David Meets Man brings a vibe which feels like a small indie made with love into a series format with limitless potential.
|Creator(s)||Tarell Alvin McCraney|
|Director(s)||Michael Francis Williams|
|Writer(s)||Tarell Alvin McCraney|
|Genre(s)||Drama, Coming Of Age|
|Good If You Like|
|Introduced This Episode|
|JG (Jonathan)||Cayden K. Williams|
|Seren||Nathaniel Logan McIntyre|
|Dr. Woods-Trap||Phylicia Rashad|
|Raynan||Ade Chike Torbert|
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David, also known as DJ, comes from the projects, but might be on the path required to leave them behind. He currently goes to Galvin Magnet school, is aiming for Hurston Prep School, and eventually college. However, between being only a few degrees separated from gang affiliation, a mother in recovery, and a little brother, JG, slowly treading towards the wrong path, David has a lot on his plate. This includes the ghost of a man haunting him, if not acting as a conscious, and a friend who may not be poor but is dealing with his own personal hell.
Leaving us to wonder, as David is pushed towards a crossroad that will either allow him to become brilliant or another kid with potential unrealized, which path will he take? Alongside that, if he chooses the wrong path, will there be anyone who allows him to recover from that mistake or will it be too late?
It’s Artsy, But Not In A Alienating Way
David Makes Man, at times, ventures into the world of having shots and scenes which are purely about the beauty of Black skin, the culture, and history of those who have it, and the dreams of David. All of which is more about cinematography and visual expression than the story. Now, for those not into the art-house world, usually, that is when films would start to lose a more general audience and have them clock out.
With David Makes Man, however, you don’t get this vibe Williams, and McCraney were trying to fill up time. Instead, what they are bringing you is deeper into David’s pride, his sense of self, his dreams, if not fears in a way. Rather than it being a showcase of the cinematographer, director, and special effects team’s talent, something which feels separate from the film so that they can get recognition, it is an integrated mix which makes it seem no one is acting selfishly or trying to make a name for themselves. Everyone, instead, is taking a “It takes a village” approach and are more about lifting up those in front of the camera.
It Tackles Opportunity and Privilege
In the episode, set in Dade County, Florida, it is made clear there is a stark contrast between Raynan’s path, David, and Seren. Sometimes this is pushed by Sky, who encourages David to go further and harder for those like Raynan are watching, stalking, and waiting until he feels like the life they chose is David’s only option. If not the only option forsaw by David’s little brother JG. But, there is also this sense of privilege as Hurston Prep is mentioned over and over. Be it by David’s mom Gloria, a possible former addict, who is trying her damndest to circumvent the path her kids may go down, or with how David’s teacher, Dr. Woods-Trap, points out David is but one of two Black boys in her class and the immense pressure which comes with that.
For there is a certain privilege which comes in being seen and told you are special or brilliant. Those children are given hope and opportunities to possibly get out of the hood, change the narrative of their family as drastically as their ancestors did by going from enslaved to free. Yet, in that privilege comes that isolation which endangers them. An attempt to balance safeguarding that dream from those in their environment but knowing they must code-switch with those like Raynan and his boys to survive.
After all, “Talking white,” or someone being perceived to think they are better than everyone else, can make all the hard work David is doing for naught. It can make his mother’s sacrifice of extra shifts, him dropping off JG, keeping him out of trouble, and then running for the bus, for nothing. All that David has sacrificed, endured, can end in a single moment by saying the wrong thing or giving someone the wrong vibe. Just like Sky.
Someone who, at first, seems to be a strange mystery figure. A ghost, maybe of David’s father, until we learn he is a man killed by being at the wrong place at the wrong time. But, most importantly, Sky reminds us of one of the paths David can end on. Someone who was seen as brilliant, mentored by Dr. Woods-Trap, but even with her teachings, could still get swallowed by the drug game and hood. Which, from what it seems, haunts David possibly beyond the idea he was there, or responsible, for Sky’s demise.
