Revelations about Revolutions: Persuading Perceptions Through Music

Molly Cartwright


Revelations about Revolutions: Persuading Perceptions Through Music

      Entertainers often use their forms of entertainment as a platform to bring awareness to social justice issues. This is seen throughout Hollywood: Dave Chappelle’s “Equanimity” and “The Bird Revelation” and celebrity speeches inspired by the #MeToo movement at the Golden Globe Awards. J. Cole is a rapper also popularly known for spreading awareness about social justice issues through his music. In his single “High for Hours,” released on Martin Luther King Junior Day in 2017, J. Cole addresses black oppression and a multitude of connecting issues. The main function of his song is to propose that the solution to equality does not come from the oppressed overthrowing the oppressors.  Instead, the cycle of abuse must end, and the decision to revolutionize must be an individual one, must be a revelation, must happen on the inside. He recognizes that his message is perceived as controversial by different audiences and writes his song in a way that appeals emotionally, ethically, and logically to his audience. Pathos is established through a deceptive song title that, when juxtaposed with the content of the rest of the song, evokes shock; intentional word choices that elicit empathy; an overload of evidence, an emotional instrumental, and chorus that conjures hopelessness.  He establishes ethos by demonstrating his extensive knowledge of current racially charged issues, his experience with oppression, and his sincere attempts to solve that very oppression. Finally, J. Cole establishes logos by providing evidence against a possible counter argument, and by using history and clear examples to support his final message: “the only real revolution happens right inside of you.”

      In the very beginning, Cole gives the audiences a feeling of shock through a deceptively cool title and introduction that contrasts the serious content of the rest of song. The title of this song functions as a way to draw in listeners that may not otherwise seek out songs about oppression and also to evoke a feeling of shock. With a title referencing drugs in a nonchalant manner, one does not expect to be led through a series of reflections on suppression and abuse of power. The druggy, joking introduction also sharply contrasts the first verse’s list of American hypocrisies, and this surprising divergence elicits a powerful sense of shock from the audience. This astonished reaction functions to capture the listeners full attention and emotional investment in the song’s words by sparking their interest with the unexpected and forcing them to listen carefully in order to understand.

Cole’s specific word choice also evokes an empathetic response that deeper captures the understanding and emotional commitment of the audience. When discussing police brutality, he raps “now somebody’s son is layin’ breathless.” This reference humanizes the victim of such a brutal crime and captivates as much as it revolts. This line requests an empathetic response from both a black and white audience by noting a universally devastating and painful event; the idea of losing a child is horrendous to people of any background. This emotionally charged language works as an equalizer, bringing equal footing to an issue that often seems racially biased. Regardless of skin color or personal experience with police brutality, the loss of a child is universally understood. This increased ability to understand and share the feelings of the oppressed works to gain the listener’s emotional investment in the song.

Cole elicits a feeling of hopelessness through an overload of information in the first verse, and an emotionally charged chorus and instrumental to put the listener in a vulnerable state, creating the perfect window to easily pass on his advice. The first verse overflows with examples of hypocrisy related to black oppression: American settlers’ pursuit of freedom at the same time slavery was widely practiced, justification of murder by the Christian church and ISIS, police brutality by those who follow doctrines of “thou shall not kill,” and impoverished black communities lacking much-needed government funding. He chooses his words carefully, and this practice allows him to avoid unnecessary transition words and to go directly into the next rail against hypocrisy or example of black oppression. Cole’s intense rap provides the opportunity for a plethora of issues to be discussed in each line and leaves the listener feeling overwhelmed and hopeless at the endless injustices in need of solving. Both the lyrics and instrumental aspects of the chorus generate a feeling of desperation and sadness. Cole repeats his line “the type of shit that make you wanna let go” to emphasize that these issues and the lack of change make those affected want to give up. These words follow every verse to continuously remind the listener about the prevailing hopelessness surrounding the issues addressed. In addition to the depressing lyrics, the downward piano scale and groovy background give the listener a chance to breathe and contemplate the tragic aura that surrounds this song, a feeling that few rap songs attempt to reckon with. This continued sense of hopelessness leaves the audience feeling lost and without their own answers to these issues, awaiting the inevitable solution that J. Cole will provide in anxious anticipation.

Before attempting to pass on his controversial message about revolution, J. Cole establishes his credibility on this topic in order to show the listener that he is not blaming the black community, and that he is asking for this inner revolution to occur in people of all kinds.  His ability to gain the listener’s trust in his character is critical because without the ethical appeal, his message may be perceived as dubious and distorted.  His suggestion to fix one’s self to create the biggest change in world instead of revolting can be viewed by the black community as another form of black oppression because white people often hold black individuals responsible for unfortunate situations. This American ideal of “pulling oneself up by the bootstraps” is used as a way to silence their pleas for change and to maintain the forms of systematic racism that continue to disadvantage black people.

Cole establishes ethos by expounding upon his awareness of oppression, his personal experience with oppression, and his sincere endeavors to combat oppression.  He gains authority in the first verse by demonstrating to the black community that he is well aware of the issues facing black people and that he even faces these forms of oppression. He describes his personal experience in Dallas as being “lost in the Wonderland where niggas still suffering” to indicate how closely he personally identifies with the issues discussed throughout the song. By including his own experience with oppression, he indicates to the listener, specifically a black listener, that his end message is not an attack on black people.  In verse two, J. Cole says “I had a convo with the president, I paid to go and see him” to build his reputation by indicating that he had a discussion and established a relationship with a well-respected and qualified political leader like President Obama. It also shows that J. Cole is sincere in his attempt to end oppression because he personally paid money and spent time to go discuss issues about black oppression. He proves his knowledge on issues of oppression, discusses his experience with oppression, and demonstrates his sincere actions to solve oppression in order to build trust with the audience so he can pass on his message without perceptions of blaming or ignorance.

The last mode of persuasion is this song is effective inclusion of logos, a difficult feat in the rap world. Anticipation of counterarguments and almost universal examples take the listener through a logical procession of information and evidence. A counterargument to J. Cole’s theory of revolution could be to address the system itself and attempt to change the external rather than the internal. Cole takes time to refute this argument before he even exchanges his own message with the audience. In the second verse, he discusses how even our first African American president who wished to free black people from oppression and suffering wasn’t able to do so under our current political system. By showing that a man with “all the power in the clout” can’t effectively bring change to the system, J. Cole elucidates to the listener that attempting to change the system, or the external, is a fruitless action that even one of the most powerful people in the world could not enact. This example of government inaction also contributes to the overall sense of hopelessness in “High for Hours,” and once again Cole references a problem that is not specific for any racial group. It seems that no matter what station one holds, there is no effective way to revolutionize the systems we all exist under without first changing the ideals that rest inside each individual; this is not an effort to be completed without extensive transformation.

Cole openly acknowledges that he used to believe that a collective revolution was the answer until he meditated on the history of revolution which provided his current message with logical evidence. He suggests that the audience “take a deeper look at history” to realize that the “abused becomes the abuser,” and that the cycle of abuse effectively never ends. The listener must then reconcile her own knowledge of history with the unforgiving lens through which Cole is looking at oppression.  A version of Cole’s observation on a massive scale is seen through the history of the French Revolution. The French people overthrew the monarchy in a violent manor that resulted in them becoming just as corrupt as their previous oppressors. Cole then slips easily into a riff on domestic abuse, pointing out that “the children in abusive households grow up knockin’ girlfriends out cold–that’s called a cycle.” He takes this large-scale, philosophical understanding of the endless cycle of corruption inherent in revolution and familiarizes it for the reader by referencing the tangible, the everyday, the known. This makes a theory that may otherwise be hard to comprehend more relatable and understandable for the audience.

Throughout “High for Hours”, J. Cole’s modes of persuasion function to inspire inward change among individuals in order to work towards the end of oppression. He uses his platform as an entertainer to address the problems he observes in the world and takes this even a step further by addressing the nature of revolution and the complexities of human behavior. His revelation about revolution offers a solution to the corrupt cycle of oppression, and there is no mumble in his message. He wants you, me, and everyone to come to terms with the nasty parts of our world and the general unwillingness to cleanse them. There is action to be taken, and it may not be what one expects—instead of pitting the oppressed against the oppressor, he is calling upon all of humanity to undergo an inward and individual revolution that will end the cycle of oppression forever.



Cole, J.”High for Hours.” Dreamville Inc. 2017, track 1.Genius,




The Significance of Black Panther to African American Society

Win Martin

Dr. Sarah Boyd

ENGL 129

29 April 2018

The Significance of Black Panther to African American Society

Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther (2018) is a superhero film that has unmatched social significance in comparison to other movies in this particular industry. In a film culture where there is little racial diversity between heroes, Black Panther is a movie that portrays a black protagonist with a great depth of character and personality that is refreshing in a largely monotonous genre. Set in present day, Black Panther describes a country with technology and wealth far beyond any other world power, and a leader with an undeniable strength of character and will. The value of this film lies in its profound ability to celebrate black culture and inspire black people through character development and setting.

Coogler’s first tool in paying homage to African culture is his portrayal of the fictional country of Wakanda to create a deep sense of pride in the hearts of black moviegoers. His style of Afrofuturism combines a visually sensational mixture of futuristic technology and African heritage to create beautiful cities and costumes. In popular American media, Africa is often displayed as a continent that is terrifically poor and in constant need of aid. The focus lies primarily on the needs of the continent, rather than the rich cultural histories that lie within it. Wakanda, on the other hand, is far and away the most developed nation in the world with wealth and technologies far greater than any other country. Through his use of Afrofuturism, Coogler presents Wakanda as a wonderful mix of different African cultures and advanced technology as a place to be praised rather than pitied.  The architecture in the main city is beautifully developed and as production director, Hannah Bleacher, said, “That’s what Wakanda is…. It’s all the cultures that came together while they’re still individual. They have found a way to combine their aesthetic to create a Wakanda aesthetic” (Wilson, 2018). By having cultural diversity simply in the skyline, Coogler exalts the beauty of different African cultures in a way that almost no blockbuster, especially a superhero one, has done to date. Even though it is a fictional nation, Wakanda’s ability to blend different African art forms in a way that is so visually stunning makes the country a magnificent celebration of black history.

