Dope, one helluva drug. An even better film. I’m making an effort to catch up to all those films I wanted to see last year but forgot about. Thus Anomalisa, Turbo Kid and Dope. I’m gonna start scanning year end lists to find those hidden gems, because frankly I’m finding it harder and harder lately to give a shit about big budget cinema. Trope laden plots, big splashy effects and large, known actors. I’m obviously not shitting on Hollywood as a whole, but I want new stories, fresh stories. I want stories that stop me from predicting the narrative arc 15 minutes in.
Dope was terrific. A coming of age story revolving around a nerdy 90s hip hop head black kid from a poor neighbourhood. Hilarious and affecting with unconventional narrative strands and an endearing self-awareness. It was a blast from start to end, with an affection for its subject matter that showed. Solid performances all around, laugh out loud funny and characters you really want to vouch for. As I said, terrific.
The one thing that struck me upon finishing the film is just how whitewashed my pop-cultural habits tend to be. It’s embarrassing and makes me feel guilty. I’m justified in feeling like an asshole about it. The majority of pop-culture I consume tends to be from socially dominant voices. Having realised the gender inequality in my viewing some time back, I’ve pushed to try and explore more texts from female sources and it’s been excellent. I’m not gonna blow myself for it, because the rewards have come in access to viewpoints diverse from my own. People are gonna gravitate towards stories that represent themselves on screen and I’m obviously the demographic that’s overwhelmingly catered to. No, I’m not gonna even try claim that I’ve achieved gender parity in the dominant voices of my consumption, but it’s a work in progress.
Stories from cultural minorities though? They’re a colossal blind spot in my viewing habits. If it’s a story from a white, male comedian, my ears usually perk up enough to give it a shot. Alternate ethnicities though? It’s not like I’m avoiding content, but for all intents and purposes not making an effort may as well be the same thing. Outside of my pop-cultural consumption, the ethnicities and cultures of my friends have never been a big deal. Oh fuck, this sounds like I don’t care to hear about the culture of my friends. Gross. I’m wading into a disgusting racial morass here either way and I don’t doubt I’ll say some stupid shit. That’s on me. How do I put this properly? People are people and if they’ve got values or thoughts I think are neat, then that’s what I latch on to. If they happen to be of a different ethnicity, why would that matter? I mean, it does, but it’s incidental, y’know? I’m not gonna like someone more or less because of their culture. It’s interesting to learn about my friends and their cultures, how it influences their day to day experience and life in general. Obviously I don’t search out people based on their ethnicity, that seems weird, creepy and mercenary all rolled into one.
Where am I going with this? I want to make an effort to expand what I watch. For a long time I hadn’t even considered the importance of diversifying my habits. It just so happens that a ton of people in my orbit are vocal about the necessity of intersectionality. It took a while of being bludgeoned over the head with it, but it’s finally starting to sink in. Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee’s criticisms of the Oscars are on point and critically necessary. No, it’s not gonna magically solve inequality, but questioning dominant structures needs to start somewhere. In my case, things need to change and widening the voices I listen to surely can’t have adverse effects. I really loved Frances Ha when I saw it first, but on a recent re-watch it dawned on me just how whitewashed the whole film is. I still like the film, but it did make the experience kind of a bummer. That’s not a thought that even occurred to me first time through. After watching Dope though, it couldn’t be clearer how much my viewing habits need to be shaken up. I want to be exposed to new ideas and expand my perspective. I want to see so much more and it’s obvious as hell that swimming in the same pond won’t take me anywhere new.