What Do You Want from US...Part 2

So today I noticed Anne Hathaway's indie-film-that-came-and-went was available to watch instantly on Netflix (big surprise there).  Here's my beef: I don't think people [read: white] give Havoc nearly enough credit.  They complain the white characters are badly scripted parodies, while all I can think is, "Well, uh...yeah.  That's kinda, like, the...point?"

Whites who watch Havoc and dismiss it immediately are usually the ones who simply don't enjoy seeing themselves portrayed that way.  After all, who wants to recognize themselves in the the miserably divorced parents who think distance, denial, and a bowl of soup will fix all their daughter's problems?

What rich white family wants to admit they honestly think that because there's a wall around their rich, exclusive neighborhood, it's actually going to be enough to stop their kids from going out to (and getting into) bars, smoking weed, doing coke, and venturing into "the bad part of town"?  Which of them want to admit that they themselves have sat in pricey bars buying drinks for underaged drinkers, and giving them drugs in hopes of impressing them enough to get laid?

In the meantime, the most powerful lines in the film come from Hector, a Latino gangbangin' drug dealer portrayed by Freddy Rodriguez.  He calls out white privileged hypocrisy to Hathaway's character who thinks hard drugs are a "problem" strictly for poor POC.  Hector coolly points out every Benz and BMW rollin' through his hood with a white guy behind the wheel, seeking rock and hookers.  And when Hathaway & and her BFF's "boredom" inspires them to roll dice and fuck the 16 Street gangbangers in an initiation rite (which goes horribly - and unsurprisingly - wrong, by the way), Hector yells, "What do you want?"

Why, Hector, darlin'...these gals are "bored", remember?  Your struggles, your world...it's all entertainment to them; it helps to pass the time.  And only someone bored and completely assured of their privilege could expect to waltz - at whim - in and out of a world of drugs, violence, and bitter desperation completely unscathed by its reality.

Critic Rich Cline writes of Havoc:
The premise is clever and involving: teens encountering the subculture they're pretending to be part of. Every generation has its own form of rebellion, a fantasy that feels so real that we feel we'd rather die than conform to our parents' world. Even though conforming is precisely what we're doing. Gaghan's script captures this discrepancy cleverly, presenting realistic kids bristling with misplaced bravado, deeply naive and oblivious to what's really happening.

The cast dives in totally. Hathaway is especially willing to fling off the squeaky clean roles of years past as the surly, foul-mouthed, over-sexed Allison. And she's particularly good when she lets Allison's mask slip. The supporting roles are also good, but not nearly as complex (Gordon-Levitt is particularly wasted). Rodriguez registers strongest as a man who knows better, and justifies his desire to take advantage of these young women with the fact that they're begging him to do so.

Besides the story's cautionary message, the film works as a slow-burning thriller with surprisingly strong stings in its tail. Especially effective is revenge set-up in which the two gangs take astonishingly misguided charges at each other. And the film's most striking observation comes from Hector: "There's nothing real about you; you just get this from the TV." Which is a criticism that could possibly be levied against this film as well.
Now, now, Rich...if you're gonna say it, say it all.

The Brits have their own version of "wiggers", by the way; they call them "chavs"...so Cline is not wholly unfamiliar or misunderstanding what he's seeing here.  Critics like Cline are deliberately downplaying the point about boredom and privilege, and how utterly ridiculous people like these appear to the rest of the world - and how it does matter.  When critics like Cline try to dismiss films like Havoc, (and conveniently try to focus on the more technical aspects of the film) it's just that good old-fashioned, annoying denial so many of us recognize.  It's the typical white knee-jerk reflex: "We don't do 'that'.  We're not like 'that'.  This film 'misrepresents' us.  None of our friends, coworkers, etc. of color really see us like that."

Oh, no?  *blinks*

I grew up with kids like these, thank you very much - exactly like these.  These aren't "caricatures" to me; no, no...these are dead-on replicas of over half the Class of 2000 at my old high school.  I watched those folks from afar and shook my head every day.  It's nice to know shit hasn't changed, by the way.

The film's overall message, of course, is that capitalism =\= compassion, and privilege comes with a steep, steep, steep, steep price.  Now, I know many of you are thinking, "Um...duh," but you have to remember this film's not for you.

It's for the very people who are writing it off.

Comments

  1. Thank you for this great review, really makes me wanna see it!

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  2. Lots of sex and nudity!

