I wrote a blog a while ago about watching and reading things that were not written, produced and directed by white middle class men. I decided that, for a year, I was going to consciously seek out things to watch with a broader perspective on society. I did not think it was going to be that difficult. I was wrong.
I have watched some things which were brilliant – which still play in my mind and invite me to think about them. One of these is Fruitvale Station, which I watched long before I made this pact with myself and my 2 followers, but which remains in the forefront of my mind. Michael B Jordan’s acting was phenomenal. I can still feel the knot of anxiety in my stomach which I got from watching him drive around. That’s it. He was driving around, and it was fucking tense. When I drive around, I do so without the threat of police profiling and with the experience of police that if I smile nicely and act a little crestfallen, things will usually go my way. I get to relax. Michael B Jordan showed me that he, Oscar Grant his character, and probably most other black men in America, do not get to relax. I still think about this. I think about it in terms of blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, anger, depression, suicide, and Māori.
But, I think Netflix is run by white middle class men. That’s just a hunch. Because trying to find content that has a strong person-of-colour or female production team is fucking difficult. I tried to watch Empire. I really did. I watched six long episodes of poor acting and shitty storylines. I reminded myself that the first few episodes of The Wire were also pretty shit, but that went on to be phenomenal.
I tried to watch How to Get Away With Murder, but it just did not do it for me. I was amazed by the generosity of Viola Davis, and her commitment to being real. Really real. Like, I (ignorantly) did not realise that black women mostly wear wigs. Seeing her take off her wig before bed was a revelation to me. It’s moment’s like that that are the reason I’ve made this pact.
So, Empire and How to Get Away With Murder are off my list. I did wonder whether the lens of people of colour is so different to mine that the stories differ so greatly from those I’ve been conditioned to enjoy, and that I was doomed to not enjoy watching anything for this year. But there have been a few moments of celebration:
The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, Atlanta, Waru, Freedom Writers, Freeheld, and possibly my favourite, Pariah.
These give me hope that I’m not too conditioned.
I would love to have suggestions from the floor. My criteria is this: of the roles Writer, Director and Producer, only ONE of them can be filled by a white middle class male.