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Blindspotting: The Degrees of Discipline

Kids are tough. They’re small people that are more often than not misunderstood. Adults simplify children because it makes taking care of them easier, for the grown ups. In Blindspotting’s third episode “The Rule of Three”, Sean starts spiraling out of control because his father isn’t there to be the disciplinary. So it falls upon Ashley to take him in hand, only she finds herself deeply conflicted on how to do it the right way. Meanwhile it’s Trish’s turn for her day to put its foot on her neck and not ease up, and the more she fights back the worse it gets.

Anyone who cares for children for an extended period of time knows that when things suddenly and drastically change they can start to act out. Sean’s entire world has been flipped upside, so it was only a matter of time before his behavior became less than stellar. Especially since his dad isn’t there to physically snatch him up and he knows his mom isn’t going to. After ruining Ashley and Trish’s morning with swift kicks to the legs, Sean’s put in time at Nancy’s while Ashley tries to figure out what to do about him.

Of course everyone has advice for her, Rainey insists that if she plans it correctly she’ll only ever have to discipline Sean physically three times as he’s growing up. But Ashley hesitates at the physical part. Miles pretty much agrees with his mom, she needs to karate chop Sean back multiple times in different ways. And he even points out that Ashley has her own standing with violence, she used to beat bitches up. Yorkie and Rob offer a bit more toned down solution. A slap or two to the face, which Yorkie quickly explains can be considered a spanking of the face depending on how you look at it. Even Scotty, Ashley’s manager at the hotel, suggests simple pops to the back of Sean’s hand could be enough. But Ashley balks at them all, she doesn’t want to get physical with her baby. She doesn’t want to contribute to the possibility of him growing up to be violent, which she eloquently explains to us in the episodes spoken word break of the fourth wall. It puts her between a rock and a hard place.

Meanwhile, Trish’s day spirals in a different way. Determined to run her own strip club, she makes an appointment with the bank to apply for a loan. But the meeting doesn’t go the way she wants and Trish ends up losing her temper and getting kicked out. It doesn’t phase her until she heads to work where she’s surprised to find that the girls don’t take her side in the situation. They try to explain to Trish that most the time she’s on a level ten when she should be a on five, but she won’t hear it. The night turns worse when Trish is forced to go out on stage and dance despite the agreement she thought she had arranged with the owner. It’s a sobering moment for Trish, but she deals with it my throwing back alcohol; no one wants to be sober when life is shit.

Everything comes to a head when Ashley returns home that night to find that Trish took her work shoes without asking. Drunk and still seething about not getting the loan Trish pokes and prods at Ashley until the older woman snaps. Though she’s not the one who gets to Trish first, Rainey does and it just so happens that Sean is dropped off right as Grandma Rainey spanks Tia Trish’s face. And it strikes a bit of fear into him in the right way, which Ashley uses to her advantage to position herself as the parent Sean been a to listen to. At least while his dad is away.

As someone who cares for kids as a job, this episode was particularly interesting. How to discipline kids is always a heavily debated topic, because no two parents do it the same. And as society tries to constantly move forward in progressive ways, the act of hitting or spanking children is something that firmly divides people. And it’s divided on several different layers. Episode three attempts to unravel a few of those layers and mold itself a solution that works for the scenario. Sean isn’t bad kid, so what works for him might not work for other kids. Or could even just be a temporary fix. There’s the possibility that he could become a bad kid, once he learns that Ashley has been hiding the truth about Miles from him. But that bridge hasn’t been crossed yet.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the episode isn’t the tensions of what to do about Sean, it’s the little details of the other characters that reveal bigger plot points or deeper development of their character. For instance, we learned that Ashley comes from an abusive household, which is what makes her so firmly against physically disciplining Sean. She doesn’t want to repeat the cycle in anyway. We also saw another side of Trish, it was brief and nearly buried by her outburst at Ashley but earlier in the night it was there. After being shouted down by the owner of the strip club Trish had to get ready to go on stage and as she puts her makeup on we witness her break a little. There’s more to Trish than just the wildness and ratchet ways. Though it’s hard to feel sorry for her when it’s obvious she knows what she’s doing when she’s being a bitch. Which is super evident when after Rainey slaps her, Trish whines out the excuse that she’s drunk. As if that somehow makes her treatment of Ashley okay.

