Straight Outta Compton: A Movie Every American Should Watch

Straight-Outta-Compton-Rabbi-Jason-Miller

By Chase Parongao

“Straight outta ______” you fill in the blank.  As of late, this phrase has been circulating social media as promotion for the upcoming film Straight Outta Compton, a biopic about the ”gangsta” rap group N.W.A  (N****z Wit Attitude). The film follows the revolutionary group’s rise from an unlikely upbringing in Compton, California.  In this movie you will be able to get a closer look of the struggles and triumphs of Eric “Eazy-E” Wright, Andre “Dr. Dre” Young, O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson, Lorenzo ‘”MC Ren” Patterson, and Antoine “DJ Yella” Carraby.  The film will highlight the struggle these “scrappy” young men went through and showcase the hard work they put forth during a time of heavy racism that eventually changed the game of music.  The cast mainly consists of African-American actors and is also directed by an African-American, Gary Gray, who is most renowned for his work with music videos.

The group formed in the 1980’s where crime and gang-related violence was at an all-time high in Compton.  The genre N.W.A pioneered was referred to as “gangsta rap” and was the first of its kind.  The group used an “in-your-face approach” and often included themes of police brutality, drug use, and profanity.  At the time, it made many mainstream stations uncomfortable and was banned due to the content of their work; however, the group remained persistent and sold millions of units in the United States. They first released their debut studio album in 1988, which was titled Straight Outta Compton, and featured two of its most well-known songs.  One song is titled F**k the Police that protests police brutality against minorities and racial profiling. The other is Gangsta Gangsta, which is a window to the lives of inner-city youth. These two songs, for the most part, encapsulates what being black in America is like.  Being such provocative advocates for social change, it is obvious why the movie is being released now.

The release, however, has been under strict inspection because of the group’s gang affiliation and the movie’s violent content.  Lately, there has been multiple theater shootings such as the Aurora shooting and, more recently, the shooting during the movie Trainwreck in Lafayette. It is apparent that with these unexpected and tragic shootings as of late, there is a possibility of copycats.  “We’re not soliciting enhanced security for theaters, but Universal is partnering with those exhibitors who have requested support for their locations,” said a spokesman for the studio. The increased press surrounding the possible dangers the movie may attract is enough for moviegoers to be too afraid to attend the show.  Although there has been multiple movie shootings, the incidents were unpredictable and some theaters are taking the proper precautions.  It is crucial for Americans to watch an influential movie that illustrates the problems that are relevant at this time.

It has been almost exactly a year since the shooting of Michael Brown, more commonly known as “the Ferguson shooting”, which occurred on August 9, 2014. The tragedy of the shooting has resulted in angry protesters all over the nation.  It was from this tragic event that the “Black Lives Matter” movement gained its relevancy.  There has been many unauthorized shootings, arrests, and killings by white police officers before Michael Brown’s death such as the shooting of Oscar Grant at Fruitvale Station in Oakland and Trayvon Martin for wearing a hoodie.  Even with clear evidence and scrutiny of unequal treatment from white cops to black citizens, there have still been major upsets to this day.  Most recent was the Sandra Bland story, who was arrested for a simple traffic violation and speculated to be killed by policemen after her arrest. This has not only been a problem of today but for decades and even centuries prior, so I urge the importance of watching the upcoming film Straight Outta Compton to better understand the reality of what it means to be black in America.

Watching this film will help Americans realize that this is not a new problem, but in fact, a problem that hasn’t changed since the rise of the group in the 1980’s.  O’Shea Jackson Jr., who portrays his father Ice Cube in the film, brings up the point that the only thing that has changed is that people have camera phones now. The sad reality is that within a 30-year span not much has changed – the police still treat black people unfairly.  This film is a call to action, but through a new outlet.  While not everyone has a Twitter, Facebook, or internet access at all, a major motion film may have the ability to reach a wider range of viewers. Although the news is another way of obtaining information about such events, the coverage is often bias and fragmented.  The fragmentation of the story doesn’t allow for the audience to gain background information and a sense of personal connection to the victim.  Watching the film will allow viewers to get to know the faces behind the story, thus creating a sense of pathos towards the issue resulting in a more powerful cry for change.

Additionally, this biopic will help to alleviate the stereotypes media have perpetuated towards blacks.  The stereotype most acknowledged is that black people are angry and disgruntled. Moreover, the stigma around rap music carries the same connotations.  It is almost taboo for most kids to listen and engage with such music because of its profane nature. Although not all, many white Americans are predisposed to believe that being black is synonymous with being angry without any remorse for an explanation. In light of recent controversy of appropriating black culture, actress/black rights activist Amandla Stanberg said, “End the ‘angry black girl’ narrative. It’s just another attempt to undermine certain perspectives. I have strong opinions. I am not angry”.  The problem is that often times people associate anger as a trait of blackness versus a result of the circumstances.  These people fail to realize that black people are not inherently angry, but may become angry due to the mistreatment that comes from being black in a predominately white society.  Watching the movie will give people the opportunity to understand that there is a reason for any angst black people may have and why such “angry” music has been created.

This biopic will not only serve as a window into the lives of inner-city youth, but also as a mirror for minorities who are in a similar situation. Being of Asian ancestry I may not exactly know what it’s like to be black; however, I do know what it’s like to feel lesser than white folks. All my life I’ve grown up blind to the fact that I was, in fact, a minority.  Growing up on the small island of Kauai, the majority of the people are similar to me – or at least not white. This all changed when I went to Colorado for my sophomore year of college. I noticed that people didn’t take me as seriously as my other white classmates who often excluded me from groups and social events.  It comes with no surprise that “Asian jokes” were thrown at me.  It was the first time I have ever had an identity crisis. As miniscule as my experience may seem compared to what is currently going on, discrimination happens on a continuum and should be taken seriously no matter where it lands on the scale. Lisa France, a black author for CNN says the men of N.W.A “are now the men next door who remind us of where we came from and how far we can go, even as we face the other cold truth that as a nation we have not really progressed on issues of race.” It is my hope that blacks and minorities of all types will see that even in the face adversity, like in the movie, success is possible and that it takes this realization to see any change against discrimination.

Now is the perfect time for Americans from all walks of life to come together to gain a better understanding of the sad reality blacks face in our nation of supposed equality. With Michael Brown’s death being almost exactly a year ago and the recent news of Sandra Bland, it is imminent for us to realize that this is a problem that hasn’t changed for decades.  If the news, Facebook posts, and viral videos haven’t persuaded you otherwise, I hope this movie will.

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