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  3. You said the magic words:

    Netflix Instant Play

    I'm gonna check it out tonight and weigh in with my thoughts, later...

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  4. Heval,

    Prepare to piss yourself.

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  5. Ha!

    I BOUGHT this on DVD!

    Beat that!

    (BTW, did you notice the lesbian subtext - if you can call it that subtle?)

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  6. Oh my god...

    What. The. FUCK. Was. THAT?

    That movie was PAINFUL to watch. Pretty much every line out of the mouths of the white characters made me cringe with...I'm not sure what the feeling was...

    Embarrassment? Sort of, although I'm not sure why. I felt the need to put my head in my hand or turn my face away from the screen, time and time again.

    Did I feel repulsion? Disgust? Definitely.

    I do think your analysis is on point, but I think the message was incidental; you portray dumb ass white people acting like that and all the privilege is just going to come out. They can't help it.

    But as far as the movie being written as some sort of social commentary, it failed miserably for me.

    I imagine a white denier watching this movie with contempt - although it wouldn't be for the right reasons, i.e. privilege. It would be disgust for the POCs presented and the white people who would dare to "sink down to their level".

    I hated that movie. That twitchy kid from 30 Rock - whatever his name is - after this, and after "Brick", I seriously want to kick that guy in the head...

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  7. Never heard of this movie. But it sounds very, very interesting and I'd love to see it.

    However, if it's really the way Godheval described it... I am not so sure if I want to see it. I like good social commentary movies but if this was incidental, then I am not sure.

    But in any case, I understand we get to see a white dysfunction at work here, be it characters' or filmmakers'.

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  8. Here's what I'm getting at, guys: the social commentary isn't incidental. Its ridiculousness...is its point.

    The writers and directors are being brutally honest here. Their message, if you look directly at it, is delightfully vicious because 1) it lets WP know how they're seen from the outside, which many of them still aren't hip to or at least are in very deep denial about. It also helps, ahem, "certain" young white kids understand why they're not (and never will be) taken seriously by the "outside world". 2) It gives POC that extra dash of insight into what exactly goes behind rich white walls. 'Cause, sure; we already have a a pretty good idea; determining the source of "stupid" isn't hard. However, it often helps to get slightly more detailed examples.

    Like, it's one thing to nod and condemn kids like Hathaway's character as mindless, privileged idiots and to deduce - quite logically - that they're parents are at fault. It's another to have some extra insight as exactly how they came to be that way.

    Also, the director and writers caught a lot of flak for this film. You have to keep in mind, they're not amateurs. These are Academy Award-nominated stock. They knew exactly what they were doing when they sent their little message to privileged white families: "You all look like spineless idiots. Welcome to a world where no one is impressed by you; please...enjoy your stay."

    This film isn't "great", but it is delightfully mean.

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  9. I mean...I guess that's one way to interpret it? I suppose I don't have the faith in the writers/directors that you do. Without seeing some sort of interview by them, I don't believe it.

    What's to separate this from a movie conveying the same stupidity and only accidentally offering a thought-provoking commentary?

    What's missing for me was someone more explicitly calling out the privilege, for me to believe the message was intentional. The little bit that Rodriguez says wasn't enough. It was typical "you don't get our life, spoiled kids!" poor vs. rich cliche (to me).

    God, and that "we are fucking bored" line that they chose to replay three times might've been the most painful bit of dialogue I've ever seen in any movie since...well, Napoleon Dynamite in its entirety.

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  10. You're still missing my point, Heval. That sickening cringe you have when you watch these kids go about their lives - it's deliberate. It's the point. So there's no need for someone to explicitly, in detail, call out the privilege.

    When the audience twitches, that's privilege being called out, and on a much bigger scale. Thus we have the ultimate irony: white people who don't understand privilege or are in denial about it are made to call it out anyway.

    And that's another thing. Everyone seems to want to cater to privilege by having "someone" in the film engage in deeper, thought-provoking statements about privilege - oh, no. That would make white audience members "feel better" by showing "how far WP have come" (for being able to produce such a deep movie about privilege).

    But...aren't we always telling WP specifically not to try to make themselves feel better where discussions about privilege are concerned?

    That's what this movie does. There's no consolation, no pat on the shoulder, no happily-ever-after, and no cookies for anyone by the end of the movie. It makes the audience cringe, and then deliberately leaves them feeling that way, giving them the choice to either confront and analyze what they're feeling, or cower and run. It's as though the staff is saying, "Here's you. You suck. Deal with it."

