Critical Review of a Social Problem in a Film
Black and Blue is a 2019 American thriller film directed by Deon Taylor and written by Peter A Dowling. Unlike other thriller films associated with media violence in pursuit of revenge, Black and Blue has been classified by many as a civic education movie that teaches people the active role that they can play in making society a better place to live (Roeper, 2019). The film’s plot follows the life of Alicia West, who is a rookie police officer in her hometown in New Orleans. Before she joined the police, West was a military officer who has been on two trips to Afghanistan. The plot’s complication arises when West witnesses the killing of an unarmed black man by three officers. Being a rookie, she wasn’t supposed to be at the scene but being a police officer; she had to respond when she had gunshots (Taylor, 2019). Fortunately, she had her body camera on when the incident happened, and the camera recorded it all. The three police officers notice and want to recover the camera under any circumstances, including killing her. They try shooting her, but her bulletproof vest saves West. She then turns into a police officer on the run from other police officers and later from her fellow black men. Even though the bad relationship between the police and the community dominates in the movie, racial discrimination is the source of many of the movie’s problems.
Racial discrimination is the biggest social ill that the film wishes to expose. In the opening scene, the audience is introduced to West, a young African American woman who has retired from active duty in the military and joined the police in her hometown in New Orleans. One morning before heading for work, West decides to take a morning jog around town (Roeper, 2019). As she jogs, she is stopped by two police officers who harass her and claim that she is a suspect that has been on the police radar for some time. They almost put her in handcuffs before they could let her even tell them her name when she produces her identification, and one police officer stands shocked as he shouts, “she is blue” (Taylor, 2019). The officer makes this statement in shock after realizing that the person they have been harassing is their fellow police officer. As they hand back her identification, they apologize to her for their treatment of her. However, West does not mind much as she is used to that kind of treatment from white police officers, and she carries on with her morning jog. The title of the movie, “Black and Blue,” introduces the audience to the film’s topic. In other words, the title wishes to prepare the audience for the experiences of being a black woman and a police officer in a racialized society (Keval, 2019).
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Conflict theory looks at how conflicts develop and are resolved in society. In this line, conflict theory blames the conflict on the unequal distribution of resources and power in society (Crossman, 2019). Though there is no definite definition of what resources entail, some resources that could spark conflicts include class, status, and power. Various factors can bring social class, but in the film, white supremacy is the main way that racists police officers attain their class. White supremacy is one of the main factors that are the cause of the problem. White supremacy believes that a person is superior to people of color due to his/her race. This way, white people treat other races as inferior races in the community and thus prejudice and discriminate against the minority groups (Norris et al., 2019). White supremacy is a result of racial indoctrination whereby white supremacy principles are passed down through generations. People who belong to the superior race are taught to look down upon the races considered minority groups. Through racial indoctrination, people are taught about stereotyped behaviors and traits about the other races. These stereotypes control how these people perceive and treat people from another stereotyped race (Roeper, 2019). For example, the harassment that West went through in the police’s hands was based on the stereotype that many African Americans are criminals who are involved in gang-related activities. In the police force, a police officer is driving a racial mentality that they want to pass to West (Keval, 2019). They believe in the unequal treatment of African Americans based on their race and not on their behaviors as citizens of the United States of America.
Racial discrimination is known to set a conflict between people from different races. Race has in the past been used to enslave, kill, and discriminate against people by denying them essential rights such as the right to education, voting, and freedom of speech (Roeper, 2019). Even though those periods are gone, the film indicates the new results of racial discrimination. Police brutality is one of the results of racial discrimination that the movie intends to pass to the audience. In the first instance, the public sees the police interact with a black woman; they harass her so badly and even threaten to arrest her. Still, she is saved by the fact that she is a police officer and could prove it. Police brutality is also seen when three white police officers kill a young unarmed black man after losing the money they wanted (Taylor, 2019). Racial discrimination also leads to divisions within the police force, separating the section that believes in racial discrimination and the other that believes in upholding and applying the law equally among all races. This division causes problems in the coordination and success of the police in maintaining law and order. Public distrust in the police is also another consequence of racial discrimination. The role of the police in society is to maintain law and order in society. As they play this crucial role, they need to have the public as their friends to give them support and information that they need to effectively do their role. However, when the police are deemed to treat members of a certain community in a dehumanizing way, members of that community take the police to be their enemies(Norris et al., 2019). The community, therefore, changes its way of relating to the police, and coordinating with the police is seen as a betrayal against the community. In this line, West enters a store after she escapes death from her partners. The store owner is her fellow black man, who rushes to help but stops suddenly when he realizes that she is in police uniform. A similar incident happens when West asks a young boy about his uncle, and he responds by saying that he does not talk to police officers. The public distrust among the public is so high that it has been passed down to the children.
