I was born in 1970, which means that I was raised in the hip-hop era. Although I listened to rap music, I wasn’t a big fan of gangsta rap. So when the trailer for N.W.A. Straight Outta Compton was released, I thought that it looked interesting but I had no interest in seeing it.
A week before the movie was released, my boys (ages 11,12) asked if I would take them to see it. They claimed that they wanted to learn about the hip-hop culture. Since I never followed the careers, or owned any music by Eazy E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube, I thought that it would be a fun experience and without hesitation I agreed to take them, along with two of their friends. They seemed utterly surprised that I would agree to something like this considering my husband and I won’t let them play video games rated “M” for mature and their not even allowed to play with toy guns.
What was I thinking? After all, my husband and I are cautious parents who try to shield our boys as much as possible from the tough street life we once lived, witnessed, and experienced. So to be honest, I don’t know what I was thinking. I never realized what I was signing up for. In fact, when I told my husband that I was taking the boys to see Straight Outta Compton—his response was, “Really? You? I can’t believe that you’re taking them to see that.” I still failed to make the connection.
On opening night, the boys and I arrived inside the theater, which was packed with adults. All eyes seemed to be focused on us as we scrambled to find seats with only a few minutes to spare. Silly me… I thought that they were all staring at us because we were running late for the highly much-anticipated movie.
Once the movie started showing, my eyes doubled in size, my mouth hit the floor, and I started to sink right in my seat. The opening scene was loud, with explicit language and violence. It was then that the light bulb went off inside my head. I realized why all the grimacing stares, or the second-guessing from my husband.
My mind started to run rampant… These people must think that I’m some type of idiot for bringing these young children to see a movie of this nature. What the heck did I expect? N.W.A. were gangsta rappers. How can I be that so out of touch with reality? I have to be straight outta my mind!!!
I looked down at the boys whose young eyes were transfixed on the screen with their hand, filled with popcorn, frozen still at the tip of their lips. The only thing that I was thinking was “How in the heck am I going to get them out of this movie without being labeled as the meanest parent in the world?”
As the movie progressed, I was practically under the seat with my jacket camouflaging my face. It had gotten much worse. I begin to feel so ashamed and like a complete fool. I’d decided that I finally had enough of what I believed to be the glorification of sex, gangs, violence, and disrespect. I started packing up my things when suddenly I looked down at the boys. Their eyes still hadn’t left the screen. I soon realized that I was stuck and had to suck it up. I took a deep breath and leaned back into the chair and braced myself for what I assumed was going to be a painful ride.
At that very moment there seemed to be a turning point. The movie was coming together and starting to make sense. The guns, the drugs and the violence represented how a young Easy E, started off as a street hustler who put up the capital to start-up the successful rap group N.W.A. The women, sex, drugs and parties represented how one can become so easily consumed by quick fame and fortune that they lose focus of reality and how irresponsible, and reckless behavior can sometimes lead to deadly consequences. The song “F*** The Police” represented the anger and frustrations that so many black men face because of the unwarranted harassment by the police. The beefs between friends represented how money, greed and Faustian deals can turn even the best of friends into enemies.
At that point I began to sit straight up in my chair because the plethora of messages seemed to be so much bigger than the movie. As I stared at the screen, I no longer saw N.W.A. I saw the struggle of so many real everyday people. In my eyes this was more than a movie. It was a big cautionary tale filled with so many valuable and teachable lessons.
Midway through the movie I became excited. I found myself dancing and clapping, and rooting, and singing to songs that I had no idea I knew the words to.
When the movie was over, my kids seemed to be shell-shocked. They also had a greater appreciation for the simple life that we live. They had a better of understanding of why my husband and I won’t promote “M” games or guns.
When the theater lights turned on I was proud that I was able to suspend judgment and sit through the movie because it illuminated and generated deep discussions with my boys.
My naivety was no accident. Had I been in my right mind when my boys asked me to take them to see the movie I would have missed out on a great opportunity to discuss sex, drugs, H.I.V, greed, avarice, lies, fame, fortune, good, evil, police brutality, perseverance, determination and racism all in one sitting. Of course I don’t need a movie to discuss these things however, it’s good to have a point of reference.
When I walked out of that theater, my head was held high with my boys in tow. I was proud that I was able to turn what I first believed to be “a great crisis into a golden opportunity.”