I Finally Watched Straight Outta Compton, and I Was Intrigued by This

Remember the Academy Award controversy regarding the lack of African-American nominees a few years ago, with Straight Outta Compton at the top of the list of movies people felt should have been in consideration? I’ve been intrigued about the movie every since, and I finally watched it this past weekend.

My take? I enjoyed it. It felt a little like Entourage, but with a compelling message about race in America.

There’s one scene in the movie (spoilers about history) that left me with an internal debate, and I’m curious to hear your opinion about it.

In the film, the group N.W.A. is about to take the stage to a huge sold-out crowd in Detroit. Before the performance begins, they’re informed by the city’s police chief that if they play their hit song, “F___ the Police,” they will shut down the show and arrest the members of the group. Their reason is that the song incites violence against police, which echoes the sentiments of an FBI statement the group received as well.

However, during the show, Dre has something to say. The crowd goes wild, and the group gets arrested.

In the press conference the follows, the group says that the song isn’t intended to incite violence. Rather, it’s a commentary about the relationship between black men and the police. They emphasized their right to free speech.

I later looked up the lyrics to the song. While I agree with their statement about the racial commentary, it also includes lines like this that come across a bit like a call to action (or, at best, glorifying violence to officers of the law).

Beat a police out of shape
and when I’m finished, bring the yellow tape
To tape off the scene of the slaughter

I’ll give N.W.A. the benefit of the doubt and assume that their intention wasn’t to incite violence. But if you learned that something you created was unintentionally encouraging or even resulting in violence, would you continue to share that content? Are we morally obligated to stop showcasing content that incites violence, no matter the intended message? Or are people responsible for their interpretations and actions of your content?


6 Responses to “I Finally Watched Straight Outta Compton, and I Was Intrigued by This”

  1. emmalouklues says:

    Whoooooo, huge topic here. I think about video games where people literally get to practice and hone their skills for violence (not just interpret lyrics), I think about heavy death metal music, I think about the thousands of religious references to stoning people, going to war in the name of religion (or anything else for that matter, depending on how justified you feel war ever is), hurting or slaughtering those who don’t or won’t believe what you do, etc. I think about people who are mentally unstable blaming an author or artist or religious leader for their ideas about harm to themselves or others.

    That is a huuuuuge question you pose! Ultimately, I think people are responsible for themselves. And while I’m sure some people struggle with whether to continue to share something if it’s been proven problematic, I don’t think an author/originator of an idea is necessarily liable/responsible/obligated to do so. There are times I would even advocate for people to stop sharing certain content, or to come out and correct things or work on an anti-violence campaign to combat unintended consequences. But I think I value their right to express themselves over expecting them to be responsible for how people might react.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      You bring up some really interesting examples here, Emma. I like the idea of people taking responsibility for their actions instead of blaming a song, creed, etc. I also like free speech, as you well note! 🙂

  2. Nik says:

    I’ll start by saying I’m a huge supporter of the police and I’m a big opponent of BLM. That being said Fuck the police is a landmark song on the landscape of american music. I know cops that roll around, off duty of course, jamming to it. You have to take it out of today’s media feed and remember when it was written. South central was a mess. Gangs, crime, police that could do whatever they want. It’s a protest anthem. Are they liable for it? I don’t think so. Even if they wrote it today I don’t think you could hold them Liable. Yes, I would be on board with boycotting them but they are artists. We view it from today’s lens that has no personal accountability for some reason. If my boys shoot anyone it’s not video games, movies, music, etc.. It’s I failed at raising them as a parent and/or they make poor decisions. Speaking of, I can’t wait until they are old enough to listen to NWA.

    While the original is what it is, I really enjoy the rage against the machine cover. There’s a band that has incited unrest from it’s inception and boils the blood of anyone that’s ever heard them.

  3. Chris M. says:

    Nice light topic for a Friday. 🙂 As others have stated, it was a protest anthem – I have not seen the movie, but I suspect this moment was “hollywoodized” and made to be slightly more dramatic than it actually was. I view the song as an artist bringing to light 25+ years ago what still is an issue today in the US. NWA were way ahead of their time with this song and message. It’s only been recently with the advent of personal cameras, I mean phones, that much of the problem is being examined by ALL people in the US. Musicians and other artistic people often use their creations to start discussions on topics that need addressing.

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