On the one hand, a group of white police officers believes that they are more superiors than African American citizens. They think that racial superiority gives them the power to harass and even kill African Americans. On the other hand, the African American community thinks that the whole police department is racists. As a result, they do not want to associate with any police officer, including black police officers (Norris et al., 2019). Every African American, including children, thinks that they are targets of a racist police force; therefore, keep avoiding every police officer in their neighborhood. West, however, holds a contrary view to those of the other police officers and her community. As they are on patrol, West and her partner converse about working in the police department when her partner enquires about her intentions of joining the police, and she responds by saying, “I want to help” (Taylor, 2019). The help that West is referring to is the fight against racial discrimination. As a former soldier who has been on two trips to Afghanistan and her growth in the poor neighborhoods of New Orleans has taught her that there is no Them or Us. All people are equal. The change she wishes to show the people that society would be better if all people were treated like human beings without any exception, and the police department is supposed to be on the front line if this goal is to succeed.
The movie posits that everyone has a civic duty to play in society. The citizens have a responsibility to behave responsibly, which makes the work of the police easy and effective. On the other hand, the police have a responsibility to reciprocate the respect that the citizens show by serving them diligently. This is one solution that the movie’s whole plot seeks to pass to the audience. it is a “love us we love you” kind of solution (Norris et al., 2019). Laws are there to guide and regulate the actions of people. Without them, societies would be chaotic as people try to satisfy their needs. Laws apply equally among all people, and no people should be treated specially due to any factor. In this line, racial discrimination should not be a factor that determines who police suspect, arrest, or kill as all human beings are equal. Police are also required to obey the law at all times as they are the law enforcers and not the lawbreakers. The movie’s setting takes place after the Obama requirement that all police officers should have body cams in response to Fergusson (Roeper, 2019). If this standard requirement was enforced, the police would not discriminate against people as they did in the film. The main solutions to racism are driven by West, who is the protagonist in the film. The plot of the film also leads to similar preventive and responsive measures.
Corruption is one of the problems that are linked to racial discrimination. When African Americans are arrested illegally, they have to bribe themselves out, leading to massive corruption. For example, the murder that leads to the film’s main conflict happens as the police try to get money from a black man who is a drug dealer. When the black man says that he does not have the money they are asking for, one responds by shooting him. After West escapes, the police team up with a known drug dealer to search for her. These police officers have been transacting illegal deals with the drug dealer, and now they fear that their secret will be exposed.
Racism is a social construction that has been used in society to discriminate against people of various races. In the past, racism has always been in existence but applied in various ways. The days of slavery are gone, but racism still sticks in society. Police brutality has been indicted in the film as one of the ways that have been used to discriminate against people of color. The movie was produced and released in 2019 was like a foreshadowing of events that were to take place in 2020 when police officers were accused of killing an unarmed black man. This event sparked nationwide protests, which caught global attention and calls for change. The film not only puts the responsibility of bringing equality in society to the police or the government. It puts a civic duty on all people as everyone can do something small to change the situation and make society better than he/she found it.
Crossman, A. (2019). 15 sociology theories you should know. ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/sociology-research-and-statistics-s2-3026650
Keval, H. (2019, November 27). Vue cinemas, blue story and marginalizing Black culture. Expert comment. https://blogs.canterbury.ac.uk/expertcomment/vue-cinemas-blue-story-and-marginalising-black-culture/
Norris, C., Fielding, N., Kemp, C., & Fielding, J. (2019). Black and blue: An analysis of the influence of race on being stopped by the police. The British Journal of Sociology, 43(2), 207. https://doi.org/10.2307/591465
Roeper, R. (2019, October 23). ‘black and blue’: Heavy on stereotypes, police thriller blows its chance to make a statement. Chicago Sun-Times. https://chicago.suntimes.com/2019/10/23/20929042/black-blue-review-naomie-harris-tyrese-gibson-movie-film
Taylor, D. (Director). (, 2019). Black and Blue [film]. Sony Pictures Releasing.