Straight Outta Compton Review
Some of my friends were surprised to hear me say this but I have to admit that I enjoyed N.W.A.’s biopic “Straight Outta Compton.” I went into it somewhat conflicted about a movie about a group so intimately linked to commercializing the degradation of women but responded to the “rags to riches” success story of African-American men who unabashedly shared their voices with the World. I recognize that a two and half hour film cannot be everything to everybody and can admit that I walked out of the theater with much inspiration to share my own voice.
Given my reaction, I cannot help but think back to the rather accurate prediction of some activists that the movie’s accolades would drown out any voices of dissent that called for accountability around rape culture. For example, Sikivu Hutchinson asserted a week before the movie was even released that “the brutalized bodies of black women will be lost in the predictable stampede of media accolades” (see full article here). I am guilty of helping this prediction to come true. I distilled the story down to only those elements with which the movie wanted me to identify and ignored most of the messy complications that made up the story’s context.
We have to chalk up the film as yet another lost opportunity to hold a sustained conversation about rape culture that wasn’t brought on by a public allegation of violence. I was naively hoping to end up with a resource to use in conversations with the Black boys who will surely help the R-rated film excel but I got nothing of the sort. Again, I recognize that the movie’s producers could not touch on everything in the film’s runtime and that they opted for a particular narrative that they felt would resonate with audiences (and it clearly did); but it does feel a bit dishonest to avoid N.W.A’s relationship to misogyny and the objection of women which is a huge part of my remembrance of the group’s legacy. I kept waiting on a scene that never arrived as I watched.
For a movie that idolized the boldness of speaking against the norm, it said nothing about raising one’s voice against the normative behaviors that promote sexual violence. For a movie that cherished the right to reflect one’s reality, it avoided speaking to the reality that sexual violence is measured in the hundreds of thousands annually. It only reinforced the status quo on the issues that I write about most often and I don’t think that maintaining the status quo is what I was supposed to take away from a film about N.W.A. In the end, “Straight Outta Compton” reflects so many men who assert their rebelliousness and independence only to slide into conformity when presented with the topic of men’s violence against women.