Movie Review: BlackKklansman

I saw this movie a little over a week ago, and have been trying to work through how to write a review of it. It is the type of movie that is funny, but speaks to something much broader; as such, I want to make sure the comedic elements do not overshadow the intention of the movie, but also want to commend the way the movie inserts comedy in such a way that goes against modern comedic sensibilities.

The other issue in my mind when writing this review is that of language. This movie deals most directly with racism and antisemitism, and does not shy away from the language that would be used 50 years ago in a town that leaned toward bigoted behavior. Naturally I am no person to be employing the terms used in the movie, despite their usage being vital to the message and impact of the movie. So, I will be rather careful when writing this, and focus mostly on the impact. You can always read a plot summary on Wikipedia.

IMPACT

This movie is important, and I don’t think that popular culture will view it in this light. It takes a difficult issue — race and bigotry — and turns it on its head by using a true story that is ultimately amusing at its core. The idea of a black cop and white (Jewish) cop teaming up 40 to 50 years ago to infiltrate the KKK is patently absurd on the surface. Yet, once you see it play out, you can understand how it occurred so successfully. The premise being accepted, I could then focus on what the movie was really saying. What it was saying is that to some degree, our society has regressed over the past 50 years. We though we had made, and were actively making, progress towards the equality of every citizen in America, yet the current political climate and the actions that have been enabled by our current President have shown us quite the opposite is true.

There are certain statements made throughout the movie that effectively break the fourth wall, and speak directly to the viewer of the movie. When our main character is scoffing at the idea of someone like David Duke being elected president, the other officers set him straight, letting him know that once the face of racism has changed to something more palatable, it can be put in front of the American people as something worth voting for. It can be overlooked if the other talking points of a candidate are sufficiently engaging.

This movie is also a plea for peaceful progress and resolution to the race issue in our country. The Black Student Union plays a large role in the movie, and by extension so does the Black Power movement, notorious in its day for their intimidating techniques. Our main character, being a black police officer, keeps emphasizing his belief that systems can be changed from the outside without resorting to more drastic measures. Even in the face of a potentially violent demonstration on both sides, he sticks to these values and shows success, even if it is localized, can occur.

The end of the movie is much more explicit. It shows video of the violent and lethal protests in Charleston from 2017, in which a car drove at high speed into a group of demonstrators multiple times. President Trump refused to condemn any particular “side” of the altercation. Subsequently we are shown video of David Duke (who played a prominent role in the movie) giving a speech, saying that the President’s remarks are affirmation of their beliefs of white supremacy.

While this movie will not necessarily change the tide of society — the echo chamber that our world is in makes any one (or thousand) of individuals able to do so — it draws parallels to an earlier time. It points out that we have not made the progress we believe we have in this country, and there is significant work to do. It is not hopeless, but it is dangerous and frustrating.

I highly recommend everybody watch this movie. It will not change people’s minds, because our society has become too combative for that. But, it tells a wonderful story about persistence and change, when we live in a world where it is difficult to keep the former and obtain the latter.

 

Movie Review: “Christopher Robin”

The other day my girlfriend and I went to see the film Christopher Robin, all about the titular character outgrowing his friends in the 100 acre wood, and slowly finding his way back to childhood. After leaving the movie close to tears (my girlfriend did cry multiple times), here was my one line review:

The entire movie was super predictable, but it was so well-done and moving that I didn’t even care.

Continue reading “Movie Review: “Christopher Robin””

Book Review: “Quiet” by Susan Cain

I recently finished reading the book Quiet, by Susan Cain. In it, Susan Cain puts forth her concept of the “Extrovert Ideal” in western culture, and what introverts can do to help themselves in a world dominated by extroverts. In addition, she makes a case for why introverts are often exceptional leaders at all levels, although this may depend on the dynamic of the workplace itself.

As a self-avowed introvert, I found much of what she said to be very appealing and helpful. Most useful to me was the idea of a restorative niche, an environment to which you naturally go whenever you’re feeling a bit down or out of place. I enjoy this part of the book in particular, as it is personality-agnostic. She makes a case for having self-awareness of your personal restorative niche, regardless of your introversion or extroversion. The reason being that we all need a place to go and revitalize ourselves.

Introverts are often characterized by susceptibility to over-stimulation. As a result, it is often necessary to seek a quiet place of solitude, or perhaps one or two close friends. I know whenever I had to be in front of a large group (anything more than eight for me) I could do it, but then felt very drained. It was imperative that I find a spot to be to recover, or perhaps connect with a single person in that large group quickly so that I have something concrete to focus on.

Conversely, the group situation above can often be the restorative niche of an extrovert. After a long day at work or studying, they crave a group of friends to go spend the evening with. Perhaps they work somewhere and find themselves severely under-stimulated (a common occurrence and your average campus job) and just need to unwind with a large group of friends. The key is to know where you stand, and seek out a schedule which maximizes the time spent in your restorative niche.

Of course, this is not to say that every introvert should work alone from home all the time, or that extroverts should spend every waking hour at the stock exchange. There is a balance to be struck. But understanding your own mood patterns, as far as they relate to your social habits and preferences, is powerful when trying to form a schedule that suits your needs.

 

Another point of interest is how introverts and extroverts interact with those of similar and opposing dispositions to them. There was a study in which groups of introverts talked with themselves one-on-one, as did extroverts; then the groups were mixed together so that introverts talked with extroverts.

In the first part of the conversations, introverts tended to immediately delve into personal topics about each other’s lives, or about current events in the world. They often found a common topic of interest very quickly, and were able to stay focused on one or two ideas for most of the time. Extroverts required a bit of warming up, talking about the weather and more surface-level details about the other person’s lives. The dynamics were clearly quite different.

Once introverts and extroverts joined together, they were able to adapt to each other. Introverts let the conversation become a bit shallower, and the extroverts reported feeling at ease, since they felt heard to a greater extent than when talking to other extroverts. Introverts reported being more at ease, since the other person would lead the conversation. They were both able to interact well, and had very good ratings of how the conversation went.

What’s important here is that we can all help each other, and serve a role, whatever our social preferences are. Extroverts can often talk about many things very quickly, processing things out loud with other people, and having an introvert who will happily sit quietly just to listen, and respond when appropriate, can be very helpful for this. In addition, an average introvert may not always want to be engaged in incredibly serious discussion, or just wants a bit extra social interaction. Being carried along in a conversation (or some other situation) with an extroverted friend can help move someone out of their comfort zone.

 

This book has some very important ideas for everybody to be aware of. While I did not touch on some of the larger ideas presented (how extroverts dominate the business world, and the ways this effects employees), even just the two things that resonated with me are worthy of significant discussion. Give it a read. It’s a very concise narrative style, easy to follow, with great ideas and advice for becoming more aware of how you operate within the wider world. I know it had a great effect on me.