With each episode Blindspotting challenges what it means to be thought provoking television. It gives its characters different layers of personality instead of just sprinkling pieces and hoping something sticks. This is no more clearer than when it comes to Ashley and Trish. The show makes space for them both to exist and although they seem pitted against each other on a surface, it’s seems likely that could change soon. Especially since Ashley tried to apologize for her judgement of Trish’s clothes and attitude before the fight. She tried even though it got her nowhere. Which says a lot.

With each episode of Blindspotting I find myself loving it more and more. I was obsessed with the movie when it came out and now I find myself obsessing with the show. It’s an amazing when a show makes you feel like you can be as creative as you want and that’s what Blindspotting is doing. Giving us permission to present creations differently. Hopefully more TV shows will take after it.

Blindspotting airs Sunday nights on Starz

-Danyi

black girl blogs · reviews · tv reviews

Blindspotting: The Roughest Day Ever

With its glowing running start, Blindspotting aced the pilot episode and starts digging in deep right away in the second. As we find out that Miles is sentenced to five years in the opening scene, the events of Ashley’s day following give us an up close look at the particular way women have to be strong no matter what. While it is often thought that the prison system only really affects those incarcerated, in “Smashley Rose” the perspective of those closest is brought into the spotlight. From Rainey’s sidewalk breakdown to Ashley’s hotel meltdown and Trish’s enhanced meanness; we learn learn a little more about these characters and the real life struggles they’re dealing with.

To start, while everyone around her crumbles Ashley forces herself to stay strong. She can’t break down about her life partners sentencing when she has to go work and pretend to be fine. She has to keep her head on straight for Sean. However there is no solace behind the desk of one of the most expensive hotels where the rich flaunt their egos and after unwanted advances plus verbal racial abuse Ashley has her moment. It’s beautiful and poignant to watch as she laments about the unfairness of the way the rich get richer and the poor suffer for it while she destroys the hotel room of the racist guest. It’s a something she honestly deserves. But it’s probably not enough.

Meanwhile Rainey has her own version of a breakdown. Miles is her son after all, and he’s being taken from her for five years. It’s a lot. And Rainey’s solution, after a round of embarrassing vocalization meditation, seems to be turning attention to Sean and how to tell him. Something Ashley is firmly against, but Rainey won’t be deterred and makes a trip to the library to find books that will help. She’s trying her best to be supportive but so far comes off a little tone deaf and overwhelming. Between Ashley’s unwillingness to tell Sean where his dad is and Rainey’s unsure-ness when it comes to where race should be included in which topic, the day is mostly a bust for them both. “It was a rough day,” to quote Mama Rainey.

Despite not seeing much of her in this episode, Trish’s presence is still just as big as it was in the first one. She’s very upset about Miles’s sentencing and though she has comforting hugs for her mom, icy words and deathly glares are all she spares Ashley. Not only has her brother been taken away but now the possibility of Ashley staying with them for five years is very much the elephant in the room. And Trish is not happy about it at all. Though as Janelle points out at the end of the episode, she and Ashley used to be hella mean too.

A bright spot in the drama heavy episode was that of Earl, the neighbor renting the spare room in Nancy’s house. Earl is obviously the comedic relief of the show but there’s something deeper to him as well. He’s nice, polite and friendly even though Janelle mostly snips and snaps at him for being too silent. He’s even got a cheerful attitude as he explains why he’s got foot up foot of extension cords wrapped around one shoulder; to keep the battery on his monitor up when he’s out. He’s fairly chipper about the whole situation so far.

With only thirty minutes, there’s not room for anything that’s not important plot wise and so far every second of Blindspotting has been an improvement to the story and absolutely worth it. Especially things like the deep inner looks at how Ashley’s mind is dealing with Miles’s sentence, by creating an imaginary Miles to be at her side which I hope is handled carefully seeing as how this could easily become the Miles show without meaning too, and the subtle way Janelle is avoiding talking about why she’s back in town suddenly, always changing the subject and brushing it off. Plot details like that mixed together with the seamless dance choreography and breakage of the fourth wall have produced an outcome that is something completely unique. Every detail is breathing life into the bigger picture of this perspective of Oakland life. And telling a captivating story while doing it.

Blindspotting airs Sunday nights on STARZ

-Danyi

black girl blogs · reviews · tv reviews

Blindspotting: Welcome To The Best New Show On TV

Disclaimer: I am not from Oakland, so most references and homages to the Bay will go over my head. That’s entirely my bad. Now, let’s get into it.

