The Only Thing About ‘Straight Outta Compton’ That Made Me Say, “The Fuck?” – SPOILERS

Let’s be clear: I thought that Straight Outta Compton, overall, was dope. I learned a lot about the ‘90s era of hip-hop culture, the racial and socioeconomical tensions of Compton and Los Angeles that remain prevalent today, and the incredibly talented yet human N.W.A. members and their history as not only artists but true friends. Dr. Dre, Eazy-E and Ice Cube’s individual rises to fame were fueled by loyalty, brotherhood, and their shared love for the neighborhood they grew up in, and their story translated beautifully on screen.

My biggest issue with the film in general was that the writers of this raw and raunchy story about three young black men on their journey to hip-hop royalty were all white. All of them. I don’t have a problem with the writers as much as I have a problem with the writing and dialogue, which at times came across as, well, too white.

At one point, the crew tries to convince Eazy-E to rap a verse that Ice Cube wrote, and he is being incredibly stubborn. Ice Cube gives the line, “You’re kind of acting like a hoe right now, Eric,” which made me cringe. Wouldn’t Ice Cube say something along the lines of, “Nigga, stop acting like a hoe.”? I mean, come on, this is Ice Cube… right? Suge Knight later gives a similar bar that again reminded me of the complete absence of black people behind the writing of the script to authenticate the voices of the black characters, but I was already desensitized by that point.

My second biggest issue was the static representation of nearly every woman in this movie (but isn’t it always?). Dre’s mom kicks it off as the stereotypical black woman, angry and demanding, then later in the film as the Black Superwoman when she consoles Dre over the death of his brother (her son) instead of the other way around. Other women in the film are used as sexual props, which I assume is an accurate depiction of the women who hung around on tour at that time. It was hard for me to accept those filler characters for what they were, especially when the group throws a topless woman out of a hotel room and she proceeds to knock at the door instead of actually saying something; for example: “Hey!” or “Can someone throw me a shirt?” or “Nigga, open the door!” Anything! Nothing??

I had hope in the wives of the main characters, but I was still left wanting for their complexity, as they were nothing other than extensions of their male counterparts. Yet, this nuanced misogyny was something I had anticipated following the movie’s casting controversy regarding the different types of women they desired for specific roles in the film. I won’t even touch on the topic of Dr. Dre’s multiple domestic violence claims that the movie strategically avoids, but feel free to look into it for yourself here.

My biggest issue (for real, this time) was the scene with Officer Uncle Tom (cast as Officer Rauch) which takes place outside a recording studio in Torrance. Before this scene, the characters have had a few racist interactions with officers, all of which are white. This scene introduces the first and only black police officer in the movie. Let’s get the obvious out the way—fuck the police. All of them. They are only pawns who enforce the oppression of a capitalist and white supremacist nation (and sometimes they do their jobs).

Black cops don’t get any slack from me or many other Black Americans that I know just because they’re black. In this scene, the tension between the N.W.A. members, who are being blatantly racially profiled, and Officer Uncle Tom is a familiar one to most audience members (“Et tu Brute?”), intensified by the officer’s flagrant need to “show out for the white cop,” and he is accompanied by several.

While this moment made me sad and uncomfortable, I wasn’t truly disturbed until Jerry Heller, Eazy-E’s manager and “ally,” entered the scene as the white mediator. Now, here is where I came to understand my desire for a black writer to have been involved in this screenwriting process, and even became desperate for one, because the resulting imagery was very difficult for me to process. Bear with me here; Jerry steps in to defend N.W.A., who are on the ground with their hands behind their backs. He shouts that the officers can’t harass the young men because of the color of their skin—yet he yells this only, and directly, at Officer Uncle Tom. The fuck?

I think this is intentional for the following reasons:

  1. The media, in general, fucking sucks.
  2. The media is always intentional. People don’t spend millions of dollars on Hollywood productions to let imagery like this happen by accident.
  3. White people don’t want to see a white person sincerely defend a black person against another white person.
  4. Jerry wasn’t a genuine ally.
  5. A black person didn’t write this scene (or any of these scenes).

This scene had the potential to be more powerful than it was uncomfortable, and for me, it fell incredibly short. The film’s theme of racism and police brutality parallels real life events, which are currently being highlighted by the #BlackLivesMatter protests for justice amid startling numbers of violent police encounters with unarmed citizens. Movies can be used as a way to address the reality of these disturbing occurrences while providing symbolic relief for these issues, but I was not relieved.

