Let me be honest, before I even purchased my ticket to see Angie Thomas’ film adaption of her debut novel, “The Hate U Give,” I was already skeptical about the movie. Following the criticism of Amandla Stenberg’s casting as the lead role of Starr Carter, I questioned the outcome of the film in regard to an inaccurate portrayal of the character. With past inequalities in casting choices for black characters and a disregard to cast black actors, many people (especially women of color) have been disheartened by the lack of darker-skinned actresses in leading roles.
Many fans of the novel spoke out against Stenberg’s nomination for the role of a black female character that was described and illustrated as dark-skinned. As this has been a common trend in Hollywood that I myself have noticed, I too have felt that frustration, being a darker-skinned black woman. With actresses such as Stenberg, Zendaya Coleman and Yara Shahidi being the faces for these young black female narratives, young dark-skinned women have become dismayed by this lack of diversity within the casting room. The black community itself is comprised of so many shades, which contribute so many stories; it seems the lack of representation of those varying shades in Hollywood can sometimes hinder those stories. Still while this needs to remain a topic of discussion, we shouldn’t allow it to distract from what’s most important in this very moment: narratives of police brutality and racism coming to light.
The film begins with a montage of Starr as a child. With Starr’s family at the kitchen table, Starr’s father, Maverick (Russell Hornsby) sternly educates the older children on what to do if their car is stopped by a police officer. With repeated references to putting their hands on the dashboard in compliance, Starr’s father explains that the act is their one and only chance to survive such an encounter. As we get a view of the tattoos that cover Maverick’s body, we are exposed to the first signs of the father’s gang history, experience with police encounters and explicitly police brutality.
Police brutality remains a major theme throughout George Tillman Jr.’s crime-drama. Following young Starr Carter’s battle to separate her life in the predominantly black Garden Heights from her life attending a predominantly white prep school in Williamson, police brutality proves to be a driving force which leads those two worlds to collide. As Starr claims, there are two sides to her being. Her hope to keep those sides divided falls short when she witnesses the killing of her childhood friend, Khalil (Algee Smith).
After a fight breaks out at a local house party, Khalil offers to take Starr home, and as they drive down the street, Starr comments on Khalil’s taste in music. With Tupac’s “All Eyez on Me” playing in the background, she states that his dated musical taste is not far from her own. Retorting, Khalil claims that Tupac’s relevance isn’t up for question and his lyrics still stand true to this day. Quoting Tupac’s phrase, “The Hate You Give Little Infants F**** Everybody,” Khalil explains that the hate society projects onto the Black community (especially youth) bites that the haters in the a** when that hate is reciprocated. Immediately, Starr notes its relevance to their community and agrees.
Still on their way to Starr’s house, the two share a heartfelt moment and kiss. The lights and siren of a cop car can be seen and heard in the distance, forcing Khalil to pull over for an unapparent reason. Defensive, Khalil refuses to comply with the officer’s demands without a clear explanation of the crime committed. Starr begs and pleads to Khalil to do as the officer says, bringing us full circle to Starr’s father’s monologue at the beginning of the film. This fails and Khalil is shot dead while reaching for a hairbrush inside the vehicle. Officially, this is where Starr’s two lives first begin to merge.
Following the incident, the media frenzy is relentless. Choosing to focus on Khalil’s stint in drug dealing he undertook in order to support his family, all forms of media portray Khalil as a villain rather than a victim. As Starr falls witness to this as well, she experiences an intimate battle with right and wrong. Wanting to be a voice for her now voiceless friend, Starr struggles to cope with the reality of events, questioning her own and others’ intentions. Ultimately, she asks the question: should she risk being ostracized even further by her peers at school or fight to save a dead, yet still dying friend?
That said, Starr’s personal battle is not won effortlessly. With the disagreement of her parents and Starr’s inability to confide in her boyfriend, Chris or her friends, she fights the guilt and threat from her own community almost entirely alone.
In all, I believe the film’s portrayal of the effects of police brutality and racism on the victim’s community, friends and family was enlightening. Starr’s ongoing battle to bring voice to her struggle and the resulting violence that breaks out to keep that voice hidden delivers the message to not let anyone or anything take away your power and stop you from doing what it right. However, I noticed some inconsistency with accuracy regarding how people would react to such events taking place. For example, Starr’s mother refuses to let her daughter speak in defense of Khalil’s victimhood. Overall, I enjoyed the film.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Kayla Davis is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.