In 2018 one of the most stunning movies in the last decade, Blindspotting showed us what’s it’s like to witness police brutality and the mental ramifications it can have. But it was also a love letter to a place like no other, Oakland California aka The Bay Area. Using spoken verse the film connected its audience to a culture most of us will never be able to see in person and it gave insight into the complicated world of male friendship. It was a masterpiece and there will probably never be another film like it. Which is why the chance it’s been given to expand the Blindspotting universe in the form of television couldn’t have been given to more deserving content.

In the film, life was shown to us through Collin’s eyes and it was his story he shared with his best friend Miles. We only caught glimpses of Ashley, Mile’s life partner, her story wasn’t fulfilling as it could have been. Now the show has come to rectify that. Here, this is Ashley’s world and she’s telling the story. And from her perspective, life is much more complicated than it seems. With the love of her life behind bars, the newly established security of a better life is ripped from under Ashley’s feet; leaving her to pick up the pieces. She’s thrown from a middle class lifestyle back into her Bay Area hood roots and no matter how much she wants to escape it, it’s the place where her support system resides. So she has no choice but to deal.

Despite being only a half hour, Blindspotting comes out the gate swinging. It throws the only character the audience really knew behind bars and shifts focus towards the side characters and the ones mentioned only by name in the movie. With Miles locked up, Ashley is forced to take their son, move in with his mother and half sister, and figure out how she’s going to survive. She and Miles were on their way out of the hood, now Ashley is back to square one and not everyone is happy about her return to the neighborhood. Hell, Ashley herself isn’t too pleased about the entire situation. She depended on Miles, she doesn’t even know their online banking password. Not to mention Trish, his half sister, has zero love for Ashley and loudly makes it known whenever she can. The dislike is mutual though and Ashley has no problem voicing how much she disapproves of Trish’s sex work lifestyle. But as much as Trish can’t stand Ashley, she and Miles’s mother Rainey seems to love her daughter in law very much. At least enough to allow her and Sean to move into her home on a whim’s notice. However Rainey’s house is a place of controlled chaos. Trish’s latest dream of running a female owned strip club has set up base in her mother’s living room. All day long girls walk around with little to no clothes on and constantly pose for sexy pictures. It’s not exactly the best place for a little boy. But again, what choice does she have?

There is solace in the chaos of returning home though. For Ashley it comes in the form of Janelle, her best friend and Collin’s little sister. Janelle has been away traveling world for five years and now that she’s back, Ashley’s got someone completely in her corner. Which is what she needs. And even though her daughter is practically disgusted with the new living arrangements, Rainey is also in Ashley’s corner. Proven when, after Ashley discovers an engagement ring in Miles’s old room, Rainey tries to comfort her by getting on one knee and pretending to be her son. It’s weird and awkward but it’s the thought that counts. Life has been turned upside down for Ashley, she’s gonna need all the help she can get to keep afloat and not lose her sanity in the process.

While the film was entirely male centric and through the male gaze, the show completely diverts from that and centers itself around the women. This is Ashley’s show, it’s her world, her perspective and her journey. And it’s being told by mostly women as well. Taking the criticisms of the film seriously it’s creators Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal have established a very woman heavy crew behind the scenes, especially in the writers room. Which is probably what makes Blindspotting feel so refreshing and new even though it’s a world we have been to before.

Having only seen the first episode there isn’t much to be reviewed as pilots are always the set up and establish episode. But the show is beautiful both visually and as modern content. There is no other place like The Bay, it’s a little world of its own and I’ve never seen a place presented to the audience the way Blindspotting shows us Oakland. Every inch of the neighborhood Ashley has returned to is full of life and anytime is a great time to turn up. Like the sideshow she and Sean attend in the middle of the afternoon.

The cast is brilliant and stacked with major talent. Jasmine Cephas-Jones has been a star in the making for a while and now her time to shine is here. She’s given life to Ashley in both new and old ways, the fierce protective mother we saw in the film is still present but in the show it seems she’s going to be allowed to be more than just Miles’s baby mama; and rightfully so. Right behind Cephas-Jones is Jaylen Barron who steals every scene she’s in as Trish. Outrageous and loud, Trish is like her brother but times ten and though she may be abrasive she made several points from the moment she appeared on screen. With the demeanor of Miles and Trish, it’s intriguing that they have such a hippie like mother as Rainey but it’s not often that a legend such as Helen Hunt agrees to be in the first season of an experimental tv show and it’s delightful to see her play off the likes of Cephas-Jones and Barron. Rounding out the impressive cast of women is Candace Nicholas-Lippman who, though we haven’t seen much of, lit up the entire screen with her bright and gorgeous smile. It’s a smile much like Daveed Diggs’s, meaning the casting department made the right decision in giving her the part of Collin’s little sister. Hopefully we’ll get to insight into what their relationship is like and what it’s like to return home by choice for her. Finally we have Earl, Janelle’s new roommate who is renting out the spare room in her mother’s home. Played by Benjamin Earl Turner, the most we know about Earl at the moment is that he spends a lot of time yelling across the street for someone to get him a burrito from the taco truck since he’s on house arrest and the truck is just beyond his monitor’s permitted perimeter. It’ll be exciting to see what he’ll bring to the show in later episodes.

