Review / The Hate U Give / Josh McGary

Review / The Hate You Give / Josh McGary

SYNOPSIS

The Hate U Give is a movie about a young girl named Starr who lives between two worlds. The first world is in the afro-centric Garden Heights where she lives with her family. Here she participates in a stereotypical, media portrayed “black experience.” In this life, she has witnessed many things at a young age, including drugs, general thugery, sexual promiscuity and ultimately the death of one of her best friends. Though her parents disagree about the need to ultimately stay in this environment when she is an adult, they decide to try to spare her anymore heartache and to give her a “leg up” in life. They do this by sending her to a “white school,” where she, by virtue of being black, is by default, cool. At Williamson Prep, Starr has a different persona whose seemingly entire existence, is secretly built around distancing herself from the truths of her Garden Heights life.

The movie begins when Starr is witness to, yet another friend being unjustifiably killed, this time by a police officer in Garden Heights. Starr’s secret life in Garden Heights becomes a subject of national attention and her two communities wrestle for her to have the courage to own one community or the other in the wake of it all. Caught between two worlds, the film focuses on the divide between Starr’s two worlds collapsing into each other, Starr’s inability to cope with the overflow, and each world’s mounting pressure to gain meaning and control in the senseless death.


SPOILER ALERT


THEMES

 

  1. Intersectionality must create dual identities

    From the first voiceover in the movie, we are told to assume that Starr’s dilemma of dual identities is the only reasonable personhood she can have and that people who don’t understand that are people who are too privileged to know better. This is best seen in her emotionally distant relationship with her white boyfriend. He is naively color blind to her, which she views as inappropriate because she is by default colored. Though there is no resolution, beyond their willingness to accept that he just doesn’t understand her, the movie is inconsistent in its treatment of this as Starr views her father’s suspicion of her white boyfriend to be inappropriate.

    MOSTLY FALSE.
    Though different aspects of a person’s life create different vantage points and therefore a diversity of worldviews, these do not have to remain at odds with each other. These can be married to synthesize a holistic understanding of self if there can be communication between the parts. Beyond this, the biblical model is to celebrate the differences as distinct parts of a single whole. Therefore the identity isn’t in the part but rather the whole. If Starr’s boyfriend cannot relate to her as a whole, it is because, on a systematic level, Starr chooses to keep herself a fractured person. This will be covered a little more in depth, below, when we talk less about identity and more about communication.

  2. Language is the most powerful tool one can use

    The title of the movie is the key to understanding the overall narrative of the film. The Hate U Give can be shortened to T.H.U.G., itself a shorter version of a Tupac lyric: The Hate U Give Little Infants F*cks Everbody. This can be shortened to T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E., a satirical inversion of the Concept of “Thug Life,” a prevalent worldview in Garden Heights which is a savage form of social contract theory. Tupac’s lyric is introduced by her friend, Khalil, as a way to show that he viewed the system of oppression in Thug Life Mentality and Garden Heights as something that is both systematic and in need of leaving. Himself being caught in the Thug Life Mentality, he was determined to switch his thinking to the T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. thought process and escape the systematic oppression of Garden Heights. Immediately after introducing her to this new way of thinking, he was promptly killed, leaving the Tupac’s lyric a prominent bitter truth in her life.

    Tupac was calling people to speak differently and not perpetuate hate in the ghettos.

    The rest of the movie is spent with Starr wrestling with the passive call to action in the T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. ideology. She doesn’t know how to give her relationship with Khalil proper consideration as her two worlds fight to control her voice. Throughout the movie, she wrestles with what to say, what not to say and when to keep quiet. Throughout the many examples in the film of a systematic negative effect of language use in the film, none is more jarring than that of her elementary aged brother grabbing a gun and threatening to shoot the local drug dealer. It is here that we see the effect of T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. ideology played out. After calling all to stop perpetuating the violence with their words, every part sets down their weapons and peace is maintained.

    TRUE.
    The scripture calls us to control our tongue and to have our hearts be changed to those that love each other tenderheartedly. It does matter what you say. It does have a noticeable effect on the culture of the next generation.