The portrayal of King T’Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman) in Black Panther is important to African American audiences in that they finally see a hero of their skin color in a universe where practically every other hero is white. While there have been other minor black heroes such as War Machine (played by Don Cheadle and introduced in Justin Favreau’s Iron Man 2 (2010)), or Falcon (played by Anthony Mackie and introduced in Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)), they have very little significance in comparison to the primary plot of the white hero. At best they are sidekicks to white heroes Captain America and Iron Man, and at worst they are a miserable attempt to bring in racial diversity. The release of Black Panther, however, finally breaks this trend by introducing a lead black character into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. T’Challa, as King of Wakanda and Black Panther, represents a beautiful image of physical, moral, and intellectual strength to black moviegoers. With the power of the “heart-shaped herb,” T’Challa is the first line of defense in protecting the safety and vitality of his country and its people. As a king who always leads with diplomacy, but isn’t afraid of precise and controlled violence in dire circumstances, T’Challa represents the perfect balance of restraint and action when it comes to matters of injustice. These are some of the character qualities that make him so valuable to black audiences. Because of his own resilience in the face of adversity, T’Challa has become an inspiration for African American audiences to “soar and tack action” as “strong black bodies of justice” (Johnson, 2018).

T’Challa’s significance not only lies in his strength but in the recognition of his weaknesses. One article by writer Meg Downey noted, “From the first story beat, T’Challa’s vulnerability and emotional availability drive the story forward in unflinching fashion.” (2018). When T’Challa is first crowned king, he is ceremoniously buried in order to visit the ancestral plain. Upon arriving, he is greeted by his father who died in Anthony and Joe Russo’s previous film Captain America: Civil War (2016). Two things, in particular, stand out in this interaction. For one, T’Challa is immediately moved to tears of grief as he expresses his sense of guilt over his father’s death. He was there when the bomb that killed his father went off and he blames himself for not being quick enough to stop it. He then follows this by saying that he is not ready. To the audience and to his father, it seems as though he is insecure about having to be king. However, T’Challa clarifies by saying, “I am not ready to live without you.” Unlike most superheroes, T’Challa isn’t attempting to feign emotional fortitude or use humor to mask his pain. Instead, he shows a unique moment of extreme heartache through verbal communication in a way that feels palpable to the audience. The anguish that he expresses isn’t portrayed as a sign of weakness, rather it is his because of his grief that he can be the humble and strong ruler we see in T’Challa. Living in a society where masculinity is exhibited by a lack of emotion, seeing a brave and powerful man show such lament demonstrates the validity of mourning a loss. Coogler redefines masculinity in this scene through showing that even someone as strong and tough as the Black Panther is aware and accepting of his own pain.

The typical American social order is further altered through the significant roles women play in the country of Wakanda. Beginning with General Okoye (played by Danai Gurira) and her militia of spear bearing women, the role of females in Wakanda is quickly established as one of strength, honor, and independence. She is frequently seen fighting alongside T’Challa against his enemies, as well as boldly engaging them on her own without a second thought. Nakia (played by Lupita Nyong’o) possesses a similar skill and fearlessness as an undercover spy and humanitarian. She lives with a heart of generosity through her empowerment of impoverished peoples across Africa by defending those who can’t defend themselves. Shuri (played by Letitia Wright), is both T’Challa’s little sister and top scientist in Wakanda. It is Shuri who creates the advanced technology of the Black Panther suit and because of her intelligence, she even heals bullet wounds to the spine with ease. Finally, T’Challa’s mother shows immense leadership in supporting her son throughout his reign, especially in the times when he cannot support himself. As writer Monica Jones put it, “As a rare leading man who isn’t defined by toxic masculinity, T’Challa is surrounded by strong women whose feminine power fortifies, rather than antagonizes, his own masculinity” (2018). The women in Black Panther display an individuality and fortitude that goes unmatched by almost any other female character in the genre, and it is only by relying on them that T’Challa is able to lead with such confidence. Each has her own personality and each plays a vital leadership role in the film. Much like T’Challa’s strength empowers many African Americans to fight for justice with the same ferocity, the women of Wakanda are specifically inspirational to African American women and girls that they may walk with same bravado and independence.

Black Panther’s depth of influence is also found in its poignant antagonist. Erik Killmonger (played by Michael B. Jordan), born and raised in Oakland, CA, was just a kid when his father N’Jobu was killed by the previous Black Panther and T’Challa’s father, King T’Chaka. Heartbroken by the egregious treatment of his black brothers and sisters in America, N’Jobu made it his objective to distribute advanced Wakandan technology that the oppressed may free themselves by force. However, he is ultimately killed by T’Chaka for failing to come back to Wakanda peacefully, thus leaving a young Killmonger alone and fatherless. Little did T’Chaka know, Killmonger would grow up to take his father’s mission and fight relentlessly to make it a reality. He wanted to liberate not only the black’s in America but blacks all over the world by taking Wakanda off the sidelines and putting them in the fight against the powers of persecution. The gravity of his mission lies in the truth that he is right on both parts of his argument. For centuries, abuse of people of color has been rampant across the world, while Wakanda has sat in comfortable bliss. His pursuit of the throne is not in an effort gain power, but to distribute it into the hands of the powerless. His goal is not to destroy Wakanda, but to make it an enforcer of equality rather than an observer of oppression. There is nothing more relatable to audiences than an attempt to bring about justice to an issue that they personally wrestle with. Many black moviegoers can likely identify with his rage and thirst for justice. Rather continue on this slow, almost insufferable, path towards justice, why not follow Killmonger’s plan and make swift work in restructuring the social order? It is a quick fix to a systemic and chronic disease that has plagued the U.S. for centuries, and to minorities who identify with his level of pain, it seems like a viable option. Coogler does an incredible job of developing an antagonist whose story and whose hunger for equality resonates on the same level as the protagonist’s ability to inspire greatness.

The final touch to Black Panther that allows it to be impactful to African American society is the fact that most of the cast and much of the crew are black. As writer Taryn Finley said, “It matters that many of the people behind the scenes who are helping tell this story are black. They bring a cultural understanding to the set that can’t be learned, and they help elevate the film with a specific kind of nuance and sophistication” (2018). Everyone one from the director and writer Ryan Coogler and his co-writer Joe Robert Cole, to costume designer Ruth Carter and production director Hannah Bleacher, allowed for Wakanda to be created in a fashion that was as equally beautiful as it was potent. The shared experience and cultural awareness of each participant elevated “the film with a specific kind of nuance and sophistication” (Finley, 2018). It is because of this attention to detail that the film became as popular as it has been and has made it a fantastic source of pride and inspiration for black audiences across the world.

Ryan Coogler uses spectacular character development as well as breathtaking visuals to move audiences on many different emotional levels. Through its use of a vulnerable hero, formidable women, and a resonating villain, Black Panther draws out emotions of both courage and empathy in every viewer. It celebrates black culture and paints a picture of a world in which equality is a deep foundation rather than something that must be fought for. It is because of these things that Black Panther has become one of the most significant films in black culture.

(This is a clip of a group of children after being told they are going to see Black Panther that I found hilariously exciting as well as an excellent demonstration of how much this movie means to many African Americans.)

Works Cited

Coogler, Ryan, director. Black Panther. Marvel Studios, 2018.

Downey, Meg. “Black Panther’s Vulnerability Is Something Marvel Desperately Needs.”Polygon, Polygon, 22 Feb. 2018,

Favreau, Justin, director. Iron Man 2. Marvel Studios, 2010.

Finley, Taryn. “Here Are The Black People Behind The Scenes Who Made ‘Black Panther’ A Reality.” The Huffington Post,, 15 Feb. 2018,

Johnson, Tre. “Black Panther Is a Gorgeous, Groundbreaking Celebration of Black Culture.”Vox, Vox, 23 Feb. 2018,

Russo, Anthony and Joe Russo, directors. Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Marvel Studios, 2014.

Russo, Anthony and Joe Russo, directors. Captain America: Civil War. Marvel Studios, 2016.

Sud, Kishordi. “A Powerful Woman Does Not Threaten a Man’s Position: Lupita Nyong’o.”DailyHunt, DailyHunt, 6 Feb. 2018,

Wilson, Mark. “Meet The Designer Who Created Black Panther’s Wakanda.” Co.Design, Co.Design, 23 Feb. 2018,

Get Out Long form Essay

What A Viewer is Supposed to Get Out of the Film

McKayla Jennings

English 129

Sarah Boyd

April 2018

“I do not like the deer. I’m sick of it. They’re taking over. They’re like rats. They’re destroying the ecosystem. I see a dead deer on the side of the road, I think to myself that’s a start.” This statement from Jordan Peele’s record-smashing movie, Get Out, seems to be a simple opinion.  However, one must understand that nothing said in this is merely a statement, but actually, everything has been calculated with meaning. Upon deeper observation, one can see that this movie is a symbolic showing for what is currently happening in the United States for minorities, specifically in black America. Chris Washington, the movie’s protagonist, is a young African-American male who seems to be simply visiting his current white girlfriend’s parents for the first time. The only thing Chris expects to do is capture pictures of the nature surrounding him in the forest of the Armitage family. When he reaches the home, Chris meets an interesting clan— a mother who is a mysterious yet notable psychiatrist who is Roses’ mother and an “eclectic” father who is a neurosurgeon, with a son in training. Two people who join this bunch are a petite maid who is as sensitive as a mouse and a distant gardener who can’t take his mind off running.

The focus of the trip soon turns to be an annual family gathering that Rose had apparently forgotten full of welcoming members, yet, the trip that Chris goes on becomes a symbol for the minority consistent struggle against systemic racism. This theme is developed throughout the film by way of the experimentation and brainwashing done to the African American within the film, the sunken place hindering them powerless, and by way of showing the current mindset of many “Woke” African Americans today.

Whenever one looks back at history, it seems as if those of African descent, traceable or not, are often handed the “short end of the stick.” From the slave trade to imperialism, this trend has continually grown and became worse through scientific development. A large portion of this movie is focused on taking the genes from a black person, as well as experimenting on the minds of this tormented race. This abuse links to systemic racism in that, viewers can see how being of a different race than white was made a biological separator, referring to things such as Social Darwinism, and gave reason for African American experimentation.

