“American Son” and Social Commentary: With the Netflix adaptation, viewers are reflecting on the importance of media that focuses on important issues.

This article will contain spoilers as well as themes of racism and police brutality.

Just airing in the beginning of Nov., the Netflix adaptation of the play American Son has viewers on the edge of their seats wanting and longing for a positive ending to racial profiling, making the need for media with social commentary so much more prevalant.

American Son, starring Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale, follows the experience of a biracial family trying to locate their son, Jamal, who is stopped by police while out with friends in Miami, Florida. Kerry Washington, playing Kendra Ellis-Connor, faces extreme racial discrimination when she arrives at the police station in hopes to find her son. After her estranged white husband, Steven Pasquale’s character, Scott Connor arrives at the station, the attending officer treats him with blatantly more respect. This created this staunch contract for the viewer that this particular officer favored Scott over Kendra. Was he racist? As a viewer, that’s what I saw.

Also, Kendra was treated as a hysterical Black woman, repeatedly being told to calm down. She was looking for her son, her child. Any parent who loves their child would act hysterical, including me if I was a mother. However, as a white woman, I would not have been seen as hysterical. How Kendra was treated throughout the movie was disgusting. In addition to how Kendra was treated by the officer at the station, she was also mistreated by her husband. Scott was not able to understand the harsh reality for many African Americans, especially young African American men, that being stopped by police in this country usually means that you are subject to racial profiling scaling from an unjust stop and frisk, to death by gun. Kendra was all too familiar with this reality. Throughout the movie, she recounted the times she had to teach her young son how to react if stopped by police, something that she knew Scott never had to deal with.

By the end of the movie, viewers are outraged by the treatment of Kendra as well as the assumptions made about her son. Ultimately, at the last minute of the film, viewers learn that Jamal was shot by police after exiting the car he and his friends were in. For over an hour and a half, viewers were begging for the outcome to be different.

“I was shocked and at first– I mean just really shocked. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt like, ‘Oh, this is how it has to be.’ Because to end it any other way, I think, would be almost disrespectful to all the people who have been in this situation where it has ended in a similar way. We don’t want to romanticize the issue. But I love that until the very end you are hoping against hope that it’s not gonna be that,” Washington said in an interview with The Wrap.

I think it is easy for movies to skate over important issues, but this is taking the easy way out. Movies that tackle the hard topics allow viewers, especially those who do not face those specific hardships, to see practically firsthand this realistic situation.

Sources: Americansonplay.com, Netflix, The Wrap

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