Questions You Should be Asking the World Around You
Movie night. My friends and I would gather for half off Wednesdays. Our cars were minty, we had on our freshest gear, everybody showered, and it was always the liveliest night out of the week. All the kids from the neighboring districts would show up too, and it was a good way to keep track of all the new faces in my city.
This movie I remember had a very diverse set of topics. Boyz n the Hood, Juice, New Jack City, and all the other movies of that time strictly limited themselves to the topic of racial inequality, while this one…this one was about college life, politics, lesbians, black supremacy, and white supremacy.
Oh shit. I wrote a couple of prohibited words. If I had written this on Huffington Post, I would quickly find myself under a barrage of internet gunfire. I’d have white groups, black groups, and LGBT groups coming after me, and it’s because culture has changed. It’s the culture of overreaction.
Now the topic has been derailed because I would have been forced to defend myself against ferocious attacks, rather than explain why I liked the movie.
This movie had me rooting for it because it had a compelling narrative about the struggle for racial equality. It was a time when rap dominated the music scene and so movies like these were very popular. I liked how the black students fought and won against the campus neo nazis. Omar Epps played a character who at first didn’t seem critical of the state of American culture. He was open to fraternizing with those outside of his race, but the movie throws him numerous challenges, making him question his beliefs. You can say that he started off as a middle grounder, but gradually became radicalized. There was a bit of a ramp up to the difficulties that Epps faced, where consecutive instances of racial discrimination builds him up to his final transformation, at which point he becomes dissilusioned and defeated. He wakes up, he realizes the country is shit, and he thinks to himself that he needs to change it. So we have a good guy archetype in Omar Epps. He’s a track star, fairly naive and has a likeable personality, but it’s almost like a tragedy where a good kid transforms into a bitter man because of external circumstances.
I thought that the portrayal of the two lesbians played by Jenniffer Connelley and Kristy Swanson was kind of weak, but I wasn’t keen on what lesbianism was back then. Jenniffer Connelley plays the pacifist. She loves nature, peace, and getting along with everybody… Kristy Swanson is sexually assaulted by another student. A real eye opener. I remember being disgusted by it, and I didn’t understand why it was included into the plot other than to eventually have Kristy Swanson and Jennifer Connelley start dating. The rape scene was very disturbing, but the lesbian dating part was out of place. It needed more content, an explanation, an expansion of the topic. These two characters were made to be unimportant in the movie. They were more like side characters it felt like. Something to ease the grittyness of the other parts of the movie. Other than that I didn’t feel very invested.
I thought that the portrayal of the neo nazis was highly unrealistic, because for one, neo nazis aren’t very open about their beliefs like in the way that they were portrayed in the movie. There is no lazer focused stanza after stanza preaching of neo nazism by annointed grand wizards in liberal colleges like the one in the movie. In a setting like that where the students are a colored majority, things like neo nazism only subsist off of deep resentment and quiet rumblings. They don’t wear svastikas and combat boots and they don’t typically shave their heads to signal aryanism. They don’t go around in the cover of night seeking recruits, and no unwitting person sits by himself on the sidewalk at midnight waiting to be inducted into neo nazism, unless he really thought he wouldn’t get mugged. I thought they were portrayed as a very weak and immoralistic group, and they turned out to be quite pathetic really, but even back then I knew that this was overdramatized because if they had been the big bad bogeymen the movie wanted you to believe, then why were they such pussies? I was okay with that though. I laughed at the thought that a movie would portray neo nazis in such a bad light, but I also knew that it was Hollywood pushing an agenda. It was dirty and subversive because the core message was “all white people are nazis except for those two lesbians over there who no-one really gave a shit about.”
A slightly better plot would have been possible if Jenniffer Connelley had done a nude scene (because she’s hot. Bite me Huffington Post). Actually, if Connelley and Swanson had an expanded storyline that would have been nice. If the neo nazis were instead to have been made into blue collared average people, and the plot of the movie was then to have the protagonists figure out which one among them were actual neo nazis, that would have been very intriguing. You could even have them mistakenly label someone a neo nazi, but he turns out to just be a normal guy, then in the end they band together to defeat neo nazism.
If there is ever going to be any chance for racism to ever be fixed, we must be allowed to use every word at our disposal, but at the same time, those words must be used responsibly. I think this blogpost is an example of how to use words responsibly. It doesn’t single anyone out, it does not use racial tropes, and it makes no assumptions of people based on their skin color.
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