But, even beyond his role as a ghostly figure, there is something about Sky which scratches an itch. Maybe it is because he is shown to be intelligent yet a legendary member of David’s hood? Perhaps it is that question of where Sky went wrong as an individual, and not how that can give us foresight into the crossroads and decisions David will surely have to make. Heck, maybe what draws us in about Sky is that he clearly was a dark-skinned, brilliant man, who entered white spaces with confidence, boldness, and was unapologetic. Never willing to make himself smaller or palatable, and you wanting to see that in action? It’s hard to say the exact reason but no matter how you try to describe it, Sky definitely is a strong selling point.
The Unspoken Conversation Between Seren and David
With David and his possibly former best friend Seren being 8th grades, in the throughs of puberty and outsiders, there is this beautifully complicated relationship. One also affected by Seren being bi-racial with the Black male figure in his life physically and sexually abusing him. Making it so, the way we see it, Seren seeks validation of his Blackness through David.
Think of it this way, JG, David’s brother, looks at David, Raynan, and his hood to know what it means to be a man since David and his father isn’t around. So with Seren and David being surrounded by white kids all day, and Seren likely living mostly around said kids and their parents, outside of instructors and administrators, David is Seren’s purview into Blackness. For while Seren’s stepdad is Black, the man both rejects Seren and imprints destructive tendencies upon him. Yet, Seren can’t reject who he is. He can’t. Like most bi-racial people, even if one culture or race may seem more appealing, the hue of his skin often makes the decision of where he belongs.
Thus, when we see that conversation in the hall, with no words spoken, just feelings expressed in body language and images on the screen, you get it. Seren’s access to not just Blackness, but also brotherhood, feels lost or stolen from him. All because David, someone who doesn’t feel like he can tap into Seren’s world, felt threatened and scared. Maybe even like a crab in a barrel, so he took down the person who made him feel less than to even the scales. Likely damaging their relationship forever and sending Seren on his own crossroad which could lead to a dangerous path.
On The Fence
One Can Only Hope Women Have A Voice & Life Of Their Own
After seeing shows like The Chi, which have female characters, but most, if not all, being relegated to girlfriends or maternal roles, one can only hope when it comes to Dr. Woods Trap, a girl we see named Marissa, JG and David’s mom Gloria, and others, they aren’t just pawns in David’s life. People who are at his beck and call to lift him up, develop him, while we only get bits and pieces of their story. Like, in terms of Gloria, knowing she has likely overcome some kind of ailment or addiction, but it not being clear what exactly. If not, in the case of Marissa, knowing she is as brilliant and may have as difficult of a home life as David, yet be nothing more than a crush or someone there for him and made to seem her story ends and begins when she is around him.
Though, there is hope:
David Makes Man First Impression: Positive (Watch This)
Some time ago, multi-hyphenate Lena Waithe noted there aren’t notable Black drams the same way there are starring white people. Which disregards Queen Sugar, amongst many shows on OWN, but we won’t get into that. The point is, which I’d agree with, to a point, when it comes to drama shows starring Black people, they are like Scandal or How To Get Away With Murder in that, as much as there is a message and culture, often they operated on heightened drama. The kind which is more so based on keeping the viewers on their toes than exploring emotion, histories, backgrounds, and making the environment and culture of the lead a bigger deal than the season’s mystery of who shot who, or other soap opera-esque storylines.
David Makes Man fills that role. For with McCraney bringing in what is undoubtedly the kind of style common in indie dramas, OWN, once again, fulfills Oprah’s original version for the network. To make it something unlike what is seen anywhere else. If not, which may appear shortly in theaters, often only known amongst cinephiles, but is not on the radar for the average person.
Hence the positive first impression. While, like most dramas which don’t have episodic content, there is the sense not enough is being done with the girls and women on the show, there is a note that will change. And, beyond that, from the beauty in the visuals, the storytelling, and the vibe we are getting a full course meal for the senses, our emotions even, not just something mindless to have as background noise, David Makes Man hopefully opens the doors for more coming of age/ YA shows for OWN. Also, we can only hope it’ll be evidence that audiences don’t want stories like this locked into a 90-120 minute format, often with little to no marketing and geared towards Oscar season and rarely seen outside that time.