Klavan On The Culture

Why 'Detroit' Bombed

The Stoning of Soraya M was a powerful, harrowing based-on-truth film about a woman unjustly executed in Iran. It did nowhere near the box office business it deserved. Shortly after the picture opened, I was sitting at a bar in Westwood when Soraya‘s extremely talented writer/director Cyrus Nowrasteh sat down a few seats away from me. He had the slump-shouldered look of a drinker in a Frank Sinatra ballad.

“Let me guess,” I said. “People didn’t want to spend date night watching a woman get stoned to death.”

Kathryn Bigelow’s new movie Detroit is also a powerful, harrowing based-on-truth film about a fatal injustice. It is also getting a raw deal at the box office, and it isn’t hard to imagine why. People don’t want to spend their summer entertainment hours watching folks get tortured and killed by psycho racist cops.

I’m not sure there’s any more to the film’s failure than that. But if the left had wanted to destroy this movie’s commercial chances, if they had plotted and planned to strip it of legitimacy and appeal, they could not have done anymore than they have.

The conversations about the film among our cultural betters on the left have achieved a level of nonsensical idiocy it is hard to imagine outside of a Monty Python routine. For just a taste of the sweet, sticky goodness of leftist stupidity check out this piece at the Washington Post (where Democracy Dies in Grandiose Self-Regard). After attending a film festival centered on movies about black people, author Ann Hornaday points out that, despite Detroit‘s ecstatic reception from reviewers, “for many others… Detroit presents yet another dispiriting example of a white filmmaker undertaking self-examination and catharsis using the spectacle of anguish, suffering and desecration of the black body.”

Oh, please. And there was a lot of this garbage going around, too. “When White Directors Tell Black Stories.” “Who Owns This Story?” “Watching Black Pain Through a White Lens.” If I had wasted even a second of my precious life reading such racist tripe, I might not have gone to the picture myself. Because, of course, the one and only answer here is, “An artist has an absolute right to tell whatever story her muse directs her to tell and if you don’t like it, get stuffed.”

Yet I can’t feel any sympathy for Bigelow — a director whose work I admire — because she herself presented her film to the public in a leftist manner even stupider and more off-putting. Speaking of Detroit‘s story of a 1967 racist atrocity committed by cops, she told CBS This Morning:

“It is so relatable to today. When I was first introduced to it, it was right around the time of Ferguson, Missouri. And I’m thinking: ‘This is fifty years ago today, and yet it’s happening today, it’s happening tomorrow, it’s recurring far too often.'”

Of course, the leftwing gatekeepers of our media were only too happy to run with this. Said Andrea Mandell in her USA Today review: “It’s impossible to take in the scene without seeing Trayvon Martin’s face. Or Michael Brown’s. Or Philando Castile’s.”

Really? I watched the whole film and never thought of any of those people even once. After all, there’s overwhelming evidence that Martin and Brown were thugs endangering the lives of the people who shot them. And while the Castile killing did seem questionable to me, I’m not aware of any evidence that the hispanic cop who shot him was acting out of racial animus.

In fact, the type of police action that took place in Detroit in ’67 is in no way being repeated in today’s American cities. All the evidence from both the left and right says so. The idea that racist cops are still going about routinely tormenting minorities is a fake narrative popularized by a failing president to distract from his failures and utilized by his corrupt Justice Department to seize local power for the federal left.

In fact, since those bad old days featured in Detroit, urban police departments have become highly integrated and highly professional para-military units. And if they have more dealings with blacks than whites, it’s because every single leftist policy since the Great Society has served to leave black neighborhoods dysfunctional and crime-ridden.

As with the feminist left’s hilarious reaction to the recent sexual dystopia TV series The Handmaid’s Tale (“Goodness, isn’t it just like living in Trump’s America? Oh, and pass the Chardonnay, darling.”), the critical left’s reaction to Detroit serves to delegitimize a powerful entertainment. The left’s insistence that we are still living in the world of fifty years ago makes everything they say about the present moment absurd. Kathryn Bigelow made a good film about a horrible thing that happened in the American past, and good for her. But the past is another country.

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