  3. Success is defined by opportunity
    The world of Garden Heights is built on a lack of opportunity. It is this realization and the vocalization of it that serves to get Starr in trouble with the local drug dealers, the King Lords. Admitting the King Lord’s control of the city to a grand jury, in trying to excuse Khalil’s drug-dealing ways as an inescapable fact of ghetto life is a defining moment of the movie. It shows the nihilistic tendency of the culture and why Starr and others feel so trapped. The ideology is that because there is no opportunity in the ghetto that isn’t corrupt, all people are destined to a life of relative corruption. Khalil had to be a drug dealer. Any questioning of that truth is seen as not truly understanding, or even respecting the culture. In some cases in the movie, this was even expressed as racism.

    MOSTLY FALSE.
    Though our relative situations create something to rise above, the Scripture is very clear that our ability to rise above them doesn’t represent our success. Success is defined by how well we do two things: Our follow through of loving God wholeheartedly and man tenderheartedly. None of these things depends on any connection to station, gender, race or any other thing. By a biblical standard, Khalil would have been successful by simply denying the King Lord’s control in his life, and living, not by Tupac’s T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. mentality, but by Christ’s two commands. This may have led to ultimate poverty or even death and still within his original situation, but he would’ve been viewed as successful before God. The biblical truth is that Khalil sold drugs because he didn’t trust God to take care of him and he wanted a different life than the one he was given.

    The truth of this is mirrored in the movie by Starr’s two Father figures. The first is by her biological father who learned the hard way that he had to leave the Thug Life. And her uncle who chose to join the police instead of the Thug Life. If it is true that Khalil had to participate in Thug Life to advance beyond the trappings of Garden heights, then the movie isn’t very consistent in giving these two male authority figures the choices they made. Even in the world of The Hate U Give, a choice is always an option. Beyond this, the Bible supports the idea that in Christ, we are now firstly a part of his Church. This is to be the culture that transcends all other cultures. This is what we rely on to move past where we started from.

  4. Privilege makes it impossible to communicate between different social statuses

    Throughout the movie, Starr wrestles with communicating her inner turmoil to those who don’t have the same cultural understanding as her. Even when she is true to herself and eventually speaks out, there is an ideology that understanding can only truly be achieved by giving in to the idea that her white friends cannot relate to her in a meaningful way. As the movie ends, it is seen that her best friend at the beginning of the movie is now no longer viewed as her friend. There are only a few points in the movie that drive a wedge between their relationship and in these times it is because her friend chose to ask for clarity on presuppositions that Starr held about intersectional differences or because she believed that there were two sides to the police shooting. In a moment of climax for the movie, Starr’s white friend questions her on why it isn’t possible that the police officer could have made a simple, though fatal, mistake about the hairbrush in his hand being a gun. Starr’s response is to use her friend’s hairbrush to illustrate that her friend is a racist. She does this by attacking her with that hairbrush and menacing her with it by shouting commands at her and hitting it with her. As her friend crumbles into a fetal position, Starr walks away feeling justified in proving the point that her friend sees her as a threat on the basis of her skin tone. The audience is left with the sense that any black person holding a hairbrush is, by default, a black person holding a weapon because every black person is dangerous and white people are by nature suspicious of them. This, therefore, nullifies, in Starr’s mind, any idea that policeman could be justified in shooting Khalil because there is no possible justified homicide when someone is racist.

    FALSE.
    This is tacitly false. Whether someone is racist doesn’t change the fact that they could be justified in committing homicide. Beyond this, racism is not the most reasonable conclusion to come to. This point is illustrated in a conversation that Starr has with her Policeman uncle. He sheds light on how difficult it can be to know what is a weapon when you are on the job. However, he does admit, when pushed by Starr, that he would not shoot first with a white person. This seems to be meant to illustrate that the systemic racism had infiltrated Starr’s uncle’s way of thinking. However, causation and correlation are different things. it doesn’t address the sheer statistics and data that imply that the behavior to shoot first with a black man is more reasonable than with white. Starr’s uncle has to make quick decisions based on general sets of data. It is both natural and prudent to generalize and act. It does not logically follow that racism is the deciding factor, even if race is a factor in the decision-making process.

    Furthermore, this racial profiling is exactly what Starr is doing to her white friend in assuming that she is a racist privileged white person, based solely on her level of intersectionality. Starr’s tantrum toward her friend did nothing to prove her point that her friend is racist. This point is simply unproven by that interaction. The fact that Starr’s friend collapsed into a fetal position was because Starr literally assaulted her with a hairbrush. Therefore, based on the evidence, Starr’s friend should view her as emotionally unstable at that moment and be scared of her. This is not because she is a black person holding a potential weapon. But because she is an unstable person using a hairbrush as a literal weapon.