    No wonder it was kept from theaters (which is something POC in particular always need to pay attention to). Havoc may not be a great film, but again, it is beautifully cruel.

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  11. No, I understood the point just fine. My question, though, is how do you know what the point of the movie was, without some specific insights (or even precedents) from the writers/directors?

    I cringe the same way when I watch ANY movie that depicts white people acting how they think POCs act, and all of those movies - for their cringe-effect - can't be said to be intentional social commentaries.

    White people do douchebag stuff everyday. Should we assume that they're intentionally outing themselves or their "group" as privileged oblivious assholes?

    Nope. That the movie shows privilege for the despicable thing that it is doesn't mean that it was the writers/director's intention.

    Avatar portrayed the white male savior fantasy - but should we take that as a critique of said fantasy? Nope.

    I mean, you might as well argue that the KKK is rallying to keep racism relevant in public discourse, as a counter to all claims of a "post-racial" society.

    "Thanks, KKK!"

    I'm pretty sure that is not the Klan's intention. Although it is a pretty ironic consequence.

    Anyway, like you say, if all this movie does is make POCs cringe and make white people continue to deny, then it serves absolutely no purpose.

    Well, other than to annoy me.

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  12. Also, you said:

    "But...aren't we always telling WP specifically not to try to make themselves feel better where discussions about privilege are concerned?"

    Absolutely. But two things.

    1) Isn't giving this movie any sort of credit doing exactly that? Sitting back and laughing at how depictions of privilege make white people squirm and deny? Sure. But giving credit to the movie that may or may not have achieved that effect on purpose? Nah.

    2) Just because someone makes a movie explicitly fingering privilege (white people would still hate it and be in denial, mind you), doesn't mean we have to celebrate that movie, either. Instead it can be the opening to the kinds of conversations we need to be having - or moreso that they (white people) need to be having.

    Whether we celebrate them or not, those movies still need to be made. Doing it subtly (giving Havoc the benefit of the doubt) clearly doesn't achieve anything.

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  13. Wow...this movies sounds at once interesting and disgusting. I'll have to check it out, but, considering what Godheval said, I'm not quite sure I'll be able to finish it.

    Also, on a side note, I'd have to disagree with Godheval on the point of deliberately calling out white privilege in the film. I'm sorry but art, be it cinematography, literature, etc., should never have to deliberately and blatantly spell out its message. If the audience is too stupid to glean a/the message from the work, then they are not deserving of understanding it. After all, I'm sure most of us have had experiences where we made arguments and painstakingly went into detail to explain our point only for someone to completely dismiss the message even if they "got it". Some people only "get it" when they've figured it out on their own (and don't they just feel so special after they've done so!). So I can deal with what may be an interesting film with mediocre elements so long as it has some art about it.

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  14. I guess I should be clear on what I mean by "explicit". I don't mean hand-holding white people through a breakdown of privilege and what it means to everyone.

    I didn't need a high school professor to sit down with one of the characters and give her a Tim Wise speech.

    I just felt like whatever "comeuppance" was offered to the characters in this film was weak.

    There were no serious consequences (for the white people), and we never even found out what happened to Hector. Are we to assume that because Allison called Emily on her lie that the charges were dropped and everything was just hunky-dory?

    That's not how it has ever gone down in real life.

    There are ways to call out privilege in an "artsy" way - but this is not an example of how it should be done.

    Even that "What would you do?" show doesn't explicitly call privilege by name, but it gets the point across perfectly.

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  15. Heval,

    Honey...this is how you raise your own blood pressure. You know that shit'll kill you, right?

    One - I've been reading up on this film for years, so yes, I do have some insight into the writers/director's intentions - duh, baby...this is sort of what I do here. The only reason I brought up this film now was that I just noticed it was on Netflix's Watch Instantly list - which also amuses me to no end.

    Two - I didn't say we should celebrate this movie. I said its effect on white audience members in particular was "beautifully cruel" and "delightfully mean". I also explicitly stated why I derive so much pleasure: it doesn't come from the film itself, but from the discomfort it causes whites who would deny the existence of white privilege. I also talked about how the the movie was sent straight to video. At the time it was being advertised, however, going straight to video was not its original intent; it was supposed to go into theaters and get a broader audience but that was stopped. Fuck...I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in whichever meeting Barbara Kopple first learned her film wasn't going to be seen by a whole lot of people, after landing Anne Hathaway and spending $9 million on this shit.

