The Reviews Are In: BlackkKlansman is Political Commentary Worth Watching

Two weeks ago, I accidentally watched ten minutes of an idiotic conservative documentary and today, I saw the film’s opposite.

I walked in with virtually no expectations, and I walked out with both a glib and hopeful perspective on the future; all in all, this film did EXACTLY what it was meant to: force the audience to understand that the problems that existed forty years ago and forty years before that and so on and so forth still exist today.

To me, this film represents exactly what a satire should be. Whether others will classify as such or not is irrelevant because I truly believe that it’s through its use of satirical elements that allow this film to be both enjoyable and impactful. By definition, a satire is “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.” (Yes, I Googled it so you didn’t have to.)

I can’t think of a better example of a “contemporary politics and topical issues” than racism in the institution of the police.

The premise of the film, based on a true story, is that a black man named Ron Stallworth in the 1970s infiltrates the KKK in order to expose their crazy agenda and tactics for what they truly are. Ron also happens to be the first black police officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department, which is problematic since his crusade becomes tied in with crippling the corrupt system that he is now a part of. Spike Lee’s directorial choices from camera angles to casting to lighting perfectly highlight a bitingly witty script that makes use of modern political rhetoric such as “America First” to emphasize how little progress we truly have made.

Simply put, it’s genius.

I’ve seen plenty of films with a political perspective, but they’re not always this impactful. The way in which Lee exposes the hypocrisy of our modern day institutions by, in effect, likening them to those of the 1970s should be a wake-up call to all of us. We often, incorrectly, believe that we are better than those that came before us — more knowledgeable, more accepting, more civil. But, with this film, Lee shows us the truth that we often can’t bring ourselves to accept: we are no better if we just accept what’s wrong as the status quo.

Ironically, a film with an opposing viewpoint, Death of a Nation, was being shown at the same time as this one. It even let out at the same time. Some theater scheduler’s idea of comedy, I’m sure.

Interestingly, as I left the theater and the crowds from both films merged, I found myself unable to tell who had left which movie. The reviews from both audiences about their respective films were positive and each audience member discussed the political relevance for each film.

At first, I thought, “Wow, how cool is it that we all react to movies in similar ways even when they’re starkly different!” Then, my feeling of being jazzed about Blackkklansman “sticking it to the man” and my amazement at the integration of liberals and conservatives wore off because I had an alarming realization. These two films, their content, and the passion with which the respective audiences reacted to them is a direct reflection of the current state of affairs in America: we have two sides who are equally passionate about their beliefs, and very little middle ground left on which to stand.

Have we really gotten much better than we were a few decades ago? Or, are people and institutions just better at disguising their hatred?

In the time that it took me to exit the theater and walk to my car, I went from feeling hopeful about this film and its message to dread about what this political divide will hold for our future and our country’s future. Because if we continue to allow our institutions to carry on treating a large portion of our population with indifference or worse with injustice, then we can’t hope to be any better than we were in our condemnable past.

And, of course, that’s the whole fucking point.

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