As a whole, the Armitage family represents this scientific dominance embraced by those who have held power over African Americans. The entire purpose of the weekend this the Armitage family was not to meet Rose’s current boyfriend, but to fulfill a jealousy within the family. Grandpa Armitage lost the qualifying round of the 1936 Olympics to a black male, Jesse Owens, and Dean Armitage says, “He almost got over it.” (Get Out, 19:55) This envy is what caused the research and interest in lobotomizing black people for their genes. Another aspect of this symbolism is the fact that members of the family are all interconnected in the medical field in some way, mainly focused on the brain. When thinking of purposed racism, this can be an allusion to the late 1700s through early 1800s when brain size and shape were believed to show racial dominance. This genealogical summarizing was one of the key factors that led to systemic racism in medicine that still occurs today in medicine. An example of this unfair domination can be seen in the Tuskegee Experiment of the nineties. For over 40 years black males in the Tuskegee community were unknowingly given syphilis with no cure by the U.S. Department of Public Health. These men were misled about the purpose of the study and never actually gave consent to participate in the “treatment” they received – just like Chris in the film. Chris believed he was being hypnotized just to be rid of his addiction to cigarettes, however, the true purpose of this experiment was to place Chris into the “sunken place”, so he would be under their control.

Adding to the explanation of the purpose of this films exposing of the systemic racism throughout history would be the use of the sunken place. When one feels that they are below others and only watching the world move around them this is what can be considered a sunken place. The sunken place is something that many African American have experienced while living in America, specifically living with a judicial system fighting against their success it seems. A growing problem in America is the war on drugs, to be specific— marijuana. THC consumption has been a growing epidemic within the black community since the last century. Millions have been unjustly jailed for years for carrying the most minuscule amounts of the drug, simply because it uses were looked down upon by the white race in power. Now that many people of the race have begun partaking in the use of marijuana it is slowly being legalized and made into a business. The black community, however, is still being jailed for having this substance and continuously held if they have been jailed before this legalization. This has caused a fall into the sunken place. Those imprisoned have no ability to resist the United States’ invincible judicial system and the people who have evaded arrest aren’t able to help their family in bonds. Here we can see this problematic hold portrayed in Get Out by the relationship with Logan/ Andre and Chris at the cookout in the movie. While both men are oppressed, Logan is the symbol for the trapped male who has no way to fight the system because they, the Armitage family, have a hold over him and when he tries to leave his sunken place they bring him back in.  Chris represents the other side of the sunken place because he is only able to watch his fellow black male be held in the clutches of the system put in place for their failure.

The sunken place is also shown within inner-racial relationships throughout the film. After Chris’ best friend Rod understands the risk of his friend losing his life while visiting the Armitage family he immediately goes to the police for help. However, upon telling the story twice to police force members, all of which who were minorities, he received nothing but laughs. This shows the sunken place that people sometimes try to put people of even the same racial community as them. In this case, Rod is oppressed by those who are so used to oppression, that when someone decides to call out the system’s problems they are blind to the true problems. The detectives see Rod as the crazy TSA agent looking for attention, not as a young male caring for his friend because that is often a rare thing in today’s society. When Rod viewing the movie, Rod is one person who always frets Chris’ journey to visit the Armitage family, which one could consider as “woke.”

The song “Redbone,” by Childish Gambino was, and still is considered, a knockout musical sensation because of its simple lyrics and subtle message. This song warned to beware of those you surround yourself with because you never know who really is or isn’t on your side. This song is played in the movie at one key point in time when viewers first see Rose driving to pick up Chris. Upon deeper observation, one can see that this song isn’t just merely played because it was popular at the time, but it is foreshadowing that Rose may not be all for Chris.

Building upon the fact that Rose drives Chris’ life to his potential demise, we see this in more ways than one such as when they are initially driving to her parents’ house Rose hits a deer. While viewing the damage, the camera pans and one can see that the only side of the car that is impacted is Chris’ (13:25). This too foreshadows that the only one who could be damaged by these travels are Chris. Another striking image at the wreck is that the deer Rose hits is a one that has no horns, meaning it is a young deer. However, as we fast forward to the end of the movie, while Chris is fighting for his life he uses a deer head, with full horns to save himself. The thing that was supposed to kill him, and what his enemy most hated, was the thing that saved Chris. The change in the age of the deer from the beginning to the end of the film is a symbol of the way Chris is now “woke.” He has seen the plans of his enemy and is fighting the battle for his life. This connects to systemic racism in now, being “woke” is the only thing one wants to be politically and socially. Society is changing and people now are seeing and learning of systemized oppression that many people of color live under and as a whole people are rallying. There has been a larger presence of black people in things such as voting, which is how one can take their deer and fight for their civil life rights. Power is also being gained within the black society as more people are using their voice to warn others of the way racism has been embedded to seem natural within the United States. Authors such as Michelle Alexander and writers such as Jordan Peele are using massive outlets to reach the broad general public and show what can happen if the racism continues.

Get Out isn’t meant to be a horror film that entertains the masses, but actually a movie to warn the masses. It unmasks societies systemic racism using something seen as one of the weakest members of society, a white female, to fight one of the most feared persons in society, a young educated black male. One must remember though, that her family portrays key points in systemic racism, such as unjust experimentation, the shrunken place, and the way in which one must grow to understand the problems in society.

At the end of the film, there is a short moment of tension because these roles in society are potentially fulfilled when the red and blue lights flash in the distance. One immediately thinks that Chris will be taken to jail because of his compromising position with his potential assassin, because of the way the characters have been portrayed in everyday society. Thankfully, the crisis is averted when one sees that it is Rod arriving in the vehicle. This is potentially a way to quickly remind you to stay woke. As a viewer, someone can watch an entire movie exposing systemic racism in today’s society, yet can immediately forget these warnings when the scenes get too close to reality.

The Truth About Eating Disorders: Hungry For Control

Society has created a monster, a monster that is the need to both lose and gain weight. Nearly, 20 million women in the United States alone will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Every 62 minutes at least one person dies due to an eating disorder. Throughout history there’s been the belief that women are merely an object of men’s sexual desires. A woman is suppose to be perfectly beautiful and intelligent, while being not too loud or opinionated; essentially she is supposed to be perfect in all aspects of life. The demands of womanhood have taken its toll on millions of women throughout the world. The toll of having to be perfect. The simple truth is the best way to be perfect is to not exist. A woman starves herself in hopes of fulfilling one of the seeming qualifications of being a women, to be skinny. The hope is if she’s skinny, the world will ignore the rest of her flaws, since we as a society deem being skinny as being beautiful. So when a woman or young girl feels incomplete, they could turn to a wide range of eating disorders in search of love, control and ultimately self acceptance. However, the regulation of food isn’t the only way to disappear; sometimes a woman might feel most invisible when she doesn’t fit society’s thin mold. A woman may gain weight in hope that the world will ignore her and allow her to feel safe for the first time in her life. When you think about an eating disorder, you think about a young girl obsessed with looking like a beautiful model, not an obese middle age black women or a biracial teen who is apart of the upper middle class. Eating disorders are more about being in control than they are about being skinny. In world filled with chaos sometimes the only control someone has is what they do with their bodies. In the memoir, Hunger., and the film, Feed, we are shown a different side of eating disorders. A side that isn’t filled with rich white girls obsessed with becoming beautiful. We are introduced to the stories about the true trauma and the heights one goes in order to gain control of life.
In the 2017 film, Feed, high school senior, Olivia Grey deals with the loss of her twin brother in a car accident. Matt , Olivia’s twin, is the student body president and future frat boy, while Olivia is destined be valedictorian and attending Yale in the fall. After Matt dies, it becomes clear the amount of pressure Olivia is under and how close she was with her twin. The moment Matt dies, Olivia starts to destroy her relationship with food. At Matt’s wake, Olivia stricken with grief refuses to eat. Weeks after her twin’s death it comes to Olivia’s attention that she might not have the highest GPA, she then proceeds to throw herself into her schoolwork. Olivia is so focused on school and obtaining the highest GPA that she forgets to eat. As time progresses, Olivia deliberately stops eating dinner and lunch, only eating an apple or banana in the morning. During one of her late night study sessions, Matt appears in her bedroom ready to ease his twins pain. He offers to help her study and promises after they finish, they’ll pig out of ice cream like old times. Olivia is overjoyed at seeing her deceased brother. The appearance of her brother, drives Olivia over the edge by leaving everything to her brother, even eating. She brings bags of food for her brother by their old treehouse. Olivia believes if she feeds her brother, he won’t leave her.
It becomes clear to the audience that Matt is not having a positive impact on Olivia’s life when after a long night of studying Olivia becomes frustrated and distracted. Matt becomes aggressive and demands Olivia to get up and go for a run. A couple of days later, Olivia goes to Julian’s house. When she and Julian are about to kiss, Matt decides to interrupt and starts to speak to Olivia. “ Do you want me to go Liv, so you can be alone. Don’t let him distract you Liv.” Olivia stops and Julian becomes concerned. Matt then proceeds to say “ His gonna go to college, going to meet other girls, smarter, prettier girls who aren’t messed up in the head like you. He’s gonna leave you Liv. He’s gonna hurt you Liv, he’s gonna hurt you I know it. I’ll never leave you because I love you.” During Matt’s speech Julian is talking to Olivia , asking her what’s wrong and trying to make sure she’s alright. Julian then tells Olivia he loves her. After hearing Julian’s confession Olivia ignores her brother and proceeds to try hook up with Julian. Julian leaves to grab what the audience can infer is a condom. Olivia asks Matt to leave and Matt responds by saying “Let’s see how long you last without me this time.” Olivia and Julian proceed to hook up, in this moment when Olivia is only in her underwear the audience can vividly see how sick she has actually become. While they are hooking up, Olivia starts to panic after she begins to replay the car accident in her head. She accidently screams her brothers name, scaring Julian causing him to ask her to leave and tells her she needs help. The scene shows how much control her trauma and her brother have over her. The new Matt is not like the brother she used to know. It is her disorder using her grief as weapon forcing her to stop eating. The audience can clearly see that Matt is not really her brother but a physical manifestation of her eating disorder. The Eating disorder forces Olivia out of situations where she lacks control. Olivia’s eating disorder is a way for her to deal with the death of her brother and the stress she faces due to school.
During her parents Christmas party, it becomes even more apparent that Olivia is mental ill and needs help, when her mother finds bags of rotten food hidden behind the twins old treehouse and Matt (her ED) tries to convince Olivia to jump from the roof , so they can die together. Olivia asks Matt to not make her do this; Matt in response says “ This isn’t going away Liv, it’s not going to end after graduation. You think dads gonna let you do whatever you want? He’s not. You’re going to his school; you’re taking over his firm just like he wanted me to do. They’ll never gonna love you, not like I do.” He then proceeds to comfort Olivia, telling her he loves her. She asks if it’s gonna hurt and he says “nothing will ever hurt again” and she has to do this because she promised they would die together. Matt’s conversions with Olivia is merely an inner monologue between her and her ED.
Luckily, her parents stop her before she jumps. However, even after Olivia’s parents check her into rehab, Matt follows and continues to emotionally abuse her and convince Olivia he needs to the food more than she does. This film is an accurate depiction of what it’s like to live with a mental illness and the extreme difficulties someone faces on the road to recovery. The producer and actress, Troian Bellisario dealt with an eating disorder, anorexia, in her late teens just like Olivia giving a realistic insight to eating disorders. Troian originally wrote the screenplay for Feed fours years after she went to rehab herself. Troian explained in interviews that her own story with anorexia inspired Feed. Mass media for years has portrayed eating disorders as simple and an easy fix. In Feed, that is not the case even after rehab Olivia still at times of stress around food sees her ED, manifested as her dead brother. In the case of any mental illness, the battle does not end in rehab or after, with the use expensive medication nor therapy. Not only does the media portray eating disorders as an easy fix but as a one dimension disorder that is ruled and controlled by the need to be skinny to meet society ideals. Based on Roxane Gay’s memoir, Hunger., that’s not in any form the truth.
In the memoir, Gay talks about her own struggles with her weight, not losing weight, but gaining it. In the beginning of her memoir she writes “This is a memoir of (my) body because, more often than not, stories of bodies like mine are ignored or dismissed or derided. People see bodies like mine and make their assumptions. They think they know the why of my body. They do not (Gay.5).” People passing Roxana Gay on street do not see her disorder or trauma, only her weight. When Gay was twelve years old, she was gang raped in the woods near her family home. For nearly 30 years she kept it a secret from her family. That’s where Gay lost control of her body and realized she needed to take control back, so she started to indulge in food in hope that she could hide. “…I ate because I thought that if my body became repulsive, I could keep men away. Even at a young age, I understood that to be fat was to be undesirable to men. This is what most girls are taught- that we should be slender and small. We should not take up space. We should be seen and not heard, and if we are seen, we should be pleasing to men, acceptable to society(Gay.13).” Gay, like a number of women, are forced to believe that being skinny is the synonym for being beautiful. Due to society’s expectations, Gay began to eat more and more creating a body she could feel safe in. The sexual assault Gay went through took a toll and created a life trauma and a void that she felt needed to be filled. She states “ I was determined to fill the void, and food was what I used to build a shield around what was left of me.” Gay’s story captures a different side of eating disorders, the other side of the spectrum. Eating disorders do not revolve around just losing weight, but are defined as a wide range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits. Every eating disorder is different and has different triggers, causes and treatments needed. Gay’s story provides a new perspective on trauma and the eating disorders that can follow. Gay talks about eating disorders in a way most have been afraid to do. People are afraid to consider that one is capable of defying society’s expectations and battle trauma by gaining weight instead of losing it. The thing about trauma is there is no wrong or right way to battle it.
Both Feed and Hunger. capture eating disorders in a different light that is often not talked about in the mass media. Each person has a distinct way they deal with trauma and the need for control, whether it’s anorexia, bulimia or purging. The discussion between the media and the public needs to be inclusive toward everyone. Everyone can be affected by an eating disorder no matter their weight, race, or gender. The reason I hold Hunger. And Feed at a high regard is they open up the conversion to be inclusive of everyone not just the stereotypes people have when they know someone has an eating disorder. Eating disorders are an epidemic and the best way to fight it, is to open up the conversion. We are capable of taking control of the situation and ultimately creating a positive narrative that help those who are affected by not only eating disorders, but mental illness in general.