    My point - once more - is that the film had what I'm now calling a "Victoria Moment", which occurs whenever white people shut down other white people who would say something that's hurtfully true about white people.

    In short, Heval, my amusement isn't so much derived from the movie itself, but white people's reactions to it. That's what I was trying to get people to talk about here, hence quoting Rich Cline.

    I mean...how many times do I have repeat the fact that it is most certainly not great? Where the hell did you get "celebrate" from, love?

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  16. I'd have to disagree with Godheval on the point of deliberately calling out white privilege in the film. I'm sorry but art, be it cinematography, literature, etc., should never have to deliberately and blatantly spell out its message. If the audience is too stupid to glean a/the message from the work, then they are not deserving of understanding it.

    Oooooh - major co-sign here, Doc. This is precisely what I love about the TV show Frasier: the writers refused to dumb themselves down for the audience. Either audience got it or they didn't, and the show lasted 11 years. Moreover, Frasier had a profound effect on its audience, as it encouraged viewers in Seattle to attend more plays and operas, and broaden their tastes in music and cuisine.

    But to get back to the film at hand: you will NOT like Havoc. However, if you read what white critics, fans, and non-fans have to say about it, it will take on a whole new - and incredibly amusing - meaning for you.

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  17. I just felt like whatever "comeuppance" was offered to the characters in this film was weak. There were no serious consequences (for the white people), and we never even found out what happened to Hector.

    *shakes head* Rich, white privileged folks don't get comeuppances, remember? POC didn't write this, babe, and the cold hard truth is the writers got it correct: whenever one of the girls' Daddies waves his magic wand, whatever dumbshit mess they;ve gotten themselves into conveniently goes missing. After all, that's what happened earlier in the film. Taking responsibility isn't a popular aspect of white privilege.

    Are we to assume that because Allison called Emily on her lie that the charges were dropped and everything was just hunky-dory?

    No, dear...we're not.

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  18. Perhaps "celebrate" was too strong a word. But I guess "not great" is giving it too much credit, for me. Anything better than "fucking sucked" is too kind.

    And as for my argument about the writers'/directors'intentions, I suppose you'd have to supply me with some of what you've come up with in the years of research on the film that tells you that it wasn't an incidental commentary.

    As for this point:

    ...why I derive so much pleasure: it doesn't come from the film itself, but from the discomfort it causes whites who would deny the existence of white privilege.

    The reaction videos to Two Girls One Cup were entertaining, but they didn't change the fact that the original video was about people eating and playing in shit.

    Huh. Shit. Another thing 2G1C and Havoc have in common. =)

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  19. ...white privileged folks don't get comeuppances...

    The hell they don't. Maybe not as a rule, and never "officially" in white supremacist society, but on an individual level?

    I wish a privileged mother fucker would come around me with this kind of bullshit.

    "Comeuppance" would be a mild way of describing my response.

    "whenever one of the girls' Daddies waves his magic wand, whatever dumbshit mess they've gotten themselves into conveniently goes missing."

    Sure. But I wasn't interested in what happened to the girls. My complaint was not finding out what happened to Hector. Had they shown that in spite of the girls' problems being magic-wanded away that the POC still got screwed, that would be reflective of reality, AND would've gotten the point about privilege across more "explicitly".

    "POC didn't write this...

    Yep, which is exactly why I put zero faith in the writers'/directors' intentions for Havoc being any sort of social commentary.

    Unless they spell it out, I'll assume they don't get it. And I'll be right. 99.99%, if not ALL, of the time.

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  20. Unless they spell it out, I'll assume they don't get it. And I'll be right. 99.99%, if not ALL, of the time.

    Or...you could just be argumentative because you detested the movie so much.

    And as for my argument about the writers'/directors'intentions, I suppose you'd have to supply me with some of what you've come up with in the years of research on the film that tells you that it wasn't an incidental commentary.

    You really expect me to dig up every website I've been to over the past 2-3 years? Seriously, Heval?

    Have you yourself attempted to do any research on this film at all? Because I'll be honest: I have zero intention of doing it all over again just for you, dear.

    One last time, Heval: the commentary is deliberate. It's just not "great". The "not great" part is what's fucking with you. Half-assed films have a tendency to do that.