This is the only scene in the movie where a person directly demands that an officer in the film be held accountable for their racial discrimination, yet the demand for accountability is totally misguided (in my opinion) towards the black officer when directing it towards any of the white officers would’ve been much more relevant and helpful considering the race of the person who was making the demands.

Officer Uncle Tom is black. His use of racial slurs is intentional because he knows he is black, and he knows that the other officers know he is black, and he has something to prove. Black and brown officers perpetuating the discrimination against minorities under the false reality of a police badge is a real issue. However, mashing this topic with the very important and pressing topic of white allyship only sours the strength of addressing each by lazily throwing them together. The relevance of just seeing a white ally addressing the white oppressor on behalf of the black oppressed could have been a powerful beat for the entire audience.

However, as stated above, the race of the writers and the insincerity of Jerry’s character, which would be revealed later in the film, could’ve possibly been some of the reasons that this moment did not happen here. It is also possible that the writers simply wanted to leave a bad taste in the viewers’ mouths, and if that’s the case, they undeniably succeeded.

Everything else about the film just worked. Ice Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson, Jr., playing Ice Cube was awesome (and trippy) to watch, and he gave a brilliant performance alongside Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell as Dr. Dre and Eazy-E, respectively. Every other character’s resemblance to their real life persons helped pick up the slack in other places where authenticity lacked (i.e. the dramatic car chase scene). The men were shown as dynamic, passionate, and realistically flawed humans who were simply products of their environment instead of just senselessly violent thugs (except for Suge). The heartfelt story was consistent in plot and pace, save for a few scenes that ran only a wee bit long. Overall, it was a dope peek into the pasts and personal lives of some of the most groundbreaking figures in hip-hop and a unique cinematic experience.

My hope is that we have more movies like Straight Outta Compton, which focuses on black people in all their glory and complexity, but that there are more black people, who are able to understand that glory and complexity firsthand, who are at least helping to write the script. Media representation of black people is a work in progress, but it has gotten increasingly better over the last couple decades. Straight Outta Compton is refreshing, unapologetic, and hopefully the beginning of a new era of black cinema.

-Stay conscious.

Links:

‘Straight Outta Compton’ Full Cast & Crewhttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt1398426/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_wr#writers

The Impact of Stereotypes on African-American Females: http://www.skepticink.com/gps/2015/04/30/the-impact-of-stereotypes-on-african-american-females/

The ‘Straight Outta Compton’ Casting Call Is So Offensive It Will Make Your Jaw Drophttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/17/straight-out-of-compton-casting-call_n_5597010.html

Dr. Dre’s Ex On Why His Abusive Past Isn’t In ‘Straight Outta Compton’http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/dr-dre-ex-on-abuse-in-straight-outta-compton_55d33b55e4b0ab468d9e580c

“Fuck tha Police” Lyricshttp://genius.com/Nwa-fuck-tha-police-lyrics/

How To Be a White Allyhttp://blackmillennials.com/2014/10/16/how-to-be-a-white-ally/

Suge Knight’s Lawyer Isn’t Pleased With His Client’s Portrayal In ‘Straight Outta Compton’http://www.vibe.com/2015/08/suge-knight-lawyer-exaggerated-portrayal-straight-outta-compton/

All photos are from IMDb http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1398426/?ref_=ttmd_md_nm

I don’t know if it’s just me… but Beyoncé’s untouched photos made me feel better about myself.

buntouched1

Not because I thought they were ugly, because I’m not a lame ass hater. Beyoncé is still an attractive black woman, but looking at the photos from the 2013 L’Oreal ad campaign, I realized that she had the same light moles that my mom has above her eyes and on her neck, and the same jawline that I was feeling insecure about just yesterday (literally!) after drooling over a model’s chiseled mandible in a jewelry ad.

Well, hey! Suddenly I didn’t feel so bad. I actually felt pretty silly for feeling insecure about it in the first place. We are all humans and none of us are perfect. It was wonderful to know that a woman can have common “imperfections” and still be… well, Beyoncé.