Matthew Snyder Final paper

Matthew Snyder

Sarah Boyd

Engl 125

April 23rd 2018

Get Out

Jordan Peele’s Get Out was invigorating, intriguing, and utterly unique throughout the entirety of the film. Peele’s first film will go down as an instant-classic, as it engages the viewer with the plot; providing peculiar scenes that puzzle the viewer more and more as the film carries on. Because these scenes gradually indicate what might happen next, a singular glance away from the screen would leave out details paramount to the plot, characters, and the overall message of the movie. While these details do foreshadow future events vaguely, Get Out leaves the viewer guessing until the very end. This film was produced extremely well from a film analytic and box office standpoint; seen through its outstanding critic reviews and instant financial success. However, Jordan Peele’s first film is even more of a success due to the message it portrays about the stereotyping and racial profiling of African Americans. Although always a relevant and important topic, this movie was released at an opportune time due to movements such as #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo, continuous racial profiling and mistreatment by policemen, and racism that still lingers in some people today. Peele uses a “thriller” themed movie to literally portray the thoughts and feelings of African American’s in the United States without blatantly saying so. This can been seen through Chris’s constant worry over Rose’s parents perception of him; and also, somewhat ironically, Rod’s continuous warnings for Chris to return home. For example, as Rod wisely said,” Sex slave! Oh, shit! Chris, you gotta get the fuck outta there, man! You in some Eyes Wide Shut situation, Leave, motherfucker!” Even though it was meant to be humorous, Jordan Peele is pointing out the real fear of being black in a “white world”. I believe that this film embodies the feelings felt by many today, and that its vast success is in large part due to the social message hidden behind every scene. I will dissect certain scenes and make comparisons to demonstrate that Peele is portraying the stereotyping and racial profiling of blacks going on in the United States today.

An important motif seen in this film is the Armitage family’s unjustified need to “validate” their relationship with or opinion of black people. Seen in the initial scene of the film, Rose uses the point that her father would vote for Obama again as an attempt to calm Chris’s worries. However, this is counterproductive because it defines both president Obama and Chris by their race, making a correlation between the two that lacks any credibility. A Dave Chappelle quote that resonates with me after watching the film is his saying,” I think every group of black guys should have at least one white guy in it.” I believe this quote is relevant because it demonstrates Dave Chappelle, a black man, is willing and eager to engage with white culture. Throughout his career, Chappelle has made light of people from every country, race, gender, or any other defining characteristic; and white people were no exception. However, Chappelle also has a connection with all of these people, understanding each person’s struggles and battles. I believe this is the exact counterpart to what we see in the film, which sadly represents a greater percentage of the United States population. Peele demonstrates human nature’s tendency to try and fit in with one another throughout the “lunch party” scene. Unlike Dave Chappelle, the members of the Armitage family were crude by racially profiling Chris, as if being black was his

Only defining characteristic. An overlying example is that of Mr. Dray’s Tiger Wood’s discussion, even though Chris mentions he has played golf only one time prior. Mr. Dray, and all of the others, are discussing topics that technically apply to Chris, his race; therefore, racially profiling him rather than discussing is other characteristics. In other words, Peele is pointing out the white tendency to identify a black person as a black person, rather than simply a person; and also, their inability to see past one’s color when forming a relationship.

As Dave Chappelle said, ”The hardest thing to do is be true to yourself, especially when everybody is watching.” Not only does this apply to the Armitage relatives’ inability to be themselves in front of Chris, it also describes the Armitage family’s ploy of luring in black men to be sent to the “sunken place.” Rose seems to be the only Armitage that sees Chris for more than his skin color. While the rest of her family is passively racist, Rose seems to be what many would call a normal person. However, five months were spent acting, toying, and lying to Chris in order to achieve their horrific goal. I believe Peele is demonstrating that people, more specifically white people, tend to act normally alongside black people, even though they are suppressing racist tendencies underneath. An example of this in reality is the NFL’s agreement to pay a small sum of money to African American causes so that their players would stop protesting, specifically for #BlackLivesMatter. Even though the agreement seems like a positive gesture, the NFL is more worried about themselves rather than the black athletes for whom they donated. Likewise, in Get Out, Rose acts like a generous person; however, she is self-driven in her reasons. Even though Chris, or black people, is being treated well on the outside, there are still factors that ultimately led to his/their mistreatment. Unknown until the end, the plot is actually focused on white culture silently manipulating the African American people while hiding behind fake gestures that seem genuine. As Chris is bound to the chair, a conversation with Mr. Hudson leads Chris to understand his ultimate fate: a life stuck in the sunken place. While an incredibly seldom part of the movie, Chris’s reaction is that much more powerful. His reaction? Nothing. Just a blank stare at the television screen because he could feel it coming all along. In this moment, every worry or question he had was answered, and he was not the least bit surprised. He simply accepted is fate because it was his fate all along. Whether Chris ends up being tricked by the Armitage family or not, his life would always have followed the same path: a life lived in the sunken place.

A “sunken place.” It is a strange yet powerful analogy that Peele uses to describe the feeling of being black in the United States. We see Chris aimlessly floating in there as another person, a white person, controls his body. Not only does this contribute to the idea that whites run the United States, but also the fact that some individuals possess an elevated level of power over others, specifically black people. The analogy is that African Americans in the United States develop feelings, reactions, and responses to the actions of white people, but they are extremely limited in their ability to voice these emotions; similarly to the black individuals being controlled by white people in Get Out. This is directly related to my earlier point that the opinions of social movements are so desperately suppressed by those in power, which is completely debilitating to that individual or group of people. A reason for this discrepancy between allowing individuals to have feelings without allowing them to voice it is the lack of transparency with those in power. An excellent example of this comes off of J Cole’s new album when he says:


Where do my dollars go? You see lately, I ain’t been convinced I guess they say my dollars supposed to build roads and schools But my N***** barely graduate, they ain’t got the tools Maybe ‘cause the tax dollars that I make sure I send Get spent hirin’ some teachers that don’t look like them And the curriculum be tricking them, them dollars I spend Got us learning bout the heroes with the whitest of skin.


There is a serious problem in the United States where the people have little to no idea what happens to our tax dollars, our votes, and our rights. Regardless, it seems as if these things simply go towards benefitting white people or prioritizing what white people have to say. J Cole states that the schools in black areas spend time and money teaching the success of white people, rather than empowering these kids through the great accomplishments of African Americans. I believe Peele embraced this philosophy when producing Get Out by centering the film on the accomplishments of the Armitage family and the other white folk. It is motifs such as these that enhance ones experience when watching Get Out, allowing the viewer to recognize and associate themselves with the social issues happening in the United States, while also enjoying a thrilling and energizing movie.

