Yes, hello. Halo! Nama saya Paige!
This is a post all about me. But wait-say you- aren’t all your posts about yourself?
Why yes. Basically, they are.
This isn’t even really about me… it’s more about my feelings.
Regarding my new Charles Bukowski: Jenny Zhang. And the Kathryn Bigelow film Detroit and how I for the first time became one of those people who is like “oh, I don’t mind that a white filmmaker made this film about a distinctly black American event” and who decided not to really say that in any large capacity because I believe those who do take offense on behalf of the marginalized usually err on the side of right. And I’ll get around to reading articles that argue that point later, but not right now!
So, my two things of this week both have something in common in how they affected my life: I’m not sure exactly what I think but I know there’s something special and that I like it. I think that mainly applies to Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang, but it goes a little bit for Detroit too, but much less.
So Detroit first!
I don’t think (oh wait, the world is yellow tinted right now and it is gorgeous, ugh nature and the beauty that Beaumont can have when I bother to look at it) kkay anyway, back to the scheduled post
I don’t think that I knew Detroit was about police brutality. I just felt it was important to see it anyway, so I asked my mother if she wanted to and we did.
The movie theater in town has new seats that successfully block the view of the rows below you, which means if there are no people next to you, you are bright little screen of a cell phone free! But I had people next to me. Who chose the moment the film actually started to pull out their cell phones. But no, baby. Paige doesn’t play with the cell phones. Everrr. So, I politely leaned over and asked the not on her cell phone party to ask the two on their cell phone women to put away their mobile devices. They did. Not for the whole thing of course, but their loss. If you wanna fight over a cell phone though, we can fight. Because you ARE RUINING MY MOVIE. Not really. But I’m easily distracted and you’re distracting me and I paid for it and so did you and omg watch it because they worked really hard on it and this is cinema gosh dang it.
So, we were snuggled between them and a very animated black man who chose to laugh at the ridiculousness of the white people in the film and at the situations occurring. Which was somewhat enjoyable, but as a person who is always asking my mother to not ask me questions during the film, I was also wondering if black people knew how to watch a movie without talking during it.
The answer is yes, they do.
Movie opens. Action is on. I was with the above-mentioned article writers because I was at first thinking “ooh. this movie is making us look really bad. oh, this is a little uncomfortable.” But then it becomes obviously clear who is in the wrong: the police. yay. of course. However, unlike the theatrical poster which proclaims: “based on the true story of one of the most terrifying secrets in American history.”
bah-ha. To who? The specific occurrence might be little known, but the “terrifying secret” of police brutality is not secret to black Americans nor has it ever been. So, let’s just assume the movie poster wasn’t directed at us. There were white Americans in the audience which I was happy to see.
We’re used to police brutality. The only gasp I heard during the film was from the nice not on her cell phone black lady next to me. None of the brutality got me to cry or shocked me. I’ve already been through my jaded America has lied to me and hates me and all of its minorities phase. There was a point in the movie where my mother tried to speak to me and I said, “nononono tell me when it’s over” because despite missy whipping out that cell phone again, I was engrossed in this movie and not trying to miss a second. I did actually have to hold in tears by the end of the movie. It didn’t work. They spilled. Those kind of tears that rack your shoulders back and forth, except there’s no exercise going on. At least not one that energizes you directly afterward when you think about all the work you put in.
Nope. I sat there crying because of the character of Cleveland (Algee Smith). Sweet lord.
My mom tried to ask my what my favorite part was. “I don’t think that’s a movie that you have a favorite part to.” Which character did you relate to the most? “I wouldn’t say I related to any of them.”
Reflecting, that’s not true. I think I knew it wasn’t true then. I cried for Cleveland because of his own pain and because I saw myself reflected in him.
Man, Cleveland hurt. This is why I’m not writing about Detroit overall. I’m not writing about whether or not this was Kathryn Bigelow’s story to tell. Nah. I’m here to write about Cleveland.
