Last week, I wrote a piece explaining why I wasn't particularly interested in seeing Straight Outta Compton. Most of the feedback was positive. And by "positive" I don't mean that most agreed with my stance. I don't expect (or even want) that to happen. Just that some people agreed, and some people disagreed but were able to articulate their disagreement in a sober and constructive manner.
But some of the feedback? Well…let's just say that by the level of disappointment and vitriol, you would have thought that instead of writing about why I wasn't interested in seeing a movie, I wrote about "why it makes sense to murder your grandparents" or "why Justin Bieber shits on Marvin Gaye." I wasn't alone. Others who've been critical of Compton — Jamilah Lemieux at The Washington Post and Kim Foster at For Harriet for example — have also experienced similar types of criticism.
Interestingly enough, while the comments have been creative (On our Facebook page, someone said "It's a good movie. It's not the holy grail." I tried for 15 minutes to make sense of that. But then my ears started bleeding, so I gave up.), they tend to follow a certain script. Three certain scripts, actually.
1. "No one cares about your opinion"
Let's forget about the fact that by reading a headline and/or complete article, creating a profile that enables you to leave comments, writing, editing, and rewriting a comment, and hitting send, anyone leaving a "no one cares about your opinion" comment proves that they actually care enough about your opinion to comment on it. Where people who leave these types of comments really fail is when they fail to realize we are not the same. Sure, we breathe the same air, drive on the same streets, and regift the same unopened Arborita bottles given to us at game nights. But I — and people like Jamilah and Kim and Brittney Cooper and Panama and many others — get paid to articulate my opinions about things. I don't matter more as a person and shit than the anonymously angry internet person who'd make that comment. But my opinions do.
2. "What about ***insert random name of famous person who did something bad in the past***? Why aren't you criticizing them?"
I fell down a Facebook rabbithole last week and ended up in a thread where a person found a way to compare the Compton critique to how "Black people" came for Bill Cosby but "aint saying shit about Jared, the Subway pedophile." After taking a moment to process and admire the Bob Beamon-sized leap that took — seriously, that was some Olympic shit — I felt and repressed a violent urge to rebut this statement. Or perhaps it was vomit. Either way, I chose not to say anything, because A) it was fucking stupid and B) no, seriously. It was fucking stupid. And it was fucking stupid because no one gives a shit about Jared and any other random person that person would cite to make a point. That person included.
Compton, however, matters at this moment in time. So Compton specifically — and N.W.A. in general — is going to be exposed to more critical eyes because of its cultural relevancy and its specific relevancy to Black people.
3. "Why can't you just support another Black person? Why must you be critical?"
This particular type of criticism is the most common, the most predictable, the most annoying, the most dangerous, and, honestly, the most racist. Yes, it's racist. Fundamentally, it implies that art created by Black people is so weak and so substandard and so tenuous that any type of critical feedback is enough to destroy the entire foundation. Because apparently, if every. single. Black. person. doesn't hivemindedly support another already uber-successful and wealthy Black person — even if the criticisms are legitimate — we'll never have nice things. Because White people might hear us. And if White people hear us, they might cancel Christmas.
I don't want Christmas to get canceled either, though. So maybe I'll chill.