    Sure. But I wasn't interested in what happened to the girls. My complaint was not finding out what happened to Hector.

    Spoiled, rich, privileged white boys erroneously went after seasoned Latino gangbangers - this after the lead white boy literally pissed himself the last time Hector held a gun to his head. How do you think that ended, Heval? A spineless punk bitch can buy all the shiny new guns he wants to with daddy's money, but he'll still being a spineless punk bitch when the actual firefight goes down.

    I mean, he might've gotten a lucky shot in and "grazed" somebody...you know, right before taking three to the head and chest.

    Perhaps "celebrate" was too strong a word. But I guess "not great" is giving it too much credit, for me. Anything better than "fucking sucked" is too kind.

    Well, you have your opinion, I have mine. Either way, here endeth the browbeating, Godheval.

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  21. Have you yourself attempted to do any research on this film at all?

    Nope. The burden of proof is on the person who makes the claim. I'm not interested enough in the film to do any additional research on it. Actually, that's not completely true. What I did look into was the movie history of director and the two screenwriters, none of which showed any propensity for meaningful race commentary.

    And anyway, I don't want you to dig up anything, really. I'll take your word for it if you just tell me what you found in your research. Anything at all.

    But if you expect me to take it purely on faith that these white directors and writers intended some sort of provocative social commentary, well...that I can't do.

    And yes, I despised the movie, so that makes me unlikely to give it the benefit of the doubt.

    But more than that, I refuse to give white people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to race matters, because as I said, they get it wrong 99.9% of the time. Or so my experiences have taught me.

    And regarding Hector, I didn't mean what happened with the exchange at the end - Hector wasn't even there. I'm talking about whether or not he still got put in jail for the rape he didn't commit.

    Surely you can see how that little inclusion would've made the message about privilege louder and clearer? That it was left out, or rather, probably not even considered, convinces me that the writers had jack to say about privilege, except by accident.

    But yeah, I guess I'm done talking about this, too. Even this whole discussion is more than the movie deserves, in my opinion.

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  22. Heh, well Seattle has always been a little bit different than most of the United States, so that's not too surprising. It's one of the few places where people, as a rule, actually value being educated and involved in current events.

    Also, after reading this lively debate I suppose I'll just read through a few review sites and see what some of the commenters posted. If it ended up getting Godheval this upset then it seems quite obvious to me that I'll likely end up beating the crap out of every preppy douche bag with a backwards cap bumping Jay-Z in their daddy's Infinity SUV and talking "hood". That likely won't end well for them and even more so for me.

    Also, please pardon me Godheval as I misunderstood the point you were conveying.

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  23. The intent WAS to expose privilege, but no, it's not done well here (no one's arguing that, mind you). Originally, it was based on the screenplay "The Powers that Be" written by a teenager who documented her observations of her rich classmates. Havoc - as it is now - is a rewrite of that screenplay (which makes you wonder if the original was better or worse).

    So yes, the commentary is deliberate, no...it's not well done. However, it incurred the immediate dislike of white viewers in denial and so naturally, that endeared it to me somewhat - keyword, Heval: somewhat.

    Even this whole discussion is more than the movie deserves, in my opinion.

    Can't keep the convo going, and then complain about the length, Heval.

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  24. I watched the movie. And I don't really know what to say.

    I guess they DID want to make a social commentary, but the script was weak and dialogue was unrealistic. I mean, 16 and 17 year old kids don't know they are bored and privileged, they don't know why they are doing what they are doing. So the whole thing seemed fake in a way, which is a shame, because the point/message behind the movie was really strong.

    I do think it showed white privilege, but I also believe it was made in a way of "cautionary story" for whites to watch for their kids and white kids to see how bad it is to idolize the ghetto culture (or whatever you call it)... But the movie assumed non-whites are bad, violent and dangerous.

    Even in the moments when they showed that scared Latino woman with a baby, or at the kids birthday party, you just never get the feeling they understood those people were, well, people living their own lives.

    So I do think POC were horribly portrayed in the film. Still, Hector seemed like the only decent character and better human being than most- but I am not sure if that's how filmmakers planned him to be.

    Anne Hathaway was good, but too old for the role. Freddy Rodriguez was great (those eyes!)

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  25. Mira,

    I pretty much concur. This movie isn't great, but I've found its effect on white audiences amusing.

    My fascination lies in the irony.

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