I am excited for the plot points that had seeds planted in the first episode. At the top of my list is the dynamic between Ashley and Trish, if it’s not a highlight of the series then it will be an opportunity missed. Trish and Ashley are two sides of the same coin, they come from the same background but live their lives very differently and endlessly judge the other for the choices they have made. Which is a very real thing for a lot of women. It will be interesting to see where this sister-in-hate relationship goes, especially with the jarring way Ashley snips and snarks about Trish’s line of work. I sincerely hope the inner workings, internalized fear and the societal pressure that weigh down and project onto these two is addressed and explored.

It will also be interesting to see the way Blindspotting develops and grows its side characters. In the movie, there wasn’t enough time to tell Collin’s story, a bit of Miles’s and give Ashley the growth she deserved. With television, growth is the only way to keep a show interesting. So I hope to see in depth development to the likes of Janelle, Earl, Trish, Sean and Rainey. But I’m especially interested in Janelle and Earl, both of them have potential to make great characters. And since they both are the darkest of the main cast, I really hope that they’re given more substance than just being the comedic relief.

I’m very hopeful for the story Blindspotting is about to tell us. I still frequently watch the movie so now that it’s having its universe extended, I couldn’t be happier. I’m geeked for this Oakland takeover we’re about to witness.

Blindspotting is available on Starz, new episodes premiere Sunday nights.

-Danyi

Note: thanks for reading y’all! If you made it to the end and enjoyed it, buy me some lunch? Cashapp: $danyi13

black girl blogs · Movie Reviews · reviews · Uncategorized

Blindspotting: A beautiful insight of the ugly struggle

Words are hard. By themselves or strung together in a sentence. They’re tricky. Some of them have several meanings while others only have one definitive meaning. They can be exchanged like currency and thrown like punches. Both universal and limited. There just might be nothing more complicated than words. But there also might be nothing more beautiful than words. When used correctly and with imagination, they create works of art. Weaving colorful pictures into our minds without dipping a brush into paint, words compiled together to make scripts are often exquisite and give us compelling stories. The best movies have the best scripts. And Blindspotting, written by Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs is one of 2018’s best.

Collin has three days left on his probation. He’s made it an entire year without any incidents and if he can make it through these last three days he’ll be free. As free as possible, with him being a tall black male with long braided hair that is. One would think since Collin has made it this far that his last three days of probation would be a breeze. But life always seems to have a way of making what should be easy, hard. And when your best friend is loud, volatile and ready to fight at the drop of a hat; staying out of trouble is more complicated than people realize. Miles has been Collin’s best friend since they were 11 years old, they work at Commander Moving and spend every day together. Collin even picks Miles up in the morning, drops him back home at night and makes sure their time cards are properly clocked in and out. They’re like two peas in a pod. However, where Collin is laid back and chill, Miles is abrasive and ignorant. Usually, it’s reflected back on Collin before it is Miles and even though that isn’t Miles fault, it eventually becomes the backbone of their fall out. Collin is, more often than not, the one who pays for Miles’s foolishness.

Make no mistake though, Miles isn’t stupid. He’s just very much a town nigga, he’s proud of his Oakland roots and he’s ready to defend himself at all times because of his pale skin in a sea of brownness. He’s had to be this way to survive but now with the gentrification of Oakland, more and more white people are starting to show up. Which makes Miles look like a poser to those that don’t know him. And there’s nothing worse than being considered a poser.

While Miles deals with the possibility of being seen as a transplant, Collin quietly suffers from PTSD after witnessing the police shoot an unarmed black man. Over the next couple of days, Collin is haunted by the incident. In the back of his mind, there’s the constant blaring of the car alarm that went off when the black man was shot. The red light flashes in his mind when goes for his morning runs and when he sleeps at night. Any time Collin sees a cop car his world suddenly zeros in on it. He’s is now always acutely aware of his surroundings and always on guard. He may be out of jail, but in many ways, Collin is still a prisoner. Which is only proven even more every time he goes home to the Halfway House. In this house, he’s nothing more than another convicted felon. The parole officer who runs the house, James, cares not for Collin’s personal life or feelings. His main focus is whether or not Collin has done his assigned chore of cleaning bathrooms each day. He tells Collin that he’s assigned these chores so that it can be determined if he can follow simple orders or not. As if how well Collin can clean a bathroom is going to stop the police from messing with him out on the streets.