The notoriously loyal Beyhive reportedly called on the FBI to investigate the leak because they apparently were that offended; but let’s be real, the Beyhive is composed of mostly gay men who couldn’t completely comprehend the unnecessary pressure of comparing oneself to not only other women but a perfect and unattainable female image as well (because patriarchy).

buntouched5

I shared a sigh of relief with my mom who had a boosted sense of reassurance herself after seeing the photos online. She mentioned that her best friend had recognized the wrinkles on Beyoncé’s neck from when she looked at herself in the mirror, and, wouldn’t you know, she wasn’t sweating them as much anymore either.

So, take a load off, ladies. These magazines and photo spreads never loved us and all this airbrushing is the devil! And no matter what we look like or what we accomplish, there will still be criticism and those who don’t like you just as you are. That is okay! There will also be those who love and appreciate you and all of your perfect imperfections—family, friends, and most importantly yourselves! Hello?!

We get to have acne and wrinkles and pores and moles and body hair and still be beautiful, awesome, and powerful individuals. Just like Beyoncé.

-Stay conscious.

P.S. All my posts will not be related to Beyoncé.

2015: New Year, Better Me

The past few weeks have been overflowing with the natural reflection that comes with the closing of one year and the welcoming of another. It’s hard to believe that in only 365 days, I have experienced some of the most promising personal growth ever as well as having witnessed the onset of social and political change in this country and potentially around the world. 2015 is predicted and expected to be much better than 2014–how could it not? Every year should be a little better than the one before and as cliché as New Year’s Resolutions have become, it doesn’t hurt to have a plan to guide your individual continued progress throughout this new chapter of life. Here are the ways I plan on being better than I was in 2014:

  1. Keep it realer. Over the past couple years, I’ve recognized the power of being honest with myself and others, and while my honesty has frequently been misunderstood for harshness or insensitivity, the results of this honesty have been drastically fulfilling. People have no choice but to respect one who sees the spiritual benefit in honesty, so in 2015, although I will sometimes have to tweak my delivery, I will continue to be myself, share my truth, and say how I feel.
  2. Surround myself with realness. In Los Angeles, it seems that fake friendships are a recurring theme that plagues the city over wide distances. This year, I will keep my circle small, only including those who understand the most basic and reliable building blocks of friendship: loyalty, honesty, support, and mutual acceptance. I will continue to distance myself from those who do not benefit me, do not see me as a benefit to them, and do not get my quirky, sometimes inappropriate humor.
  3. Maintain emotional, mental, physical health. Every year, I realize that I’m getting older, and with age comes added responsibility. I can’t take care of everything else going on in my life if I do not first take care of myself. Eating vegetables, drinking enough water, expressing my emotions without inflicting pain on myself or those trying to comfort me, scheduling that dentist check-up, pushing through those last 5 push-ups; ultimately, to be healthy is to be happy.
  4. WRITE. I frequently make the joke that writing is one of the only things I’m good at, but in 2014, I fell off. I stopped journaling as much, started many short stories and freewrites that ended mid-sentence, yet this year I plan on writing when I’m happy, sad, frustrated or confused or even when I think I have nothing to say. It’s impossible to master any skill without constant dedication and practice.
  5. Spread love. Parents, siblings, elders, cousins, friends, neighbors, strangers, everyone could use a little more love and positivity. This year I learned the power of an unsolicited smile, a small gesture of acknowledgment or appreciation, how a simple “thank you,” or “how are you?” could not only change someone’s perspective of you but also change that person’s day. There is enough negativity permeating the world; being love, speaking love and spreading love is as therapeutic as it is mutually fulfilling.

So, in 2015 I don’t plan on getting too crazy. I will continue advancing the growth I underwent in 2014. I will stay in my lane. I will take more risks and step outside of my comfort zone. I will be a better friend. I will continue to actively support the revolutionary dismantling of the country’s current societal structure. I will write more blog posts. It won’t be a “new me,” just a better me. I am looking forward to all the change that this New Year will bring and I am grateful that I have been blessed to see it.

2015

-Stay conscious.

