Will the security for “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and “Hitman: Agent 47” please stand up?
Oh. There is none. Yet some theaters are hiring security guards for this weekend’s opening of “Straight Outta Compton.” And Universal Pictures is footing the bill.
Let me get this straight: White men can sling guns and violence on the big screen and no one is scared. But the guards are coming out for a movie about N.W.A., the infamous and iconic rap group that rose out of Compton, Calif., during the ’80s era of crack, gang violence and police occupation. Some say it’s because of tense race relations nationwide, as well as the group’s subject matter.
Really? So this is about 1988’s “F* the Police.”
F* the police coming straight from the underground, a young n* got it bad cause I’m brown. And not the other color, so police think they have the authority to kill a minority.
— Ice Cube
It may be brash, but it was their war song against profiling and police abuse, from teens who came up in a neighborhood that was militarized by police. That song was an outlet, venting against a life filled with battering rams bursting through your door and being brutalized for driving or even standing in front of your own home while black.
These were rappers born in the Watts Riots era who were young men by the time Rodney King was beaten on camera and the Los Angeles cops who did it were acquitted. This was a group of talented black teenagers who would need a white man to legitimize them before their music could go mainstream.
I don’t endorse violence against cops. But I also don’t support unnecessary police violence against citizens. And that was very much the culture in Compton back then.
Unfortunately, the movie debuts when police injustice is headline news. This week singer John Legend joined the Courage Campaign to urge Californians to support the Racial and Identity Profiling Act now before the state legislature. In that state, blacks are stopped by police three times the rate of whites, based on the color of their skin; Latinos are stopped twice as often as whites.
And The Washington Post found that black men are seven times more likely than white men to die by police gunfire while unarmed.
But somehow, none of that makes people uneasy. It’s this movie and the audience that are scaring America.
“I don’t think it’s really necessary, but we’re doing it for the public’s peace of mind,” Cinetopia owner Rudyard Coltman told the Wall Street Journal about security for “Straight Outta Compton.”
The public needs peace of mind from the “urban” crowd, eh? But it was a white man who opened fire in Louisiana during a screening of the comedy “Trainwreck” last month, killing two and injuring several before he committed suicide.
And James Holmes, another white man, pumped bullets into a theater full of Colorado moviegoers as they watched “The Dark Knight Rises,” murdering a dozen people and hurting some 70. Cops weren’t afraid to arrest Holmes alive and let the courts do their job. Last week he was sentenced to life in prison.
No one is looking twice when white men walk into theaters, though. In fact, last weekend on the Plaza, I saw a group of white teenagers shouting in front of Urban Outfitters. They were harmless but unruly. Police officers stood just 30 feet away in front of Brio, seemingly not even thinking about those kids. I couldn’t help but wonder: Would a group of loud black youth get that pass?
They put up my picture with silence, cause my identity by itself causes violence.
N.W.A. isn’t heroic. But neither are many of the great rock ’n’ rollers. Like so many iconic music stories, theirs is riddled with drugs, women, violence and controversy. At this point Ice Cube is better known for his family movies and comedies than rap. And Dr. Dre, despite his inexcusable and often overlooked abusive background, is more synonymous with his headphones and that billion-dollar Apple deal.
Sorry to burst your stereotypical bubbles, but my screening was filled with mostly young black professionals who wanted to relive the rebellion of their youth in song, not violence. It was a good movie (90 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes), not a fomenter of riots. And considering it’s expected to top the box office at around $40 million, there will be just as many white, suburban 30- and 40-somethings filling those seats this weekend. Believe that.
Having guards on standby only in the theaters playing “Straight Outta Compton” doesn’t make me feel safe. It makes me feel profiled.