The last scene I would like to delve into is the scene in which Rob pleads the police officers to investigate the Armitage family. Not only did they ignore him, they laughed him out of the police station. An interesting thing to note is that all three of the officers were black, but they had intention of listening to what Rob had to say. I believe this is indicative of their fear of dealing with white people. The female officer jokingly said that “the white girl” was driving him insane. While humorous, this is telling of the relationship between blacks and whites within the United States’ society. Regardless if the officers had any belief in Rob’s story, as African Americans, they were not going to risk their jobs, or time, investigating a wealthy white family. Black individuals have no incentive to argue or challenge the decisions of the whites because, in the United States, whites guide the legislation and direction of this country. African Americans would be seen as asinine if they chose to confront the credibility of powerful whites, as would the police officers. Peele included this seen to demonstrate that even if a group of African Americans think like mindedly, they are still fearful of portraying these thoughts due to outside criticism.

Jordan Peele’s Get Out provides an excellent example of a film delivering a compelling message while also providing and executing a well thought-out storyline. Both of these things contribute to its massive success, and are the two reasons I rank Get Out in my top five films. I believe Peele created this film to point out the negatives of being black in the United States, and to provide some sort of insight to how it feels. I believe this film was released at an extremely perfect and important time within United States’ history, and will be seen as an all time success. I believe Peele, Kaluuya, and Howery will continue to win awards and be successes, empowering African Americans to succeed in the film industry that is just now embracing their story.



Hidden Figures Long Form Essay

In the media, racism is either non-existent or intensely focused upon. In the case of Hidden Figures, a movie about three black women, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan, who struggle to prove themselves in the segregated and male-dominated world at NASA, it leans toward the middle of the two. This middle-ground is a trend that is even seen with recent shows like 2 Dope Queens, a show meant to highlight the talents of those from diverse backgrounds. However, this show falls flat in establishing its desired message, which also occurs in Hidden Figures despite both discussing or showing controversial issues. While Hidden Figures excels at getting the message of racism across, it restricts the conversation it can have on the topic and thus limits the impact of its message because similar to shows like 2 Dope Queens, it resorts to nonconfrontational tones and supporting characters that act as a crutch to the stars true success in order to pander to a wider audience.

Altering a narrative in order to connect to a wider audience isn’t new. It’s been seen in books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and even more recently with HBO’s special 2 Dope Queens. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a book written by a white woman that portrayed a tamer side to slavery and ended with the main character, Uncle Tom, gaining freedom through death. Despite causing feelings of indignation and anger from the black community, the white community responded strongly to the story. That’s because in order to get the white public to resonate with the message the author had to create characters that they could empathize with while not feeling like they were being attacked for the institution of slavery. A similar mentality is still prevalent as seen with 2 Dope Queens which premiered on HBO in February of this year.

2 Dope Queens is hosted by two black, female comedians, Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson, who invite various guests and comedians onto the show. This show is based on their podcast, of the same name, which focused on promoting comedians and people of diverse backgrounds, such as people of color, females, and those of the LGBT community. However, the show does not fully embrace the original purpose of their podcast and in the first episode, only two of the five comedians were of color, and only one was female. Despite their podcast having a history of success, a lot of major companies are still afraid to solely rely on the success of minorities and resort to using white actors/comedians/etc. as a way to guarantee some form of revenue. Plus, since the show now includes a bigger and whiter audience, they don’t want to make it feel as though they are excluding them from the narrative. In addition, they steer away from controversial topics since as a new show they don’t want to polarize people. This is what causes them to play it safe and include comedy that is neutral and easy to laugh at but doesn’t necessarily make a statement. When they do include a female comedian, who does a routine that discusses some controversial topics they make her go first so as to follow her up with routines that are “safer” so they can end on a positive and non-confrontational note. Ending with a “happy-ending” makes it so people come back to watch again. However, this isn’t the only tactic they use to get people to stay and watch, they also have a well-known celebrity join them, to add credit to their show and entice people to watch. For the first episode, they use Jon Stewart, even making sure to include his name in the synopsis of the episode. Not only is he used to gain more viewers, he also acts as a way to legitimize their comedy, because if a famous comedian supports your show then it must mean it’s good. However, in doing so they are using someone else’s fame to help support their goals instead of relying on their own humor and talent. Relying on someone else is a trap that is easy to fall into. People make it seem like you aren’t good enough the way that you are, so you change yourself or rely on others to make yourself “better”, but in doing so you lose that originality and feature or message that defined you. 2 Dope Queens gave up the amount of impact their message about diversity would have in order to be successful in the eyes of the public and the company. Unfortunately, Hidden Figures is guilty of the same issues.

While Hollywood has more recently begun to trust that a story focused on minorities can and will make money, as seen with such hits as Black Panther and Get Out, at the release of Hidden Figures, Hollywood was still hesitant about giving the story entirely to three black characters. As such, they resort to lessening the impact of segregation and racism during the 1960s and also include a white male figure who acts as a hero and takes some of the focus from the women’s stories, losing some of the message’s impact, just as Jon Stewart did for 2 Dope Queens. This is seen most prominently with Al Harrison, Kevin Costner, Katherine’s boss. They could have given the narrative completely to Katherine and watched as she climbed the ranks and proves herself to her colleagues by her own efforts. Which they do to a point, but they also use supporting characters like Harrison and John Glen, to shoulder some of her burden and aid in her success, making it seem like she couldn’t have succeeded on her own. There is no reason for them to have these male supporting leads provide such a pivotal role to Katherine’s success, especially when they have characters like the Polish engineer who gives Mary the idea that it is possible to become an engineer as a colored woman. But it is Mary herself who determines her own success. She is the one who takes the matters into her own hands and goes to court to defend her position. Even with Mary’s future depending on the decision of a white male judge, he isn’t acting as a crutch that is needed to help her succeed, he instead functions as a roadblock that Mary must overcome. With Katherine, that’s not the case, because Harrison is very likable, understanding, and is seen as caring for the mission more than the differences in a person’s skin color. Basically, Harrison is an idealized character. Which is the other problem the movie has that lessens the film’s impact: resolving all the conflicts and ignoring the reality of America during that time.

As the movie strives to be a feel-good movie, it aims to end on a happy note to get more people to like the movie, again relying on tactics and tropes instead of letting the character’s story speak for itself. The three women accomplish a lot and it’s an amazing success story by itself, but by the end the movie decides to make it seem like people are no longer racist and segregation is no longer a reality, despite it taking several more years for blacks to gain full rights. In one scene, as John Glen is hurtling back to earth, it makes a point to show all these people from different walks of life standing together with a common hope, not looking at their differences but being brought together by the fact that they are all Americans. This is even more obvious when it contrasts with the various scenes in the movie where it explicitly shows only black families watching the TV together, versus those who were white watching the news somewhere else. Then after they show everyone standing together they proceed to resolve most of the conflicts. Ms. Mitchell, the white counterpart, and a roadblock to Dorothy’s success, finally gives Dorothy her rightful title of supervisor and even asks for her help in teaching her own “computers” how to program the IBM. Katherine, through the help of John Glen, gets her job at the Space Task Group back, and Mary is now a certified engineer. It’s a very idealistic ending, and while it does highlight each women’s very real achievements, it doesn’t acknowledge that segregation and racism did continue, even at NASA. As one computer programmer who reviewed the movie said, “the strange thing for me is that I saw more black programmers in this movie than I’ve ever encountered in my entire career… Even today, some of my customers look at me funny when I show up to fix the problem” (Henderson). Meaning there is still an issue with racism and explains why 2 Dope Queens was formatted the way that it was. While the movie misses the chance to really delve into the full extent of segregation, at the very least the times it does focus on it, it does it well.

Hidden Figures scenes of segregation and racism work because they not only contrast scenes of the women alone vs them at work it also emphasizes the microaggressions they face. These microaggressions are what really helps create an atmosphere of tension, and highlights how it’s the small things that can slowly eat away at a person’s patience and tolerance. Most of the examples of racism are seen through the way her colleagues look at her when she enters a room, how they don’t talk to her, or how they get her a coffee pot that says “colored” on it, or even how a white woman hurries her daughter away from a black man drinking from a colored water fountain. The movie even makes sure to highlight how the little things like going to the bathroom, getting a library book, or going to class are much harder for a person of color. When they do acknowledge the historically violent and oppressive moments of segregation, they do so subtly. A brief scene of people protesting with the police surrounding the protestors, a news program in the background, a mention in the pastor’s sermon, or a brief reference to Rosa Parks. They make sure to emphasize these scenes by either making them silent, as with the scene when Katherine first enters the Space Task Group so that you become acutely aware of the stares. Or with a burst of music that highlights the absurdness of the situations they are put in, like Katherine having to run half a mile to go to the bathroom. To emphasize the tension of racism in general, they show scenes that show both the women in the workplace and by themselves. There is an obvious personality shift that is seen between the two locations, so that when they are alone you get to see more of their personalities shine and see them smile and have fun, while at work they are polite, wary, and reserved. It just adds to the effect of how they had to be on constant alert of their situation because one wrong move wouldn’t be tolerated.

The other point they make sure to acknowledge is that racism is dynamic and might not always be obvious, especially to the person who is being racist. Ms. Mitchell, Dorothy’s “villain”, one day tells Dorothy, “Despite what you may think, I have nothing against Y’all” (Hidden Figures). With Dorothy responding, “I know, I know you probably believe that” (Hidden Figures). That scene shows us that despite Ms. Mitchell clearly being prejudiced against Dorothy she doesn’t think she herself is. It creates an interesting new dynamic for a character that at first was only a one-dimensional villain. It gives you some insight into how she views herself. Then there is Katherine’s relationship with Paul Stafford. Paul Stafford is the classic antagonist to Katherine, yet he slowly starts to accept her. He doesn’t have a complete change of heart, as it appears Ms. Mitchell does, but he does begin to grudgingly acknowledge her when she speaks. This is the one time the movie doesn’t have a perfect resolution between a character and their antagonist and shows how very often it is hard for a person to get rid of their prejudices. While they could have overall been more open and obvious about the turmoil that came with segregation, they do portray it as best they can with the limitations they have and highlight that tension and fear that each of the women faced each day.