7 Things My Ex Taught Me

My ex and I dated from our senior year of high school well into the beginning of my third year of college. Over the course of our two and a half year relationship, we broke up a lot, professed our undying love even more, and constantly challenged the boundaries between the healthy relationship we said we wanted and the codependent relationship we were most comfortable giving one another. Around springtime, about 6 months into the 12-step program I’d begun in hopes of attaining my serenity, I started to realize that my relationship with my ex would only be as healthy and fulfilling as we were individually. We weren’t where we wanted to be with each other, and I saw that in order to get what I wanted (a truly healthy relationship where the history wasn’t tainted with selfishness and betrayal, where the words were spoken with empathy and respect, where the small things were as genuine as the big things, etc.), I had to sacrifice the relationship that I’d given so much time, effort, energy and love, and redirect all that time, effort, energy and love into myself.

When I finally got the courage to break up with my ex, less than a month after his 20th birthday, I realized early that it would be a process. Unable to understand why I wanted to be single and reprioritize my life, my ex lingered for months, and never really knowing anything but unhealthy, codependent relationships, I let him. By October, I finally knew that for the sake of my personal relationship with myself and any future intimate relationships I’d ever have, I needed to separate from my ex and, for the first time in my dating life, truly be selfish with myself, my wants and my needs. My serenity was worth it.

After ceasing all communication and not speaking for nearly two weeks (a small accomplishment for me), I saw my ex at a party. Belligerently drunk and acting like an asshole, as he usually did when inebriated, he approached me after avoiding me for most of the night and aggressively grabbed my ass as though he owned it, not once, but twice. My first instinct told me to fight him, but thankfully I was able to walk away and collect my raging thoughts and emotions, later understanding that I wasn’t even mad at him in that moment. If anything, I was embarrassed for him, sad for him. Here was the guy that I thought was my soulmate, and although he had just so blatantly disrespected me, I was able to feel for him instead of retaliating, and I was proud of myself.

That was the last time I saw or spoke to him; it wasn’t very long ago. However, in that brief moment of interaction with my ex, I once again realized several things that he’s taught me over the course of our entire relationship (and anti-relationship) that I’ve been very grateful for learning:

  1. Being alone is better than being with someone who doesn’t respect you, what you want for yourself, or what you need from them. Respect is just the minimum!
  2. If you can’t express how you feel without your partner making you feel bad about how you feel, you are not with the right person.
  3. Also, there is no reason that you should feel responsible for how someone else feels, good or bad. You have no control over anyone’s feelings but your own.
  4. If your partner wants you to respect what they want but cannot do the same for you and refuses to reach a compromise, you are not with the right person.
  5. If your partner cannot own up to their own faults or mistakes without blaming you or making an excuse for why they’ve done something wrong, they are not ready to be in a healthy relationship with you.
  6. Doing something and almost doing something are not the same thing. It’s the thought that counts, but the execution is ten times more important. Do what you say you’re going to do (because you want to).
  7. You should be able to break up with someone/be broken up with and still live a positive, fulfilling life. If you feel like the end of your relationship is the end of your world, you need to be single. Reprioritize your life to put yourself first. When you can be genuinely happy with yourself, by yourself, you will have no choice but to attract those who can do the same.

I wish my ex the very best and I will always love him.

But I will always love myself more.

Sorry, not sorry.

Stay conscious.

Blue Ivy Hate — Stop It.

Ignorance in a Screenshot

Imagine you are a child, about 3-years-old, living a fulfilling lifestyle with two parents who love and adore you. You are as equally unaffected by how you look as you are unaware, totally unconcerned, at 3-years-old, with what that means. Imagine that one day, you discover that since you were born, people you don’t even and won’t ever know have been criticizing you, your hair, your skin tone, your facial features, calling you ugly, saying you look like a crackhead, comparing you to other toddlers, insulting and attacking you without ever knowing who you actually are, projecting their social and cultural insecurities onto you, since you were born. How would that make you feel?

So why the fuck are we doing this to Blue Ivy?

Simply put, amongst many other things, our society is particularly misogynoiristic, meaning that because of our deeply rooted hatred for black women, due mostly to slavery, colorism, and systematic and internalized racism, some of us can’t even let a little black girl be happy and beautiful (which she is) without trying to tear her down before she is even able to develop and own her self-esteem. Trying to get a few laughs and social media validation at the expense of a little black girl is disgusting and pathetic.

Because look at her!

She is happy and gorgeous!

Which I’m sure not many of the people who are attempting to make her the butt of every online joke can honestly say about themselves.

-Stay conscious.