With Gina (Melanie Lynskey) getting a job, on a tenure track, with benefits, at a university in Rome, Washington, her family, comprised of husband Mack (Nelsan Ellis), who is a writer, and son Clarke (Armani Jackson), who is between his 5th and 6th grade year, are transplanted from NY to near her new job. Now, for Gina, she fits in quickly and while the drinking of her co-workers she has to get used to, everything else seems fine. However, for Mack and Clarke, a man and a boy who are clearly Black, they may not deal with the klan or being called the N word, but they do deal with the awkwardness that is being the only Black members of the neighborhood. A perspective we see from both the adult and child point of view.
None of It Feels Sensationalized
I should note that this movie isn’t at all about racism, but more so the awkwardness that comes when people are trying to be politically correct, yet still have stereotypes and certain expectations in their mind. Take Clarke’s storyline dealing with Ambrosia (Oona Laurence) and Julie (Miranda McKeon). When it comes to Julie, she just sees this cute new guy who she is developing a crush on. However, with Ambrosia, she sees this Black dude and quickly latches onto the idea of how he must be into rap, especially this one up and coming rapper. Also, he can judge their hip hop dance routine and to a certain degree, it is very much innocent. If only because it doesn’t seem she means any harm by what she says, but you can’t help roll your eyes. Especially when the Ambrosia gets mad, after flirting with Clarke so much, to find out he is bi-racial. She even claims he lied to her.
But throughout all of that, you can see Clarke adapting. He isn’t trying to talk like he isn’t some kind of a nerd, but he is trying to learn about what they expect him to be and you can see Mack is troubled by this. Reason being, his son is hanging around two white girls, while their parents are usually not home, and, well, there is something that happens in the movie which sets off red flags. Things that can’t just be ignored for, with Clarke being a Black kid, if stuff goes down there are certain fears Mack has.
Switching focus to Mack, he deals with the locals who note how he doesn’t fit their negative expectations and Tom Gibson (David Ebert), head of the block association, he is the main one pushing the idea. Then, of course, there is the weirdness of the local bookstore clerk following Mack while he was in his shop and then becoming a kiss ass when he learns Mack is a published author. Again, you don’t get the vibe these people are racist but simply ignorant since, to my recollection, they are probably one of the few, if not only, Black people in the town.
On The Fence
Gina and the white Woman in an Interracial Relationship with a Biracial Child
Being in an interracial relationship, and having a bi-racial child has always seemed complicated. Especially when your child doesn’t have the same appearance as you. Clarke is Malcolm X light skinned and with a huge, ?uestlove from The Roots, type of afro. If Gina and Clarke walked side by side, there is nothing which would instantly have you think “That must be his momma.” Which I note because Clarke is being raised also by Marc who is dark skinned and seemingly has a strong influence over Clarke and is very much in touch with what it means to be a Black man in America.
So with Gina being with a guy like Marc for at least 13 years, I find it weird there are still some cultural differences she still doesn’t get. Though, in general, you don’t find a lot of movies, or even shows, which really pick up on how cultural differences make, at the very least, Black and white relationships difficult. Scandal, throughout the seasons, be it the show itself or criticism, has touched upon the issues, but there aren’t many, I’m aware of, that don’t seem to shy away from the subject and instead try to focus on the idea “we all bleed red” and “love is love.”
Overall: Mixed (Home Viewing)
I think there is an importance in showing ignorance and micro-aggressions vs. full out racism. For it is one thing for a social justice warrior type to talk about it, usually in a way which sounds condescending, but to see it helps exhibit it better. Since, at the heart of the movie, it is about how Black folk have to adapt to their surroundings and deal with little ignorant statements either with a smile or not reacting in such a way which could make them seem sensitive.
But what led this labeled as mixed is because it seemed like it could have gone further and had some real conversations between Gina, Clarke, and Marc. All of which kind of gets blown over as Gina touts her feelings of being the outsider of the family and this sort of squashes Clarke and Mack’s feelings. Which was frustrating since it pretty much ends the observation, and ability for discussion, that it seemed the movie was building to.