A myriad of political events have taken place in the world and on Geneseo’s campus, such as the Nov. 16 walkout protest and march that illustrated the campus’ unity with the University of Missouri’s Concerned Student 1950. With Kino presenting Straight Outta Compton on Nov. 20 in Newton 204, however, the group reminded students that it doesn’t just take a protest to unite struggling comrades or to examine racism in our society. Art, too, can do just that—such as a small movie display within the confinements of a lecture hall. Straight Outta Compton is a biographical film that examines the lives of American N.W.A rappers O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson Sr., Andre “Dr. Dre” Romelle Young and Eric “Eazy-E” Lynn Wright. Although these rappers did not play their own characters’ parts, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre were two of the producers of Straight Outta Compton and Ice Cube’s son—O’Shea Jackson Jr.—played Ice Cube.
These rappers hail from Compton, California, a city in southern Los Angeles that is notorious for crime, gang violence and hip hop music. Right from the start of the film, it is illustrated that there is going to be gratuitous violence—violence that is only to be expected from a Hollywood movie of its topic.
For example, the first scene shows Eazy-E entering a crack house that is then raided by the police. The following scene, however, juxtaposes this “expected” scene with one that portrays the anti-blockbuster conventions of the movie. In the second scene, Dr. Dre’s mother kicks Dr. Dre out of the house, emotionally screaming, “I worked hard [for you]. I refuse to let you throw that all away.”
This is key. Straight Outta Compton was praised for its greatness at making everything seem so realistic, even using news clips from the actual time period. This multi-layered realism makes the film more than a story on police brutality. Although police violence is central to the story, there are a plethora of other topics that young adults—such as college students in this day and age—can relate to, like the struggle of family dilemmas or issues of the individual versus group.
In an interview with Deadline, director F. Gary Gray reiterated this notion. “[Straight Outta Compton] is the human beings and the humanity behind the music,” he said. “The story is somewhat universal … there’s tragedy, there’s triumph and it’s all true.”
Furthermore, Straight Outta Compton shines in its authenticity because it’s a movie that depicts the struggles of minorities today, though it’s set in the late 1980s. While watching the movie, I couldn’t help but think about the Spring Valley High School Officer at the time—Ben Fields—who threw a black high school student from her chair and across the room on Oct. 26. The film has similar events of police harassment, such as when N.W.A is unjustly hassled by the police during a recording session, leading to their song “Fuck tha Police.”
In a press conference for the film, Ice Cube emphasized using art as an outlet for expressing the trials and tribulations that one goes through in a neighborhood like Compton. “Our art is a reflection of our reality,” he said.
Many people would agree with Ice Cube’s sentiment. While some might concur with the movie’s press—which condemned N.W.A’s songs for glamorizing gangs and drugs—others would applaud them for their honesty.
That authenticity and relatability is the art in movies and campus protests. It isn’t the cry of a single person. Rather, it is the union of many, the union of movie characters and audience.