The idea of a glowing biopic about gangsta rappers N.W.A would’ve been unthinkable 25 years ago.
Yet here we are in 2015 and “Straight Outta Compton” is the number one movie in America.
“Compton” is undoubtedly a good movie. Music films typically get cheesy and are low on the action. The N.W.A biopic thankfully manages to avoid all that and provides an exciting narrative.
But it does gloss over many of the seedier aspects of the rap group. A major criticism of the film is how it leaves out group member Dr. Dre’s vicious 1991 beating of a female journalist. Couple that with the film implicitly glorifying lyrics like, “So what about the bitch who got shot?/ Fuck her!/ You think I give a damn about a bitch?/ I ain’t a sucka!” and the film is not surprisingly getting hit with charges of misogyny.
Along with the sexism criticism, the movie glances over Ice Cube’s association with the Nation of Islam after he left N.W.A. The member of the group who arguably became the most beloved by the mainstream for hit family films like “Are We There Yet?” used his music in the early 1990s to promote Louis Farrakhan’s racial extremism.
In “Straight Outta Compton,” this radical association is given a brief, yet positive treatment as a reaction to the injustice Cube supposedly sees around him.
Ultimately, though, it’s not what history the film whitewashes that’s a problem. It’s how it portrays law enforcement that makes the film a propaganda tool for Black Lives Matter — the ongoing movement trying to eradicate the alleged epidemic of police racism.
For a music group that produced a song called “Fuck tha Police,” it’s no surprise that police play a strong role in the film. The first scene depicts an overly aggressive SWAT raid on a drug house. The viewer is left with the impression it’s too harsh and you’re supposed to root for future N.W.A member and then-drug dealer Eazy-E to get away.
The movie takes off from there with police continuously brutalizing African-Americans throughout the duration of the film. This narrative aims to convince viewers that cops often act in a tyrannical manner towards young black men for no good reason.
However, the film dishonestly portrays some of the group’s run-ins with the law. Before the group is formed, Dr. Dre is arrested for “doing nothing wrong” after he broke up a fight. In real life, Dre was arrested for having several unpaid tickets for traffic violations and was detained in a much less dramatic fashion.
Later on in the film, Dre is arrested again after a high-speed chase with police. It’s implied he was chased because he was a black man driving a sports car. In reality, Dre was chased for driving a sports car at 90 m.p.h. on a busy highway while having a blood alcohol content level twice the legal limit.
Police aggression is portrayed throughout the film as a daily injustice the young rappers had to deal with. What’s ignored is the horrific crime rates which Los Angeles cops had to deal with in the late 1980s and early 90s and which caused cops to act aggressively towards potential suspects.
The overall message here is the same one preached by Black Lives Matter: police are bad and African-American communities might be better without them.
However, “Straight Outta Compton” undermines this message by portraying how bad life is without proper law enforcement. Enter the character of notorious of record label executive Suge Knight. Knight is probably the only major character in the film who is actually a gangster. Unlike the romantic heroes of “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas,” he’s a vicious thug who will beat, torture and even murder anyone who gets in the way of him making more money.
In the lawless world the gangsta rappers inhabit, whoever has the most muscle and capacity for violence rule. In “Compton,” that man is Knight — and his dominion is far more brutal than that of a police jurisdiction.
Other real-life gangbangers are also portrayed similarly in the film. One stops a bus full of teenagers just so he can threaten to put in a bullet in the head of a single teen who made an insulting sign at the aggrieved hoodlum.
Still, the film tries to sympathetically portray gangsters in one scene where a Crip and a Blood confront police with united blue and red bandannas during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.
Movies are supposed to take artistic license and it’s not uncommon for certain facts to go ignored. However, “Straight Outta Compton” has been released at a time when animosity towards police is at an all-time high. Aided by a sympathetic media, activists have been able to promote the notion that cops routinely engage in prejudiced and brutal behavior.
The N.W.A biopic will only further this cause by taking the message to the portion of the public that doesn’t care much for the news. It’s a sign that cop hate is going mainstream by getting a showing in your local theater.
The sad part is that the film (albeit accidentally) and recent events foretell what happens when police go away and gangsters are glorified.
In April, the media lionized Baltimore gang members as community activists during that city’s rioting that resulted from anger towards law enforcement. After the violence died down there and the Baltimore Six were indicted, police ceded the worst-hit neighborhoods to the gangs that were so lovingly portrayed as put-on heroes by outlets like NBC.
Since then, Charm City’s murder rate has skyrocketed and citizens are now desperate for the police to return.
As “Straight Outta Compton” also shows, the void left when police disappear is far worse than the cops Black Lives Matter activists conjure up in their fevered imaginations.
While American society has always romanticized its outlaws, it’s dangerous to let ourselves accept emotionally-satisfying fiction as fact. Similar to how N.W.A weren’t really gangsters, the evil cops in “Compton” probably weren’t bad guys either.
They were just doing their best to protect the community from genuine thugs.