In the end, the fact that these types of movies are being made is already a step in the right direction. However, the way the narrative is portrayed still leaves something to be desired. It still relies on old tropes like having a happy-ending where all the conflicts are resolved and using more famous actors to support the film. Despite all that, Hidden Figures has a remarkable cast that plays off each other very well and does a really good job at giving the audience a sense of what it would be like to live like and work in the segregated 1960s. Hopefully, now that movies like Black Panther have done so well, Hollywood will no longer rely on cheap tactics to get people to like the movie and instead realize that people will enjoy the story the way it is, without having to change the narrative.


Henderson, Odie. “Hidden Figures.” Roger Ebert, 20 Dec. 2016, Accessed 27 Apr. 2018.

Hidden Figures. Directed by Theodore Melfi, performances by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kristen Dunst, and Glen Powell, 20thCentury Fox, 2016.

2 Dope Queens, Directed by Tig Notaro, HBO, 2018.

The Lasting Significance of “Do The Right Thing”

Jack Deering

Dr. Boyd

ENGL 129

27 April 2018

The Lasting Significance of Do the Right Thing

    Spike Lee’s eye-opening film Do the Right Thing chronicles the fictional events that transpire during an extremely hot day in a Brooklyn neighborhood in 1989. The escalation of conflict begins when a black character nicknamed Buggin’ Out questions why there are no black people featured on the “Wall of Fame” in the neighborhood’s popular pizzeria, which is owned by Italian-Americans. As the scorching day progresses, the racial conflict in the neighborhood continues to escalate and eventually culminates with the killing of a black man by a white police officer who uses a fatal chokehold. Throughout the film, Spike Lee explores racial tensions in the Brooklyn neighborhood, a microcosm of the greater New York City area and the United States. In effect, he exposes the ugly reality of racism and police brutality towards black people in America long before these issues became part of the mainstream media through more recent movements like Black Lives Matter. The larger project of the film, then, is to reconfigure the national discourse around the Civil Rights Movement in America by shifting it away from the passivism of Martin Luther King Jr. and towards the more radical activism advocated by Malcolm X, who viewed violence in self-defense as not “violence,” but “intelligence.”

    The first instance in the film that comments on police treatment of black people establishes the atmosphere of distrust in the police within the black community. Thirty minutes into the film, two officers arrive at the scene where a few black men aimed water shooting from a fire hydrant at a white man’s car. As one of the police officers shuts off the fire hydrant, he threatens that if the fire hydrant comes back on, “There’s gonna be hell to pay! You’ll come and answer to me goddammit!” When the other officer attempts to question a witness, who is referred to as the “mayor” of the block, the mayor replies, “Those that’ll tell don’t know, and those that know won’t tell.” This statement and the refusal of the mayor to report on what he witnessed underscores the distrust that minorities have for the police. Rather than cooperating with the police, many minorities refuse to assist police officers investigating crimes because they distrust the officers. This incident from the mayor, according to critic Brian Johnson, also reflects the reluctance of many black people to work with the police and could signify the beginning of the “snitches get stitches” mentality (2015:25). Due to distrust towards police, many people prioritize the demands of criminals over the demands of justice. This atmosphere of distrust often results in police officers and minorities working against each other, rather than with each other, throughout the United States today.

    In addition to bringing awareness to the distrust in police, the film calls attention to racial profiling issues by police, an issue that further exacerbates the distrust. After the statement from the “mayor,” the officers give up on questioning witnesses, and one officer suggests to the car owner, “I suggest you get to your car quick before these people start to strip it clean.” This racist comment by the police officer emphasizes the racial profiling of black people that plagues many police departments; this officer assumes that the black neighbors on the street are prone to criminal activity. If the same incident had occurred in a white neighborhood, the officer likely would not have made this comment. The same officers whose duty it is to promote justice can sometimes make racist assumptions about people from minority groups. Many communities throughout the United States continue to suffer from racial profiling, and this profiling can be especially oppressive when it comes from police officers, as it did in Do the Right Thing.

    In addition to racial profiling issues, the film heightens awareness of the shared perceptions of wastefulness that exist among police and black people. Later in the day, flanked by dramatic music, the same two police officers drive by three older black men spending time together outside on the sidewalk. This scene features close-up shots of the faces of the officers and the faces of the black men as the officers drive by. The faces of both the police officers and of the three black men are all very scrutinizing, as if all of the men are thinking I’ve got my eyes on you or I know what you’re up to. As the police officers stare down the black men, one of the officers utters in a disgusted tone, “What a waste.” Then, before the officers are out of the black men’s sight, one of the black men delivers the same comment, “What a waste,” in a more angry, frustrated tone. The comment from the police officer encapsulates the view that many officers have about black men, which is that they are lazy and unproductive; in fact, the men are of retirement age and are simply spending time together. On the other hand, the comment from the black man captures the sentiment that many black people have about police officers in their communities, which is that having so many cops in black communities is wasteful because the officers are not performing their required duties of maintaining peace and safety in the communities. The same black man further emphasizes his negative perception of the police by complaining that he was “so rudely interrupted by New York City’s finest” with strong sarcasm on the word “finest.”  These perspectives of police officers seeing black people as a waste and black people seeing police officers as a waste still exist in today’s America. With these perceptions, the atmosphere of support that is necessary between police and black people erodes; without police supporting black people and black people supporting police, effective law enforcement is not possible. These negative perceptions contribute to an unproductive and contentious relationship that can ultimate result in tragedy.

    Lee brings awareness to the ultimate tragedy that can result from the atmosphere of racism, racial profiling, and distrust, which is the unjustified killing of black men by police. The film calls attention to this issue through Radio Raheem’s tragic ending. In the film, the tensions between the police officers and the black neighbors come to a crescendo after Sal violently smashes Radio Raheem’s stereo. Raheem tackles Sal, pins him against the ground, and attempts to strangle him. Upon spotting the chaos, police officers arrive on the scene and pull Radio Raheem off of Sal. Officer Long puts Raheem in a chokehold with his baton and continues to tighten his grip as a black man shouts, “You’re killing him!” Others watch in fear and despair, fearing the Radio Raheem will lose his life. The films cuts to a close-up shot of Radio Raheem’s face as it falls lifeless, at which point Officer Ponte utters, “Gary, that’s enough.” The film then cuts to a shot of Radio Raheem’s shoes shaking inches above the ground, revealing that Officer Long has essentially hung Raheem to his death. The officers then let Raheem’s lifeless body fall to the ground, and they shout at him to “Quit faking it!” and “Get the fuck up!” Realizing what they have done and all of the witnesses looking at Raheem, Officer Ponte demands, “Let’s get him outta here.” After the police drive Radio Raheem away, the camera pans across various neighbors who say, “It’s murder. They did it again just like Michael Stewart,” “Murder! Eleanor Bumpurs! Murder!,” “Damn, man, it ain’t even safe in our own fucking neighborhood,” “Never was, never will be,” and “It’s as plain as day; they didn’t have to kill the boy.” As all of these neighbors make these comments, Smiley’s cries of agony can be heard in the background.

    The tragic killings of black people by police were not a temporary problem near the film’s release in the late 1980s. The continuing severity of the problem is evident; since the film’s release in 1989, many more black people have, like Radio Raheem, been killed by unjustified violence from police. These victims include Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, and Philando Castile. Eric Garner’s death in 2014 was eerily similar to Radio Raheem’s. Like in Radio Raheem’s death, a New York police officer put Eric Garner in a chokehold, despite the fact that the New York Police Department banned the use of chokeholds in 1993 (NY Times). Although the officer eventually released Garner from the chokehold, he pinned Garner’s face to the ground while four other officers restrained Garner. Garner pleaded for his life as he struggled to say “I can’t breath,” eleven times, and he was pronounced dead at a hospital an hour later. Do the Right Thing brought a greater awareness to the violence that police are capable of inflicting on black people, and this issue has continued for the nearly thirty years since that have passed since the film’s release. The people in communities where these tragedies occur wrestle with them the same way that neighbors in the film did, by lamenting that another innocent person has been killed, struggling to comprehend why the officer had to use lethal force, and crying out in agony.

    The response of the neighbors to Radio Raheem’s death points to the shift from the passivism of Martin Luther King Jr. towards the more radical activism advocated by Malcolm X in response to oppression. After the police have driven away, Mookie picks up a metal trash can and heaves it through the window of Sal’s pizzeria. The angry crowd then storms the restaurant, destroying everything inside of it. Watching from a distance, Sal shouts, “That’s my place!” and Vito comments, “Fucking n*****s.” These comments from Vito and Sal are reflective of the sentiments that many people feel in the wake of rioting and looting spurred by police brutality. They view the rioters as irrational and animal-like. Many people focus on the tragedy of business establishments being destroyed, rather than the real tragedy that spurs this dramatic response: the death of an innocent black man at the hands of police. Spike Lee himself captured this idea when he said, “The critics are focusing on the burning of the pizzeria, and nobody ever mentions the death of Radio Raheem, because to them Sal’s property is more important than another death of a young black kid, another black “hoodlum” (Johnson 2015:25).

    Whereas Martin Luther King Jr. would likely have viewed the violent response from the crowd as “impractical and immoral,” Malcolm X would likely have seen it as “intelligence” and “self-defense.” By choosing to include a violent response from the crowd, Spike Lee calls attention to the reconfiguration of black peoples’ mode of resistance to oppression. Instead of embracing the peaceful passivism of Martin Luther King Jr., the marginalized are now turning to Malcolm X’s ideology of a more radical activism in the form self-defense. The emphasis of this shift is further reinforced when Smiley walks into the pizzeria and places a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X on the burning Wall of Fame as the song “Fight the Power” plays in the background. Through their violent reaction to Raheem’s killing, the Brooklyn neighbors are fighting the powerful, oppressive system with the ideology promoted by Malcolm X. Rather than peacefully calling attention to issues of racism rampant among powerful people, the crowd in Do the Right Thing is more literally fighting the oppressive power. The violent, or “intelligent,” actions of self-defense in Do the Right Thing resemble the many responses to police brutality since the film’s release in 1989. In response to unjustified police killings of black men, violent riots have ensued in Los Angeles in 1992, Ferguson in 2014, Baltimore in 2015, and Charlotte in 2016. Like the riot in the film, all of these riots have been characterized by shattered glass, looting, and fire. The form of protest promoted by Martin Luther King Jr. has shifted to the one advocated by Malcolm X and remains strong today. Although many continue to echo the sentiments of Martin Luther King Jr. in arguing that these violent responses are immoral and unproductive, these violent protests are an effective mode of calling the media’s attention to racial issues in America.

