Comparison of the confrontation of social and political problems in Sorry to Bother You and BlackkKlansman

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Although seemingly similar, the two movies show differing reactions.

Skyler DiLoreto, Staff Writer

In recent years many movies have been released that have depicted a political stance or social problem important to the creator, such as the film Get Out directed by Jordan Peele. Two that have come to theaters as wide releases recently, that stood out were the films Sorry to Bother You directed by Boots Riley and BlackkKlansman directed by Spike Lee. In many ways these movies are similar; they both follow an African American male protagonist who has recently started a new job and both confront issues of race and classism in American. However, the way in which these issues are dealt with in each film is very different. While BlackkKlansman follows the real life story of police man Ron Stallworth in the 70s, Sorry to Bother You takes place in an alternate version of present day Oakland and follows the fictitious character Cassius Green.

In both films on important plot device is a character’s “white voice”. In BlackkKlansman the existence of a white voice is debated. While those featured in the film such as David Duke state that they will “always know when they are speaking to [an African American]” ,white characters in the movie tend to argue that it does exist, while Stallworth argues that there are two languages (jive and Kong’s English)and he is fluent in both. In ‘Sorry to Bother You’ a character’s “white voice” is played by a completely different actor and represents more than just race, the “white voice” in this movie is the voice of someone that is extremely confident and has no care in the world. In both movies the characters use their “white voice” over the phone to convince someone that they are something they are not; in Stallworth’s case this is a white man interested in joining the KKK and in Green’s case this is someone who is worry free.

In both films the view of both large establishments and the police is extremely important. In BlackkKlansman our two main protagonists are both policemen and because of this the movie does tend to show the police in a positive manner. However, this is starkly contrasted by the viewpoints of characters such as Patrice, the president of the Black Student Union, who see cops as strictly against their cause and refer to them only as “pigs.” This movie also shows African Americans being treated poorly by the police because of their race; a car full of African Americans is pulled over for essentially no reason and at one point when Stallworth is attempting to arrest a white woman, the police start to arrest him, not believing that he is intact an undercover policeman. In Sorry to Bother You the movie tends to be blatantly anti-corporation and shows police in a negative light. Establishments in this movie are depicted through the company “Worry Free” which is essentially recruiting people to become slaves and is eventually shown to be involved in very unethical experiments. The police are constantly shown to be in the favor of the corporation as opposed to the people, harming rioters that attempt to rebel against “Worry Free”.

In both films a popular theme is becoming ‘numb’ to the world around you and bending your morals because of this. In BlackkKlansman this is most significantly shown through Adam Driver’s character, a Jewish man who has been passing as “just another white kid” his entire life as a way to advance in society. Eventually he is forced to face his own culture head on in his dealings with the infiltration of the KKK. In Sorry to Bother You this theme is shown both through the entertainment of this alternate society and through Green himself. The entertainment is shown to be very violent with a show about beating people up being one of the most popular programs. Green is bending his morals throughout the entire film as a way to become financially stable and successful at his job, at one point he is forced to acknowledge the fact that he is selling slave labor and that he must do something about it when Tessa Thompson’s character Detroit,gives him an ultimatum.

In general both films focus on many aspects of political or social change in American society. While Sorry to Bother You chooses to present a more absurdist story, this allows the viewer to see the story in a more objective manner through the uses of metaphors such as Detroit’s earrings or Cassius’ freestyle which allow the viewer to see the extent of the corruption of the corporation present and understand the pressing issues Riley is trying to communicate. In BlackkKlansman’the realistic and grounded account of history that eventually feeds into news clips from our modern day helps to show the reader of the problems that not only plagued Americans in the past, but continues to affect many Americans today. Both of these approaches create powerful narratives that convey important problems we have faced in the past and continue to save today.