    Beyond this, the idea that differences need to create a disparity in our high view of another person’s value is false. Christianity teaches that in Christ there is no gender, race or any other distinguisher’s in terms of ones value, or appropriate minimum level of treatment. Historically, this has been why many social services and missions of mercy can be traced back to Christianity. It is the Christian worldview which denies the view that minorities are innately different. When we allow our worldview to contain the idea that suspicion and privilege are foregone realities we must live with, we are denying the high biblical view of personhood.


IMPRESSIONS

The Hate U Give is a thought inducing two hours of dynamic content. It is well acted and well cast, though ultimately fails to provide any real solution or true hope to the problem presented in its title.

 

Review / Bohemian Rhapsody / Josh McGary

Review / Bohemian Rhapsody / Josh McGary

DISCLAIMER

Bohemian Rhapsody is based on a true story, but there are many details which are not accurate. To that end, I have chosen to write on the movie as if its presentations are true. The points below are written as if the movie is accurate.

I am a Queen fan. I’m not sure that I’ve ever met a self-respecting musician who is not. Queen is, in my opinion, the epitome of how the creative process can bring glory to God and be actively ignorant and sometimes defiant of him. In their music, the complex harmonies and intentful conforming of chaotic sound into a single masterpiece is something that only one made in the image of God can do. This, of course, means that their music is often the saddest from a Christian perspective and that Freddie Mercury’s story is ultimately a tragedy to us as believers.

This is, of course, the opposite of how the story is painted. By bookending the film with the recreation of arguably the best live performance in the history of concerts… the LiveAid Queen segment… we are led to believe that this moment is a worthwhile anchor with which to tell the story of how the band came to be Queen.

IMPRESSIONS

I genuinely enjoyed the film. The acting, led by Rami Malek, left the audience appropriately enthralled at the rise, fall, and rise of Queen. Incidentally, the casting was also superb.

 


SPOILER ALERT


THEMES

BoRap, as the song is eponymously referred to, does a decent job of trying to paint to clear a picture on any one theme. This is perhaps a good move for the director, given the extremity with which Freddie Mercury was said to have lived. That said, there are a few things I gathered in my viewing.

  1. Identity is not in family or religion but in self. This is displayed in everything from Freddie’s contrarian attitude to such mundane things as how to hold a microphone, what lyrics to sing, to even giving himself a new name. This is carried into the career of the band as they did things like experimenting with sound, abandoning touring for production and writing rock based on opera rather than popular trends.


    False.

    This idea runs contrary to what the Bible teaches in general. The family is meant to teach us about God, wherein we are supposed to find our true identity. This is not to say that experimentation in artistry is wrong, but this path should be one of bolstering and building up identity rather than tearing down the one we come to the table with.

  2. Identity cannot be altered in any way and must be sensationalized to be accurate. This is best illustrated during a pivotal scene in which his wife reacts to Freddie’s admission that he is bisexual. The context of this scene is that of desperation on his part to keep the relationship intact despite his appetites. He was not seeking to break up with her. In fact, he demands that she keep their wedding ring on. Nonetheless, he is unsuccessful at keeping the marriage going, instead pivoting the relationship into a full-blown homosexual lifestyle. This is the result of that one coming-out conversation wherein his wife’s response to him was not one of strengthening their failing relationship but instead of directing him into his appetites by telling him, “no, Freddie! you are gay.” Even after this, he continues to met with failed attempts to strengthen the relationship, culminating in his wife eventually getting married and having children with another man.


    Mostly False.

    This is true only when the context of our identity comes from God. There is a deep sadness in this movie as Freddie continues to beg attention and relationship from his wife. This “inclination” is ultimately presented as a negative thing to overcome and his acceptance of his homosexual lifestyle and her new marriage is presented as part of his healthy new mindset. Yet, a large portion of the debauchery and depression in Freddie’s life seems to have come, not from closeting his lusts, but rather from people repeatedly rathering to give him over to these lusts than to meet him head on and give him direction and sound advice. It is in the height of this state, high and drunk that a single expression of her love pulls him out of his depression. Truthfully, he had been begging her to do this for many years. But instead, he was left to develop Freddie Mercury while Farrokh Bulsara was ultimately lost.

