BlacKkKlansman Reaction

Where to begin! I definitely enjoyed BlacKkKansman, and I am shocked that, as Dr. Bezio mentioned in class, the film was originally marketed as a slapstick “buddy cop” comedy. Though moments were very funny, there were also plenty of scenes that made me sick to my stomach. From a formal standpoint, I also noticed many similarities between BlacKkKlansman and Malcolm X: both films included an extended dance scene toward the beginning, and both films ended with real-life footage. I also saw a clear connection between Ron’s “white” voice used on the phone with David Duke and the plot of the film Sorry to Bother You (which is a film I also love).

The film’s Colorado setting was also interesting to me, since it is not the geographic region I most closely associate with racism and the KKK in the US. It indicates, to me, that such extreme bigotry was and is not locked to one area of the country.

Though the film premiered in 2018, its central conflict of police reform from the inside feels, sadly, still extremely relevant to the discussion of defunding (or abolishing) the police in 2020. On one hand, the film draws many overt parallels between the police force and the KKK, and portrays disgusting acts of police violence against innocent back people such as the encounter with Patrice and Kwame Ture. Yet Ron himself seeks to prove his status as a “good cop” to Patrice. Can an institution rife with systemic racism actually be reformed? Patrice, in almost ending her relationship with Ron at the end of the movie, suggests that it cannot.

Lastly, I have some questions about the first shot of the film, during which a Civil War-era southern woman searches for her husband(?) among the fallen soldiers under the waving Confederate flag. Was this to show a romanticized view of the Confederacy? Is this a scene from racist film Birth of a Nation, which appears later in Lee’s film? And what does the class make of Alec Baldwin’s character in the intro? To me, it established strong ties between American racism and antisemitism at the outset of the film, yet I was a bit confused as to why this character never appears again.

3 comments

  1. I was also very confused by the opening scenes, but I think it contributes to the concept you mention: no one and no where is immune to racism because it is so systematic in this country. As mentioned in the podcast episode 19, I definitely felt Ron’s internal conflict as being “too black for the white community and too blue for the white community”. I think adding of Patrice to the story line made it more Hollywood, but I also think it played up this inner conflict.

  2. The directorial similarities between Malcolm X and BlacKkKlansman were hard to miss. A few of the shots looked or reminded me of the same ones from Malcolm X, but I thought that Lee did a really great job at using these shots to reinforce a particular message or theme. The use of real footage from recent events in both films is an extremely powerful way to focus the audience’s attention on specific callouts, particularly the similarities in rhetoric between David Duke and Donald Trump in the case of the BlacKkKlansman.

  3. I love your point about Colorado as the location of the film. Even though it is based on a true story, I think that it carries a lot of significance in a movie, especially given its label as a modern, progressive state in our society.

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