My favorite part about my job is being able to meet the people I do: some are celebrities and bonafide stars, while others are on the very edge of entering celeb-hood. T-Pain, Teyana Taylor and Frankie Grande – judges on MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew: Road to the VMAs” – are members of the former category, but the subjects of my sit-down in the Young Hollywood studio fall squarely in the latter category. Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell aren’t household names. But with the highly anticipated N.W.A. biopic “Straight Outta Compton” bowing in theaters this weekend, they might well be soon enough.
I don’t usually take on the role of “critic” when it comes to TV shows and movies, although if you follow me on social media (here and here), you’ve seen me opine about my favorites and not-so-favorites *cough*TrueDetectiveSeasonTwo*cough*. As an entertainment news person, I’m in a weird hybrid role that, at times, straddles the line between PR and journalism. It may come as no surprise that entertainment news involves a lot of behind-the-scenes politicking that I won’t get into because it’s just not worth getting into. I love my job; that much is true, and I’m incredibly grateful that I can say that I do. I’ve worked long enough to know some things, one of which is that few people say they genuinely love their job. For me, sometimes that job means taking on more of a promotional role rather than a critical one.
With Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell of “Straight Outta Compton.”
Fusion recently published this article about how Hollywood largely ignores Latinos, African-Americans, Asians and women both in front of and behind the camera. The author references a powerful study conducted by researchers at USC Annenberg that revealed some pretty startling statistics about how grossly under-presented minorities are, while straight white males and those associated narratives continue to dominate our big screens. But, then again, this is a story we hear time and time again, especially when awards season starts heating up. So, really, the statistics are not very surprising at all.
Part of the reason I believe in the power of film and TV is that those mediums are the ones that make people important; they make stories important by the very fact that they are being told. The logic goes, then, that if your story isn’t being told, guess what? You’re really just not that important. And what an insidious, dangerous and silly reflection of the varied, diverse reality we all live and will continue to live in decades to come.
So, let me take off my promotional floppy hat and put on my critical trucker’s one when I urge you to go and see “Straight Outta Compton” this weekend. Spend your money to see a movie that doesn’t feature a predominantly white cast doing the same superhero stuff we’ve already seen this summer. Support the work of some up-and-coming on-screen talent who are just starting out and bringing to life the story of one of the most influential rap groups in pop culture history. Go see it because you learned the words to “Boyz-n-the-Hood” before Dynamite Hack did that cover of it – because you put a picture of yourself up with that #straightoutta meme on your Facebook. Go see it because the faces and images of inequality look all too familiar in 2015. Go see it because it’s an important story, and it’s getting told.
See my interviews with Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre) and Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E) from “Straight Outta Compton,” and my set tour of MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew: Road to the VMAs” below.