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Boots Riley's "Sorry to Bother You" is a Political Comedy Masterpiece

  • Written by The People's Minister of Information JR
  • Published in News

"Sorry to Bother You", written and directed by Oakland's resident revolutionary MC, Boots, the front man of the political rap group the Coup, is a hilarious cult classic in the making, set to hit theaters in New York, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area in July.This political comedy is based in the streets of Oakland, but it is refreshingly not a cliche hood story. Although the film contains elements of ghetto life, "Sorry to Bother You" can be seen as a modern day Blaxploitation protest film, in much the same way as its predecessor, the 1977 Cecil Brown written classic "Which Way is Up", which starred Richard Pryor.

Before we go into the plot of the movie, I wanted to discuss the influences that I saw that shaped the entire movie. I saw a lot of 70's and 80's influence in the raunchy sex and wild drug scenes. It reminded me of what I imagined a night partying with Parliament or Grace Jones at Studio 56, would be like. It also reminded me of how sex and drugs were viewed in 70's Blaxploitation classic movies like "Superfly" and "The Mack".

The plot resembled "Which Way is Up" alot. First off, "Sorry to Bother You" begins with the main character Cassius Green and his girlfriend, Detroit, living in a literal garage , which opens unexpectedly when they are getting frisky in the bed, with each other. Green, gets a low paying job along with his close knit circle of friends, as a telemarketer. This is similar to Leroy Jones, the main character of "Which Way Is Up", who along with his friends, takes a low paying job as a farmworker.

In both films, one of the friends of the main character becomes a union organizer and is involved in trying to unionize their places of employment. In both films, the capitalist corporate boss cherrypicks the main character for a promotion, strategically, to creat in-fighting among the strikers. In both films, the main character accepts the promotion, and with the change in class from blue-collar worker to managment, the moral compass of the main character changes, and in both films, he is no longer able to acculturate and hang out with his with the homies that he used to hang with, becoming a sell-out who miserably works towards his own selfish goals, instead of standing shoulder to shoulder with his colleagues to fight for the collective interests, of the most exploited people working for the company.

Some might say that Boots bit the concept for his movie from the cult classic from a generation ago, but I choose to look at it as artistic progression, in the same way that Prince was a younger version of Sly Stone, Tony Toni Tone are younger versions of Prince, and D'Angelo is a younger version of the Tonies. Everybody learned and were inspired from the people before them.

I loved that "Sorry to Bother You" was extremely funny with a heavy political message, without trying too hard. One of the best parts of the film was when Danny Glover's character told Cassius Green that he had to use a white voice to succeed at telemarketing. This scene rang true to Black life, because most Black people that work on the telephone in any capacity for a white company have to develop and adopt this skill to sell to non-Blacks, if they are going to have any staying power or a career. So it was funny to see these Black men use bass-less, monotonous, barely out of puberty young white voices to reach their sales quotas. This was a cinematic uppercut exposing how capitalist white society is never able to accept anything about Black men, not even the sound of our voices, until we sacrifice our Black true unapolegetic seleves at the altar of white supremacy just to be able to feed ourselves adequately. This was the heaviest message in the movie.

"Sorry to Bother You" is also the only political comedy that I know of, that deals with genetic modification. In another scene that I liked, the CEO invited Cassius Green to a sex party to commorate his ascenion within the company. While at the party, a plate of, what Cassius thinks is, cocaine is put in front of him, for his enjoyment. He snorts it, and later finds out that it is a genetic modifier that turns people into horses so that that they can be transformed into something stronger, strictly for the benefit for the company. This surreal scene in the film is used to crystallize and expose the nature of capitalism.

Whether we are talking about the Congolese children who dig for coltan in slave conditions, so that the western world could have smart phones and laptops or the Haitian people who are paid pennies a day to sew Disney products and major league baseballs, only the dollar counts when it comes to the 1% and their minions.

Another dope part was when the character Detroit, Cassius' girlfriend, had a sex inspired art exhibition where people hit her while she was naked on stage with paint filled balloons. To Cassius it was clear how THAT was exploitative, but he was blinded by his new lifestyle to how he was being pimped by the company that he was employed by. Conceptually this was a deep scene that spoke to me.

I loved "Sorry to Bother You" most because although it is a protest film, its a comedy. And unlike most protest films, it is not trying to fight its way into people's consciousness from a soapbox. It makes you think about the paradox being presented while you are laughing or trying to figure out some of the more bizarre elements of the film. "Sorry to Bother You" is definitely one of the best films that I have seen from this genre since Spike Lee's "Bamboozled".  

Last modified onTuesday, 24 April 2018 17:24

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