I’m here to write about how we got to see Cleveland before, during, and after his traumatic experience with state sanctioned violence. We got to witness Cleveland’s sense of security be shaken up as truths were exposed to him, as he watched people leave without helping only to help him afterwards. We got to see how his worldview changed, and it hurt to see that change. We got to see ourselves in him and think about when our own perceptions of the world changed and how hard it was to get used to that and all of the mistrusts that we too had to experience.
It would not have been enough to only see Cleveland during. It would not have been enough to see him during and after. The before was so needed. That was Cleveland as carefree. That was Cleveland just wanting to sing. That was Cleveland being happy just to make music and perform and even sing to an empty audience because that was life. It was him not caring if the people who consumed his music were majorly white; it didn’t matter if they liked his products but not him or his people (think Do the Right Thing vibes and the answer of the Italian-American son).
It was being able to contrast care-free Cleveland with Cleveland who had to ask those deeper questions and who was traumatized from being in the same room as white people and police officers. Contrasting the initial Cleveland with a man whose mistrust arising from the way the world had treated him made him stand at the sides of a venue that he had wanted to be center stage on.
I don’t remember which part I started crying on. I think it was when he was on the sidelines. Even after the movie ended and it was just the credits, I just kept thinking about him and the change, and my tears were unstoppable. I didn’t even want to do anything after. I just wanted to go home. I wasn’t hungry; I wasn’t thirsty.
Eventually, I calmed down and life went back to normal. The rest of the day was actually fantastic. I was much happier than I had been just hours before. But those are the films I really appreciate. The films that leave me so broken-hearted that I’m disturbed. Yes. Give them to me. But also give me something fun so I can bring myself back to life.
Now on the Sour Heart. I was a little distracted while reading the novel, so I definitely want to re-read it. My favorite stories were the ones with Christina/Crispina. I just really liked it. I like the voice that Jenny Zhang has, and it’s because of Sour Heart that I chose to look up other things she has written, and I really appreciate how many of her things have dealt with racism. I even shared one on my Facebook because I feel like people should know who she is. When I re-read it, I’ll probably go more in depth about what stands out to me, but right now: it’s just its existence and how I’m happy I picked it up. For a lot of my favorite things/people in life, it’s sometimes not the things that they do/accomplish but its person that I believe them to be. The personality that I think they have. For example, off of Jenny’s website, I found this photo-series: http://www.rookiemag.com/2014/07/vilnius-travel-diary/ and that really made me connect with her. It made me want to go adventure, and I just appreciated how raw her descriptions were, especially the first photo. She was in Lithuania, but I’m trying to go to Indonesia by May of next year, hence the Indonesian that opened this post. I know more words! looooook: apa kabar kamu? bagaimana kabarmu? ibu dan bapak. selamat tinggal. selamat malam. salamat siang. selamat pagi. itu adalah saudara perempuan saya Lina. siapa nama kamu? apakah kamu juga saudara laki-laki <- I think I messed this one up. I need to go over my flash cards again haha. S/o to Mango Languages. Thou art bae. OH I REMEMBER NOW, I think it is: apakah kamu juga seorang saudara laki-laki. It might not be haha.
Anyhoo. I looked at her photo series, then I read her poems, and her essays. I saved them to my computer. I’m just happy to have found a new world to enter into. It’s so fun. This is how she is my current Charles Bukowski. When I first found Bukowski, I hella read this man’s poems. Who’s your favorite poet? Oh, Bukowski. He’s even still quoted in my Pinterest bio and until recently, my Twitter bio. So, that’s what I’m doing with her. Reading her older things and enjoying the ride and picking favorites. And I’ll return to them fondly in the future as I return to Bukowski fondly now. And discover new things even then.
And I hope most days that “it feels like I woke up happy”. ❤ (<- Jenny Zhang)
Toodaloooo. Until next time. Which is hopefully sometime soon.