    In conclusion, by telling the story of a quarrelsome, tragic day in a Brooklyn neighborhood, Spike Lee brings awareness to both the racism that black people face on a daily basis and the devastating effect it has on marginalized communities. In a wider sense, Lee explores violence as a response to oppression, and he transforms the national discourse about racial justice by shifting it from Martin Luther King’s ideology of peaceful protest to Malcolm X’s perspective of self-defense. The significance of Lee’s message continues in today’s polarizing society, and one of the closing scenes in the film serves as an poignant reflection on current issues of race and society in America. The morning after Radio Raheem’s killing, the neighborhood’s popular radio host expresses his sentiments when he professes, “My people, my people. What can I say? Say what I can. I saw it, but I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe it, what I saw. Are we gonna live together? Together, are we gonna live?” The camera pans up to the radio host gazing out the window; below the window in big letters is the word “LOVE.” Through the words and imagery of this scene, Spike Lee sends a message that maintains significance today. If we are “gonna live together” we must cultivate an atmosphere of trust instead of distrust, of support instead of opposition, and of love instead of hate.



Do the Right Thing. Directed by Spike Lee, performances by Danny Aiello, Spike Lee, and Bill Nunn, Universal City Studios, 1989.

Mays, Jeffery C. “3½ Years After Eric Garner’s Death, Family Still Waits for Closure.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 25 Feb. 2018,

Longform Essay (Lucas B)

Lucas Baldridge

ENGL 129

Prof. Boyd

27 April 2018

The Displaying of 21stCentury Discrimination in Hidden Figures

Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures examines the ongoing effects of racial and gender discrimination by delving into the lives of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. By showing the conditions in which they lived and worked, Melfi offers social commentary on the sexism and racism that these women faced as employees of NASA in the 1960s. Throughout the film, Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary were not only facing racial prejudices, but also endured quite a bit of discrimination due to their gender. Hidden Figures displays the interconnection of these two types of discrimination, which happens to mirror the same prejudices in which women of color faced in America even as the Civil Rights Movement gained in prominence. But as a film created in 2017, Hidden Figures additionally explores the depths of gender and racial discrimination as an intersectional issue in the 21stcentury.

Although each of the main characters, Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary, have their own instances of discrimination, the film prefaces their collective discrimination at important moments in the film. The film opens with the three main characters encountering a racist cop on their way to work. Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary were all on the side of the road trying to fix their broken down car. As minutes pass, a cop finally arrives to the scene to see what the trouble was about. Despite the fact that the women were clearly in need of assistance, the cop was quite aggressive towards them. He steps out of his car with baton in hand as if he is facing up against three criminals. Jokingly, Mary even remarks that it is “no crime being a negro,” which despite its obvious banter, was seemingly a truth for this police officer. To continue with his obvious prejudices, the police officer is incredulous that Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary all work for NASA. He asserts his confusion by saying “no clue they hired…,” leaving audiences wondering about the implications of his comment. It could easily be a comment made towards their race or gender, which was confirmed by the panning of the camera from the cop to the aggravated women. Even though the police officer ends up escorting them to their workplace, the ladies’ initial confrontation with the officer was shaped by harsh comments about their race and gender.

The discrimination put on by the police officer to Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary is remarkably relatable to police brutality in 21stcentury America. Especially in recent years, there have been many cases in which cops have taken unnecessary control of African-American citizens. It seems as if every few months, another innocent African-American civilian is shot and killed, for reasons unknown to the public eye. This has to be due to the racial prejudices surrounding African-Americans, as a large majority of such murders normally involve a young black male being shot and killed. To further the connection between such discrimination from the 1960s to the 21stcentury, we can delve into the case of Sandra Bland. The arrest of Sandra Bland was disturbing enough, as she faced horrific abuse from Texas state trooper Brian Encinia, but even more discrimination surfaced during her stay in prison. She was denied her free calls, which seemingly left her heartbroken and lonely (Nathan, 2016). The prison guard that did not allow her to exercise her basic rights as a prisoner was displaying upmost racial and/or gender discrimination. This specific instance could have been the breaking point for Bland’s mental health, which was deemed unstable by a psychiatrist. In the coming hours after being denied her phone calls, Bland hanged herself from the ceiling of her cell bathroom (Nathan, 2016). Her obvious mistreatment can be a direct link to her suicide, and it is clear that such mistreatment occurred because of her race and/or gender.

Despite the women facing discrimination collectively, they continued to face such discrimination separately, as they lived on different lives at NASA and at home. Mary was the first woman of the original group to face discrimination on her own. As Mary was assigned to the engineering team, she was asked why she does not become an engineer. Her response to such questioning was that she is “a negro woman,” and that she can’t waste her time thinking “of the impossible.” It is obvious, that despite her qualifications as an intellectual worker at NASA, Mary was still unable to achieve such a title due to her race. This was reiterated later in Melfi’s film as Mrs. Mitchell, one of the head employees of the NASA facility, told Mary that her application to earn the job title ‘Engineer’ was denied because she had not received certain classes from an all-white school, which was not possible for Mary for obvious reasons.

Even though Mary received much discrimination racially, she also underwent gender discrimination from her husband. While at a church luncheon, her husband could not fathom the idea of Mary becoming an engineer. He said that “women were not meant to be engineers” and continuously tried to deter her from such aspirations. Although he becomes more supportive of her decisions in the end, his initial reaction to her goals of becoming an engineer lays the framework for any gender discrimination that Mary faces throughout the entirety of the film.

This idea of interconnected discrimination is also noted in the depiction of Katherine’s life. Katherine experiences heaps of racial discrimination, but one of the most impacting features of her racial discrimination is outlined during her bathroom breaks. Every time Katherine was in need to use the restroom, she had to trek half a mile across the NASA plant in order to find a ‘Colored Restroom.’ Melfi directs these scenes perfectly by adjusting the camera in ‘long shot form’ to show how far of a travel it was for Katherine to get to the restroom each day. Mr. Harrison, who is the head of the launch programs at NASA, eventually questions her for why she is always “disappearing.” At this moment, Katherine breaks down and explains her situation to all of those in the Engineering Laboratory. Her anecdote to Mr. Harrison was so compelling that he eventually broke down all of the ‘Colored Restroom’ signs, but it still does not erase the fact that such restrooms existed, which is an obvious display of racial segregation.

Even though Katherine endured many other instances of racism, she was also a victim of gender discrimination. The first instance of such discrimination came from her future husband, Colonel James A. Johnson. During their first encounter, Colonel Johnson is confused at why NASA gives “such hard jobs” to women. Obviously, this is a form of gender discrimination, as Colonel Johnson did not see it being a responsible business decision to allow women to endure such hard tasks in the workplace setting. A second instance of such discrimination comes when Katherine is originally denied permission to sit in on the Pentagon Meetings, which discussed the launch in which she was working on. Mr. Stafford, the lead engineer of the group in which Katherine worked, denied her attendance to the meetings. Reluctantly, Mr. Harrison stood up for her once again and allowed her to attend the meeting. Katherine even ends up making a groundbreaking calculation during the meeting, impressing all of those in attendance. It is obvious that her attendance should not have been questioned from the start, but her gender was the reason for her original denial.

To explore the idea of individual discrimination further, it is also important to delve into the life of Dorothy Vaughan. Specifically, we must focus on Dorothy’s encounter with Mrs. Mitchell when asking for a supervisorial position at NASA. Mrs. Mitchell informed Dorothy that she was unable to pursue such a position because NASA “does not hire coloreds.” This is obvious racial discrimination, and truly unfair to Dorothy as she is presumably a supervisor to the ‘Colored Computers.’ Dorothy simply wanted the position title to acclaim the pay she deserves, but her race kept her from such aspirations. Dorothy also faces another instance of racial discrimination, but this time in a public setting. While visiting a public library with her children, Dorothy was harassed by a librarian to leave because it was not a library for “colored folk.” Dorothy and her children were eventually escorted out of the library with the guidance of a security guard, but such discrimination is quite stapling, as it was in a public setting this time.

Even though Dorothy faces quite a bit of racial discrimination, she was also discriminated against because of gender. Such an instance is found during her trialing with the IBM computer, which was seemingly broken until she fixed it. As Dorothy was fixing the computer on her own accord, she was yelled at for being in the room containing the IBM computer. Eventually, we discovered that this was because of her gender. The only workers in the IBM task group were white males. As the workers learned that Dorothy was the reason for the computer’s functionality, she was eventually hired to the task team, but she was asked to leave her ‘Colored Computers’ group behind. Such a request was unfathomable to Dorothy, and she insisted that her group of girls would be alongside her on the IBM task group. Luckily, her requests were met with acceptance, and she persevered through such a strata of gender discrimination, which was hindering her entry into the IBM computer task group.

To understand how Hidden Figures, a film portraying the era of the Civil Rights Movement, is relatable to 21stcentury intersectionality, it is important to reveal the unfair treatment to women of color in the 21stcentury. The three women discussed all faced workplace discrimination due to their race and gender. These same occurrences can easily be found in 21stcentury America. The Lily, a verified analytical/news website, provides statistical analysis to show such workplace discrimination. They showed that women, on average, are paid 20% less than men of the same job title (The Lily News, 2017). To then emphasize the effects of intersectional discrimination, they also state that black women are paid 63% of what men of the same job title are paid (The Lily News, 2017). This statistic highlights the interconnected discrimination endured by African-American women in the 21stcentury.

By displaying the effects of workplace discrimination from the 1960s in a film made in 2017, Melfi is obviously proposing his own social commentary on the lasting effects of such intersectional discrimination. As previously discussed, workplace discrimination is a huge problem in 21stcentury America, which is why Hidden Figures is such a relevant film when discussing the effects of discrimination as interconnected between those of racial and gender minorities.


