Who Was “Detroit’s” Intended Movie audience?

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Who Was “Detroit’s” Intended Movie audience?

Fifty years ago, this summer an urban rebellion took place. One hundred and fifty-nine riots erupted in African American cities across the country. The civil unrest took place in cities like New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Birmingham, and Boston, to name a few. The worst riots that summer were in Newark, New Jersey and Detroit, Michigan.

The movie “Detroit” attempts to capture the eponymous riot of 1967. “Detroit” shows how the past is present or as novelist William Faulkner has said “In fact, it’s not even past” in terms of the killing of unarmed African American males and the unflinching impunity bestowed to police officers by focusing on the brutal confrontation at the Algiers Motel the evening of the riot.

While summer flicks are known fondly as “popcorn movie season” the film “Detroit” is difficult to digest. The dynamic duo—filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boa—who brought us the 2008 Oscar winning action-filled war film “The Hurt Locker” has once again collaborated in transforming a real life event into high art with “Detroit.” However, with raw depictions of street violence, inexplicable scenes of an aggregation of law enforcement- Detroit police, Michigan state troopers, national guardsmen, and private guards—descending on the Algiers Motel, and the constant images of the racial tropes ” Detroit,” critics have rightly stated, is “disappointingly one-dimensional” and “un-nuanced.”

More vocal critics have posed this question: Who was the film’s intended viewing audience? "Detroit" is "a movie for white people. For some white viewers, Bigelow’s film may invoke horror, even righteous anger. But with a white audience so firmly at its core, the images of violence in the film, designed to be visceral, in your face, to expose and inspire outrage and disbelief, inspire nothing in me but pessimism and spiritual exhaustion. The violence isn’t shocking. It’s just sadly familiar, and that isn’t interesting or illuminating to me as a black viewer in 2017,” Huffington Post senior culture writer Zeba Blay stated.

I, too, was spent after viewing the film. My spouse left the theater shaking and crying conveying how demoralized she felt. Rev. Emmett Price, my co-commentator on our weekly Monday segment “ALL REVVED UP” on WGBH on Boston Public Radio stated, “It was two hours and 23 minutes of the muting, maiming, torturing and murder of black bodies. That’s the movie.”

Because both Bigelow and Boal are white queries abound about cultural appropriation and exploitation, asking whether white artists