It’s in the usage of words that Blindspotting finds its home. It’s a beautiful film visually but it’s the dialogue and the script that give it that little boost above the rest. Shown amazingly in the parking lot argument that Collin and Miles have after Miles loses his temper at a party. It’s a blow-up that’s been a long time coming, the two have clearly never had a real fight in their friendship before. To Miles, Collin is acting brand new. Almost like he’s trying to fit in with those that are gentrifying their home. He’s right in the sense that Collin is different since having gone to jail. But Miles is wrong to think that the change was something Collin did willingly and is just doing to try to fit in. Collin had to change to survive. He’s on police radar already for just being a black man but now he’s on it even more because he’s a convicted felon. He had to change so he doesn’t end up dead or back in jail. Miles doesn’t get that.

Throughout the whole movie, Collin has been calling Miles nigga. He refers to him as one constantly, it passes his lips with such ease and Miles just goes with it. He’s never said it back, he is white after all. But he hasn’t ever stopped Collin from calling him one either. It’s addressed however when emotions are high and tensions boiling over, Collin demands that Miles say it back to him. Collin wants to hear Miles say “yeah, my nigga”, he wants to hear that word come out of his friend’s mouth. But Miles won’t say it. He’s white, therefore he technically isn’t a nigga and can’t ever be one. And Miles knows that. Most importantly he knows it’s disrespectful. Even though Collin has given him permission to say it, which is all it takes for some nonblack folks. Miles knows that him saying nigga would be disrespectful to Collin. But he has it put into a whole new perspective when Collin tells Miles that his actions, his ignorance and his gun-toting bullshit is what they (the police and white people) expect from Collin. Even when it’s clearly Miles who is the ghetto one, people still look to Collin to be right at his side acting the same way. Miles is the nigga that they are out here looking for, even though their eyes automatically seek Collin to slap that label onto.

I really like Blindspotting. The story, the character structure, the script and the attention to detail. It’s all amazingly well thought out. There are so many layers to the film that one viewing isn’t enough and even after seeing the film five times, I find myself picking up on new things that I missed before. It’s in the details the story is able to become such a powerhouse. From new futuristic houses sticking out between older traditional Oakland homes to the way transplants have no care for the natives. Or the fact that the man in charge of Collin at the halfway house is a black man who has absolutely no sympathy for him at all. Even the flashback of the fight that sent Collin to jail is packed full of details that help the present story that beings told now.

Collin and Miles’s relationship is one of the greatest details of the film, the way they understand each other. It’s in the structure of their friendship that makes all other dynamics connect and progress the film through its journey.

For example, a seemingly big part of Collin’s struggle is his ex-girlfriend, Val. She works the front desk at Commander Moving so Collin has to see her every day. They broke up when Collin went to jail and Val hasn’t forgiven him nor gotten over it. She still likes Collin but is too aggressive in her disapproval of certain parts of his lifestyle. Val constantly tells Collin that he needs to get rid of Miles, dismissing the fact that Miles is his best friend. His only friend from the looks of it. She wants Collin to want better for himself, but she can’t get past the fight that put Collin in jail and she won’t stop blaming Miles for it.

One thing I wish we could have gotten a little more of was Collin and Ashley. I wanted them to have a one on one conversation about the trauma of cops shooting black people. Her just asking him if he’s alright and then never bringing it up again or noticing Collin’s rapid decline was a little strange to me. She does have a whole child to care for so it’s not unrealistic for her to not notice, but it would have been nice all the same.

As a beginning filmmaker, Blindspotting is a film that I’m going to be studying for a long time. It’s a masterpiece and it’s beautiful but it’s also simple. It’s not complex or hard to follow and I think, in that, it’s able to build a strong storyline and even stronger characters. It’s a film that you can tell truly began in the writer’s room with a clear vision of what the message was going to be. And I love that. It makes me excited for the world of films and opens the possibility of what we could be seeing in the future. I’m especially excited to see what Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal do next. It promises to be, at the very least, a thought-provoking good time.

9.8/10

-Danyi