  3. Family is those who understand your identity. Queen is family. From the beginning of the movie, Freddie’s father is depicted as unnecessarily over-bearing. This seems to be a cause of Freddie seeking to find his family elsewhere. He finds this in three main ways. The first is in the band. The second is in the music itself and the last is in the fandom. However, in every front, Freddie becomes frustrated that his true self is not being understood or respected.

    Mostly False.
    Family is repeatedly accosted to refer to the band. This definition expands as necessary. However, every definition ultimately fails Freddie. When he defined it as the band, the band easily broke up over simple confusions and lack of patience. When he defined it as the music, he ultimately became bored and sought to make his own music. When he defined it as the fandom, he became frustrated at the lack of ability for the fans to not relegate him to a cross-dressing homosexual poster boy. Even, the family that he wanted to have with his wife ended up letting him down, while at the same time claiming that it was so he could be truly free. Biblically, family is found in our mutual faith, wherein we lose distinctions such as gender, race and so on for the glory of adoption and oneness as Christ’s body.

  4. Everyone deserves a second chance. Freddie is a screw-up. He is a genius first, but after the genius comes a lot of grace. As Freddie continues to gain notoriety, he becomes less and less self-aware. This apex’s in a moment of lust where he tries to take advantage of a waiter at one of his parties. Jim, the waiter, shuns his advances, for the most part, and demands to be treated as a person. This moment hangs in Freddie’s mind until he finds his own self-respect and ultimately is able to reapproach the waiter with an interaction that, presumably creates a respectful relationship. The encounter with Jim created the impasse needed for Freddie to admit that he needed more of the band and less of himself.

    Mostly True.
    The concept of grace is a distinctly Christian concept. That said, its beautiful to see it played out in stories such as this. Unfortunately, and expectedly, it is a wholly inconsistent application. What could have been a true understanding of grace and redemption is instead a succumbing to social contract theory. Freddie realizes that he is worse without Queen and vice versa. This is called second chances, but in reality, Freddie has no such realization. There is no thought of reconciliation to those who had wronged Freddie… and there were many. Instead, these people are simply cut out for Freddie’s health. This surgery is painted as powerful liberation, but it is acutely one-sided and self-serving. Even Freddie’s reconciliation with his family is not a true reconciliation. It consists of a fairly open unveiling of who Freddie is as a homosexual but had his parents reacted worse, the likelihood would be that the family would’ve been cut off as well. This is not grace. It is merely social contract theory at the bottom of a barrel.

Bohemian Rhapsody is a fun movie. Its music is iconic. Its performances are captivating. But when our minds are honest about its ultimate emptiness, the movie should lead us to reflect on the sadness that one man could be so talented and so misunderstood and so in need of Christ.

Movie Reviews / Josh McGary

As a person in the 21st Century, we have more methods of consuming art than ever before. Everywhere we turn is a screen ready to deliver all sorts of useful knowledge to us instantly. The low cost of entry to information allows inputs of every type into our brains, but ironically, we are not a very conscious people of these inputs. With the advent of streaming services such as Netflix and buffet style movie watching such as Movie Pass, long-form storytelling is no longer relegated to the discerning consumer who waits for the next blockbuster as if it were an event but instead is treated as one treats an assembly line object… disposable. Because of this, our attention to the toll it takes on our lives to watch movies and television, both in monetary cost and psycho-emotional cost is now seen as archaic. We have become consumers of the worst kind. We indiscriminately fill our heads at the table of media as our brains become fat and lazy.

BE TRANSFORMED

This is a problem for those who believe in Christianity. In Christ, we understand that we don’t need to be doing a sinful action for our fantasizing of that action to be a sin. In Christ, we understand that we are to think on the things that are lovely and pure. In Christ, we understand that our minds are what need to be renewed for our lives to be transformed.  Every believer has to wrestle with the way in which he allows media to play a part in his sanctification.

IS THIS A SIN ISSUE?

Where the Bible doesn’t speak to it, it’s an area of Christian freedom that is best spoken of in terms of maturity rather than sin. That being said, to love God is to love his correction, his discipline and his personality. We do not need to be sinning to recieve these things. In terms of our maturity, the question that we have to wrestle with is, “Am I loving God with my mind when i call these things entertaining?”