Melfi, Theodore, Donna Gigliotti, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, Pharrell Williams, Allison Schroeder, Mandy Walker, Hans Zimmer, Benjamin Wallfisch, Peter Teschner, Wynn P. Thomas, Renée E. Kalfus, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, Glen Powell, Kimberly Quinn, Olek Krupa, and Margot L. Shetterly. Hidden Figures., 2017.

Nathan, Debbie. What Happened to Sandra Bland? The Nation, 26 Apr. 2016,                                      

“The Pay Gap Is Worse for Black Women. Here’s a Look at the Statistics.” The Lily News, 31 July 2017,






Finally Essay on Black Panther


Aidee Tejeda Manzano

April 27th 2018

English 129

Split Paths

The Marvel Film Black Panther directed by Ryan Coogler is ostensibly a typical comic book superhero-villain narrative: Killmonger (Erick Stevens) as the murderous villain with no mercy and the Black Panther (T’Challa) as the brave prince of Wakanda. However, these two characters actually represent two opposing conceptions of black identity in the world. Killmonger is an allegory for African American pain and a hero for diasporic Africans. While, T’Challa is an allegory for ancestral privilege and a hero for the Wakandans. But, overall both of these characters are anti-heroes.

Killmonger and T’Challas upbringings were those of an orphan and a prince. Killmonger was stripped of this birthright, he is the son of King T’Chaka’s brother N’Jobu. N’Jobu had taken a war dog assignment in the United States. During his time in the states he witnessed the oppression of his people such as mass incarceration and poverty He falls in love with an African American woman. Killmonger’s father helps Ulysses Klaue steal vibranium from Wakanda in an effort to gain the resources to aid his suffering brothers and sisters. T’Chaka confronts him and ends up killing him. In T’Chaka’s defense the murder was to the save the life of Zuri, when frankly it was to maintain a lie about Wakanda being a primitive country. T’Chaka’s attempt to save a life damned Killmonger’s life. Killmonger is left alone in the hoods of California to survive. By his own merit, Killmonger graduates from MIT and joins the military’s ghost units. In the military he severs the role of a tool to take down governments. Killmonger only knows stories of Wakanda and its surreal beauty. A Wardog tattoo is left to him by his father, as his key into his native land. A native land, that he kind of resents. The land that outcast his father and his people (non-Wakandan Blacks).

T’Challa is the son of T’Chaka, making Killmonger and him cousin, and is the Black Panther. T’Challa is surrounded by support and culture from his family. He wants for nothing, expect for aid in progressing through life without his father. His father who he idealized and worshiped just to find out he was not the man he believed him to be. T’Challa’s ancestral privilege blinded him from seeing the truth and Killmonger’s desire to use Wakanda’s resources to support other blacks globally. This ancestral privilege cuts him off from feeling connected to other black communitys’s worldwide, because he knows specifically what place he is from and what people are his. All of the Wakandans have always been home, as opposed to the black community of diasporic Africans Killmonger is from. In the eyes of the Wakandans presented in the film, with the exception of Nakai, they see only themselves as each other’s people. W’Kabi comments on foreign aid were simply “if you let refuges in they bring their problems,” T’Challa did not appear to oppose this comment (Black Panther). Through darker lenses Wakanda parallels US isolationism with not wanting to be involved with matters that do not concern them, but having spies planted all over the world.

Killmonger as an allegory for black pain was presented in the opening Museum scene. In the British museum scene with the African artifacts, Killmonger is casually browsing the art pieces. He is the only black person present in the scene and the only person being watched by the white security team. He confronts the museum curator by asking about a hand axe, he corrects her on where the axe is actually from (Wakanda). In a condescending tone she does not believe him. It is almost ironic that a white person will not believe a black person on their own history. Killmonger throws in her face that he will just take the artifact back, just as her ancestors stole it on the first place. The women’s face looks appalled as if he had said lies. By using medium and medium close-up shots of Killmonger and the museum curator, the directors were able to establish the tense dialog between the two characters. In this scene Killmonger is showing the desire all minorities have to want pieces of their culture and nation back. Because, if not being able to physically visit a piece of home can be a medium, an especially strong medium if home has never been seen. Killmonger fits this profile, since he was born in the United States and only heard stories about Wakanda. Before making his escape with the vibranium axe, Killmonger spots a traditional mask and says he is “feeling it”, even if it opposes his urban style (Black Panther). His denim jacket, white shirt, gold chain, hipster glasses, and dreadlocks to the side depicted Killmonger as the black community that has lost their connection to their ancestral state and have taken on the common style of their new world.

On the other hand, T’Challa when not in his Black Panther suit is shown in his traditional textiles alongside his family and friends who also embody traditional African culture. T’Challa is presented in his native land first, not visiting a foreign land like Killmonger. Multiple extreme long shots are done when introducing Wakanda, while when introducing Killmonger’s home only a vertical long shot of a apartment building is done in the perspective of young Erik (Killmonger). The extreme long shot of Wakanda shows its beautiful rural areas, its massive waterfall, the busy market place that is a melting pot for all the different tribes, and the high tech buildings. In Killmonger’s home everyone is alike, in T’Challa’s people can be differentiated based of their clothing and physical alternations. T’Challa’s people are all from different tribes, but they give the illusion of a common heart beat after the coronation with the “X” dance which sounds like a giant heartbeat. T’Challa’s home has light, colors, and traditional music from drums. He has the most beautiful sunset in the world, the sun set promised to Killmonger by his father, the sun set that was also his birth right. Just as all diasporic Africans and those stolen from their homelands deserved their sunsets.

Further examination of T’Challa’s coronation shows how accepted he was by the Wakandans because of his ancestral privilege. The common heart heat beat was for him and possibly followed his own. A long shot in the perspective of T’Challa after defeating M’Baku shows his people cheering him on and the sun light illuminating him. In the last step of the coronation, T’Challa must be transported to the ancestral plane. In his ancestral plane he is dressed in a white shirt with gold African prints on the collar. He is presented to his father and other ancestors in panther form. His ancestral plane is in a beautiful African savanna with a pink and purple sun set. He gets a positive message on how to rule in his father’s absence.

On the contrary, Killmonger’s coronation has an air of hostility. The Queen Mother, Ramonda, did not believe he had the right to challenge T’Challa for the thrown even after he reveled his royal linage. I was shocked that Killmonger was not received with any sympathy by anyone. These royals probably knew his father and knew what he suffered as a child, yet no one gave him a chance. Zuir who Killmonger knew as uncle James, does nothing in defense of Killmonger but jumps in the defense of T’Challa. This occurred similarly to how black issues are treated in our society. The recent increase in school shootings, emphasized how differently our society reacted to a shooting at a more privileged and white school as opposed to a shooting at a predominantly black school. Since Killmonger was not an original Wakandan they were ready to throw him out as an outsider. It was a great moment when Killmonger introduced himself in his native tongue and not English, I believe that showed his want to be accepted and his vailed connection to Wakanda. It exemplified that he was not some nomad, he has roots but those roots won’t bind him. During the fight for the crown, there were some moments when T’Challa fought hard but Killmonger physically was stronger. T’Challa was driven by his pride to defeat an outsider and Killmonger was driven by the suffering he endured to get what was his. Killmonger is presented as merciless, unlike T’Challa who showed mercy for M’Baku. These two situations cannot be clearly compared, because of the differences in context. Showing mercy to M’Baku would not make T’Challa lose Wakanda but if Killmonger had shown mercy to T’Challa he would have lost his dream.

The dream he wanted so badly he cut himself off emotionally in order to achieve. The dream the sheltered privileged T’Challa was given by birth. After defeating T’Challa, Killmonger says, “is this your king” to the Wakandas enforcing his belief that he is the rightful ruler of Wakanda. Even with his strength he is not accepted fully. The Wakandan citizens, except for the royal and military members, are not present to acknowledge him. He is giving one short “X” or heartbeat, it was given in fear not love. Killmonger’s ancestral plane takes the form of the small apartment in the hood. Instead of being presented in his prime state, he is shown as a vulnerable boy. His father is the only person there, reinforcing that Killmonger has no connection to his ancestor. As a child he tells his father that no tears have been shed for him and that death is common. That is the reality of Killmonger’s life. All he knows is death is a way to survive, unlike T’Challa who’s experience with loss has been limited. Killmonger’s acceptance of death makes it easy for him to want to completely eliminate the oppressor and control the world as a practical solution for his people. He does not care about the lives that will be lost. No tears were shed for his father, so why should he shed tears for the death of others. After returning from the ancestral plane, he forces the caretakers of the garden to destroy the heart shaped herb. This scene was contradictory, Killmonger wants to be a part of Wakanda but he also wants to destroy its past and re-direct its future.

The last scene of Killmonger is a long shot that comes in closer from behind him. All the audience see is the flames engulfing the garden and the king “full of hatred” (Black Panther). The scene that formally introduces Killmonger to his thrown is shot upside down and gradually fixes itself. The shot is accompanied with music by Kinderic Lamar, not drums like T’Challa’s, this scene was the power transition. As opposed to T’Challa’s simple silver “suit chain”, Killmonger is dressed with the large gold chain. Killmonger as the representation of black pain shows how out of its way black pain has to go to be noticed. All Killmonger has done has been exaggerate and he had to be extra in order for his pain to be seen.

His extreme radicalness was necessary to get the point across of how large black pain that a radical solution is the only one. Killmonger had to be radical to challenge T’Challa’s privilege. Challenging T’Challa’s privilege was the only way for T’Challa to be presented as an anti-hero not the perfect superhero. In the final scene, on his “deathbed” Killmonger says, “bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage,” he is confirming that he is the black man, women, and child whose history has been stripped and have been forced into oppression (Black Panther). Heavy is the head the wears the crown, but even heavier are the hearts of those that are chained down.

This spilt in identity in the black community is a shared with other minority groups that experience migration either by pull or push factors. As a Latina who was born in the United States but raised in Mexico for five years, I’ve experience both sides. When I moved back to the U.S. I felt T’Challa’s ancestral privilege. However, after living in the U.S. for several years and then returning to Mexico, I was not accepted. I was considered “white”, my cousins did not speak to me for a week because they did not think I spoke Spanish. As minorities our identities are split, complex, and sometimes unknown to us, however our pain persist.


Work Cited

Black Panther. Directed by Ryan Coogler, performances by Chadwich Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, and Michael B. Jordan, Marvel, 2018