In the Gilded Age of Hollywood, movies weren’t called movies. They were called pictures. Guys wore tuxes and gals donned gowns. Most of it was black and white. Funny fact, the only thing that differentiates a black-tie affair from a white tie is coattails. That’s it.
Back then, greyscale was all the rage, because that’s all it can cost. A monochrome iconoclastic look.
For my money, the penultimate episode of Atlanta (FX) titled “Rich Wigga Poor Wigga” back to the time when milk was white, coffee was black and well, Gin would always be clear until it makes you cloudy.
We open in on Travis Scott’s “Escape Plan”.
This is beautifully blocked in black and white.
We focus on a gamer, who is white-ish? Through all the smoke he gives, he is still top tier… until the rest of them clown him.
And believe you me, once he deploys the N-word, he puts his money where his mouth is. By not giving out his address, he kinda already did. He’s an inveterate lad.
After rage quitting through the muck and mire of the fret and fire, he bounces on the Arizona State College site to see if he got in… to no such luck.
While he forlornly looks out of the passenger side window later as his pops drops him off at school, recent news of another black boy was murdered by the hand of cops. He simply wanted to reach for his phone!
Though his father is quite perturbed, Aaron (Tyriq Withers) could give two fucks. He’s light-skinned!
In fact, he could pass.
Sometimes these situations are so black and white.
The world is made up of many beautiful and sometimes horrifying people, but in order to admire life, you have to be in for it.
In fact, his father almost wants the seed of his loins to be pulled over, just to see how it is from the other side.
Aaron thinks he’s still entitled to the good things all white people are. That’s rich, excuse the pun.
Daddy ain’t co-signing for FAFSA and if he wants to make it into a great college, he has to save up, though, with a pittance in the kitty, the clock is ticking.
We arrive at Stonewall Jackson High School.
As he’s dropped off, the son is reminded that if he doesn’t make it into the school, he’s remanded to home, paying rent and walking four miles home, reminding him of the ‘Woods’ episode.
-It matters none, as when he’s dropped on school grounds, he’s greeted by his bubbly white girlfriend, whom he lied to about getting int ASC, which they vowed to go together.
The fact others had their letters before their eyes aren’t helping matters. Bubbly to her is now bubbling to him.
Before they can celebrate, all are corralled into the auditorium.
The principal announces the alumni and the multi-hyphenate Robert “Shea” Lee (Kevin Samuels), the heir to the Pink Oil Moisturiser company.
As he recounts his time at Stone Wall, and what that name stood for, he pulls out his dick, financially.
A donation isn’t one when you’re basically buying it, which is why he tosses a cool mil into the mix.
Naming after him, Robert S. Lee is a little crass. I mean, it’s a mere few letters off of a slave owner.
But wait! He one-ups himself, paying everyone’s tuition to do greater things!
That contingency is that you are black.
Poor white Aaron. Yes, he looks white through our lens, but we know what is up.
His day just got tougher.
He fashions that passion in tearing down the Stone Wall Alma Mater sign.
His GF and their friends think it’s all bullshit and is pursuant to discrimination, figuring they may have a case.
Thing is, as they kvetch about how black people now have it easy, he’s uncomfortable. Maybe because he passes. Maybe because he’s hurt and can’t pick one side.
It matters none. He’s looking at his IG, filled with Paper Boi, ya boy, and twerking vids… with the occasional flamethrower.
Let’s just table that and approach later.
Into the Lion’s Den, he goeth.
He’s literally on stage and with what I can only explain as the most beautiful blocking of pure black contrasted with a resplendent spotlight of unabashedly white, it’s his time to shine.
The tribunal delights in his countenance, referencing him as a ‘yellow nigga’. I thought this was black and white?
His feet are put to the fire. Based on how ‘black’ his answers are, the more they invest.
This also includes the very fresh killing of a black kid at the mall, though the answer wasn’t to their liking.
This was just an amuse bouche.
What ensues is a barrage of questions to solidify his blackness. In essence, they make him Earn it, basically having him do a minstrel show under duress. That was all fun though, right?
After all japes and jabs were had, the council never wanted him to score the ride to collegiate and black excellence anyway.
When he questions his light-skinned nature for not getting it, one of the trio goes apeshit, calling him simply white, basically at the point of being racist. Can you do reverse racism? Yes. Yes, you can.
They compare him to Clarence Thomas, and with that, he’s deflated and done. He can’t win!
At home, Aaron’s anger is his dad’s appetizer. His plight is part of the play.
When Aaron sees that his white GF liked and responded to a black school kid, he sees red.
Oh, that’s not the best part. Even though he’s a ‘friend’, she already knows he’s not going to Arizona State and breaks it off with him there… I mean, kick a man down, won’t ya?
So where does he take his aggression out?
The very same game that got him in trouble in the first place, but in this instance, he uses the flamethrower.
He wants to burn it all down.
All of the stress of not being black enough has him at a crossroads.
I’ve never searched up how to use, nay create a flamethrower. Unless I was a forger, and even THEN, I would have no use for it…
Unless I had a score to settle and those silly little things called bullets just won’t do.
In a very Lynchian scene, Aaron brings together the components of what would be a bomb ass flame thrower. Something I could bring home to my mother.
Once he gets to the school and straps up, he’s met with Felix.
Now, this humor is SUPER Lynchian, as Felix also has a flamethrower.
Felix is black but wants to burn down the establishment as well. They fucked him over and he isn’t taking it comfortably.
He’s not feeling Aaron’s sob story, but can appreciate the goal in mind… that is until they have bigger fish to fry in their mind.
Burning each other to the ground.
What ensues reads like a videogame or a battle of wills and through every corner, every pant, art is found.
But Aaron is compromised, with his shoes on fire. Liar, liar?
His imminent demise is for certain, as the guy is about to have a roast on his hands. He’s shot in the dome by the cops. Aaron has no choice but to go, hands up.
At the crime scene, Robert pulls up. He’s aghast that someone, anyone would want to burn down ‘his’ school, lest the survivor of the shot. In his words, getting shot by the police is “the blackest thing anybody can do.”
Even though he tried to outdo the bureaucracy, Robert will take care of Aaron’s bills whilst slipping him the scholarship cheque.
As for Aaron?
He just gets to watch from the back of a cop car how tipped the scales were.
We cut to a year later, in a Best Buy, where a tipped-up (different) Aaron is macking on a customer.
His former white GF notices him and they shoot the shit for a brief moment.
Arizona State is fine for her, and his life is alright.
He’s never been more attracted to her, leaving her gobsmacked.
“Hangin’ On A String” by the appropriately named Loose Ends plays as his nod is all we need.
What these two play in Donald’s mind is not for me to decide.