MINDS ON

As Christians are minds ought to be always oriented toward God, especially when our minds are perceiving things which are purposefully meant as distractions from everyday life. There is no greater distraction in this day and age than that of visual media. Our minds must be on.

THINGS WE BELIEVE ABOUT ART

Where some might say that it would be better to become ascetic and purge visual media from our lives, we prefer to take the method of direction rather than restriction. At the Abandoned Initiative, we accomplish our minds being given wholeheartedly to God through focus. To that end, here are a few things we acknowledge:

  1. Any creative output is a demonstration of the image of God. This doesn’t mean it is a good demonstration. This doesn’t mean that God likes what he sees. It simply means that our ability to create a worshipful song about Satan is never going to fully extinguish the fact of God in that work. Satan is not bigger than God. We cannot remove God no matter how hard we might try. Everything we do stresses that he exists. This confusion and delusion is why it’s so sad when people’s creative works are wicked, gross or demonic in nature.
  2. All creative works are worth exploring to the degree that our consciences are moved to praise God. As stated earlier, a creative work can try to not praise God. It can do this by screaming blasphemies. But even these bear witness to God, simply on the basis of the complexities of the tongue they use to deliver them, the wonders of intellect which they use to deliver them and the unique voice which they use. Without God, they wouldn’t be able to dissent creatively or otherwise. Therefore, we can praise God when we see these creative works because what man intends for evil, God intends for Good. However, if in the storm, which God made, we begin to sink… it is because our focus is shifted off of him. At this point, it becomes dangerous and sometimes not even worth the cost of entry to our faith. There are certain works which have defined this high cost of praise for various generations. You can find God in films like A Clockwork Orange, Requiem for A Dream and the Exorcist, but is it a good use of your time? In most cases, I would argue no. Let me be also clear that the acknowledgment that God’s power shines through all darkness is not a good reason to treasure such a work. These works, though still having value, should be treated as sad works that demonstrate how deeply deranged a person must be to tell the story to others. Works that we should treasure are works that freely bring us to praise of our God, not the ones that do everything in their power to remove that praise, but fail.
  3. We should be well versed in media of all kinds. When people spout movie quotes as if they’re scripture, it’s time to know what the social narrative is. Jude, Paul and Jesus himself quoted the works of the day to better illustrate God’s glory and right teaching. We should be able to do the same. Though a social narrative is not Holy, it should be seen as sacred. Respecting these stories, but lowering them to their proper value under God will help to demonstrate for people how to allow their lives (all parts of it) to be renewed by God. 
  4. Works by Christians should not be viewed the same as works by non-Christians. We operate with different premises. Of course, a non-christian movie has liberal views on sexuality, relationships, and nihilism, syncretism, pantheism or other at its core. What would you expect? We can’t expect a non-Christian to preach Christianity. Christianity, though ultimately logical, defies the world’s sin-stained reasoning. We expect to have to find the value for believers. We expect that it won’t be in the areas of Christian Faith, Hope, and Love.

HOW WE REVIEW

  1. We review the mainstream. We don’t generally waste our time on Pureflix type produced titles… and if we do… we will be much harsher critics because they claim to be producing a Christ-centered form of entertainment. This is because a wolf in the wild may be majestic, but a wolf in sheep’s clothing needs to be put down.
  2. We review the themes of a media. What is the media trying to tell me about my worldview? It is amazing how many Christians have a worldview based on everything from the Matrix to the Wizard of Oz, but not the Bible.
  3. We review the consistency of those themes. Are those things consistent in the worldview of the movie or do they have to borrow from Christianity to make sense in everyday life?
  4. We make challenges based on the themes of the media. Does this apply to your life? What should we do with what we just allowed to be inputted into our brains?
  5. We compare and contrast the themes with those we should be holding from Scripture. This is not to say that we hold media by non-Christians to the same standards, but instead, we recognize that this media is always vying for a spot on the shelf of our hearts and minds. It’s important that we consistently remind ourselves of the difference between the sacred and the holy.

LETS WATCH STUFF TOGETHER

Our hope is that we can generate discussion about these forms of input. Our desire is simple. We hope to grow our filters for true praise and bring our minds wholeheartedly to God.

HELP US OUT

If you think you can follow these rules, we encourage you to bring your reviews on all kinds of media to the Abandoned Initiative. Contact us if you would like to contribute.

 

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