TheN.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton shattered box office predictions, but unfortunately, news of its success wasn’t what was splashed across mainstream headlines.
Media outlets were less concerned with the huge turnout and more focused on the absence of violence in theaters during the film’s opening weekend. In many cities, security was ramped up — a preventative action taken in the wake of recent theater shootings, such as the one in Louisiana during the opening of the Amy Schumer comedy Trainwreck.
ThinkProgress touched on this “shock” Monday, after CNN host Ashleigh Banfield ran a segment focusing on commentary from a former police officer who believed N.W.A.’s message was derogatory. The group became infamous for speaking out against the rampant police brutality they experienced as young men of color in California.
Law enforcement analyst Cedric Alexander gave his thoughts on the film, but seemed to focus on fighting the portrait of police brutality by citing his time as a beat cop in the ’80s. He defended officers, saying that not all cops are “bad” and urged support for them — a counter to N.W.A.’s popular record “F*ck Tha Police.”
“There are some police organizations that are calling on people — members and maybe even beyond their members — not to see this movie because of the message they think it sends,” said Alexander, who was a police officer in the 1980s when the group’s hits first came out. “We really have to get away from this whole ‘f the police’ to ‘support the police.’”
N.W.A voiced this in the songs on their debut studio album, Straight Outta Compton. The rappers can be heard on “Express Yourself” and “F*** Tha Police” speaking on racial profiling at the hands of police officers.
Banfield didn’t challenge Alexander on his statements, leaving viewers to express their frustration with the obtuse coverage they felt was one-sided.
Dear @CNN, black people are not the ones shooting up the theaters. Get a clue–CNN Surprised ‘Straight Outta Compton’ Didn’t Cause Violence
Expecting a “hip-hop” film to promote violence is not only problematic, but adds to a bigger problem regarding how artists in the genre are depicted when speaking out against racial disparities. A better outlook on the biopic was how each member flourished after N.W.A went their separate ways. While Eazy-E sadly died of AIDS at the age of 31, his legacy lived on through music (along with the introduction of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony), while Dr. Dre helped launched the careers of 50 Cent, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, and more. Ice Cube has flourished in franchise films like Friday and Barbershop, and made his mark in the family-friendly film genre.
The film not only raked in $60.1 million in its opening weekend, but it was the biggest for a musical biopic ever. It was also the biggest opening for an R-rated film, taking the crown from the 2001 comedy American Pie 2.
If we’ve learned anything from Straight Outta Compton, it’s not only the history behind the storied group, but how state violence against Black bodies in the ’80s and ’90s is still a daily occurrence in 2015. The real violence is the lack of progress in America when it comes to police reform and relations, not the hip-hop that critics claim incites violent behavior.