On Friday, August 14, Universal Pictures premiered its bio-pic Straight Outta Compton about N.W.A., a hip-hop group from Compton, California that blew up in 1988. The group includes rappers Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, DJ Yella, and MC Ren. Its basic plot follows the group’s rise from rags-to-riches but includes some darker moments like the Rodney King beatings and gang and police violence.
Over its opening weekend, numerous theaters throughout the LA area have added extra security to their premiers (There’s also been an unconfirmed reporting of extra security in Lexington, KY and a confirmed one in Hawaii.) and had actually been planning for weeks to do so. Their decision was so wide-spread that Universal Studies had to agree to pay for extra security just to make sure the movie was been shown properly.
At best, theaters’ decision to add extra security was profiling – at best. At worst, it’s racist (and let’s be honest, profiling is almost always race-based). Movies are constantly showing “dangerous” content like police brutality, gang violence, and violence towards women, but big name blockbusters like the Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy (which did have a shooting take place during a showing), the Transformers series, Gone Girl, and The Hunger Games (which is full of teen and police violence and is actually about starting riots and revolutions) never have police presence. Even after the latest theater shooting in Louisiana just three weeks ago, theaters that showed Trainwreck didn’t request extra security. In fact, people are saying that it’s only black rapper movies like Boyz n the Hood and Notorious that are requiring extra police presence. Even 8 Mile didn’t need any and that was about a rapper.
While race relations and police acceptance are not especially good right now, that does not mean we need to fear movies made about black men and potentially for black communities. Doing so only furthers the divide and tells black communities that white/moneyed communities fear and hate them. And, as we should know after years of blaming movies, music, and video games for violence, these things don’t necessarily spark violence. It’s what real people do in the real world that causes violence – which includes treating people like criminals just because of where they live and the movie they choose to see. And, if people really wanted to reduce violence, they would try to create measurable change like improving gun control, incorporating tolerance and behavioral therapy techniques into everyday life, and improving relations between the police and communities. Beefing up security at a black film is just offering people yet another façade to hide behind and further alienating them from reality. It’s not helpful, it’s not useful, and it’s not going to improve racial tensions in this country.