments that the film is bad because it’s dealing with an important subject. Others actually call it racist for dealing with racism.
The truth is that the reaction to this film from white people that have not seen it yet is more indicative of the problem than anything to do with the movie or it’s message. The truth is, this is an absolutely beautiful film. A film with wonderful writing, powerful performances, some clever laughs, some truly moving sequences, and incite into what it’s like to be black in America. Most importantly, it does this from the standpoint of Hollywood filmmaking. Make no mistake about it, this film feels like a teen movie. It has teen romance, inner monologues, some melodramatic speeches, neatly wrapped up loose ends, and everything else that an R rated independent film would try to avoid.
However, that’s precisely what might make a difference for white people that are willing to give this film a chance. This film has a striking familiarity to it. Much of the film feels like other coming of age dramas you’ve seen grace the cineplex hundreds of times before. Which makes much of it universally accessible. Yet, it’s the way the film deviates to give us a portrait of a young girls divided world and what it feels like to be black in America, that makes it standout. Curious and open minded people may finally get why ‘Black Lives Matter‘ exists not to spite police, but to protect those being oppressed. This movie might open a dialogue for just the right person and become something much more important than simple entertainment. Which is what art is suppose to do.
Now that I’ve given a sermon, I will break down the plot for those of you unfamiliar with this film. The story is about the current state of our racial divide between people of color and the police who are suppose to protect them. This particular look into the current oppression is through the eyes of a teenage girl named Starr (played beautifully by Amandla Stenberg). Starr is a girl with one foot in the rich white culture through her parents attempt to pay for her to go to private school and her inner city culture. The movie illuminates the positives and negatives of both aspects in a very accessible manner. The audiences sees the beauty and the horror that exists inside black neighborhoods. It also asks you to consider why the drugs and gang violence exist in the first place. A deeper dive into the economics of black poverty would have been welcome, but there is enough questioning about where and why drug culture perpetuates to get people to start thinking outside the narrow minded norms.
The horrors of the film shoot off when Starr’s friend is killed by a police officer right in front of her. This happens because of a hand full of complicated reasons. They are pulled over for no real reason. The driver is rightfully irritated, but mistakenly non-compliant. The officer tells him to keep his hands in one place and the driver instead grabs a hairbrush out of his car. For this, he is shot and the officer makes no attempt to help him. Only to find the gun that does not exist. Complicated questions about this altercation are asked and it’s clear that both sides of the situation made mistakes, but only one is dead. And the real question is would the kid be dead if he wasn’t black and is death really the punishment for disobeying an officer while being black. The answer should be obvious, but we’ve been arguing it in the media for lifetimes and it’s still just as bad as ever. So, this film attempts to truly give you the black perspective, while also giving the other side a level of understanding.
This movie will divide some people. People will write negative reviews without ever even seeing the film and others will be dragged grudgingly along to it when they’ve already made up their mind on the issue. However, those who stand neutral, and see both sides for the difficult situation they are in, will likely find themselves finally understanding why being black in America is so difficult. They will feel the difficulty of trying to hold on to the beauty of your culture, while fighting all the oppressors that bring them down. They will understand what it’s like to live in fear of those who are meant to protect. This is a film for black Americans to watch and help them find a voice to speak out with. But it’s also a movie for white people to watch and finally get a taste of what a lack of white privilege really means.
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