Fruitvale Station: News Reels, Movies, and Fatigue

The second half of the year has brought much cinematic anticipation and much ado. And you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who can immediately reference a year with as much excitement as this one: Kevin Hart's Let Me Explain, Fruitvale Station, The Butler, Baggage Claim, 12 Years a Slave,  The Best Man Two, and Black Nativity (and a Tyler Perry Madea film). It's definitely something to be applauded and celebrated.

Then you read a well-written piece, and you see the world from a slightly different perspective. (Seriously, go read this: One Butler Too Many).

I don't share Mr. Branch's sentiments, perhaps because I never watched The Help (I've still only read the book).  I still want to see The Butler.  And in that vein, I also enjoy all the cheesy over the top sports hero movies like Pride  and Coach Carter.  I also enjoy historical tales like The Great Debaters and Rosewood.  I mean, I love Newsies and think of Gangs of New York  as history. For me it's not always that deep. A good movie is a good movie.

That said,  I did not need to see Fruitvale Station.  Yes, I initially intended to see Fruitvale Station,  but understanding my dislike of violent scenes, never got the ante up to go watch. Yet, I kept hearing the good reviews and listening to tales of people changed after the film.  I figured I would watch eventually. Today, my intentions were to watch Baldwin shorts, but after paying for a cab to get to the theater,  they were sold out.  So, to justify the cab fare, I reluctantly saw Fruitvale Station.

To be fair, the acting was phenomenal. The cinematic style was nothing new, but the directing was solid. The story however was too familiar. I am a New Yorker, through and through. Fruitvale Station wasn't a movie. It was just a newsreel I have watched too often. The list of names reads familiar. In the last few years, there was Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham,  and even Kimani Gray- a teen who was not painted positively, but still managed to spark protests and marches. I do not mind a realistic movie, but I also do not need a replay of reality without hope.

I would like to think we were beyond the point where we needed another movie to show that people are human, have complex personalities, and are not one dimensional.   Yet daily reactions to race influenced incidents reminds me that we- American society- are not there yet.  So Fruitvale Station movies will continue to exist. It will exist along with Higher Learning,  and American History X,  and  Vanity Dark favorite Do the Right Thing.

These "black" dramas are not the only movies that are perpetual repeats. Hollywood is a machine turning out facsimile after facsimile.  No Jennifer Aniston plot is original.  Every rom-com, superhero film, and western is a remake of another one. The difference is those don't spark activist fatigue, but rather simply provide an escape.  And that's what people seem to be missing. (So maybe A Madea Christmas  isn't all that bad?)


  1. Not sure if my last comment posted, but I stood in line today to see Fruitvale and then changed my mind. I wasn't ready and I wanted to maybe go on a day when I won't have to interact with people afterwards.

    Thanks for reading and sharing my post on servitude!

    P.S. I like a cheesy sports flick every once in a while. Sunset Park is one of my favorites and it does so many of the things I hate in a film.

    1. Thanks for responding! The entire theater went silent and I bawled at the end of Fruitvale. It is definitely an experience.

      Long live cheesy sports films!


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