Motor City Madness

'Detroit' succeeds in spite of its white critics

The brave new film Detroit captures a real-life
slice of what happened to a group of ordinary teenagers caught up in the violent chaos of the 1967 rebellion. Unfortunately, the murderous cop culture it reveals is still operative. Yet film critics at several “liberal” publications, notably Richard Brody at The New Yorker, persist in trying to undermine that reality by attacking the film as “immoral” because its director Kathryn Bigelow is a culturally biased white woman!

Last year, Brody labeled black filmmaker Nate Parker as hopelessly “vain” for writing, directing and starring in his Birth of a Nation, which is about a slave-led rebellion in 1831. Brody wrote that his critical experience was colored by the (totally irrelevant) fact that Parker was acquitted of a rape charge 17 years ago and by the lack of women in the movie. Parker is a misogynist, Brody concluded. And he insinuates that Bigelow failed to give women their fair due, too. Attempting to invalidate a socially inconvenient message by attacking the perceived identity of the messenger is a familiar tactic of the guardians of the reactionary social status quo. But who are Detroit‘s liberal critics really lynching?

Driving Brody’s manly contempt for Bigelow’s biological identity is his attack on the artistic and political integrity of the hundreds of black actors and stars who made this cinematically innovative, culturally accurate, painfully constructed film sing with life and death. Contra Brody, Detroit is a creation in and of the black community, the blacks who lived through the rebellion and the actors who channel them in a film that relentlessly tackles the violent core of our racialized culture. Brody insinuates that the black actors were so disempowered by Ms. Whitey that they were suckered into going along with her self-hating, misogynist trip into Blacktopia, when, in reality, these fine actors consciously collaborated with white artists to make a great film.

Detroit is so ontologically unsettling and reflective of American society that the critique being magnified in the white-dominated, other-fearing media is a complaint about the biological identity of the director made by white critics. Pathetic.

Go see Detroit. It will change you.

Peter Byrne is an investigative reporter who lives in Petaluma.

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