Queen & Slim

When I get pulled over by the cops, I don’t ever worry about getting shot.  And that’s not because I am polite or non-threatening or have no criminal record.  It’s because of the colour of my skin.  It is a privileged position to occupy and I didn’t earn it, I just have it.

Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and  Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) don’t have that same privilege, because their skin is darker than mine.  When they get pulled over driving home after their first date, the cop is immediately suspicious, belligerent and demanding.  Slim is ordered out of the car, required to pop his trunk, and when he asks the cop to hurry it along, has a gun pulled on him as he is told to get on the ground.  Worse, when Queen jumps out of the passenger side and slowly and louQueenandSlimdly announces she is going to record this confrontation with her cell phone, the cop shoots her.  Slim goes for the gun and in the ensuing struggle, the cop is accidentally killed, instantly turning Queen and Slim into two of America’s most wanted.

Could Queen and Slim have done things differently?  Sure they could have.  There probably was a scenario where their lives and the cop’s life went on as normal.  But this isn’t that story.  Queen & Slim is about the repercussions of the traffic stop gone wrong, and its greatest strength is making the chase relatable to someone who wouldn’t necessarily make better choices but by reason of his skin colour would likely face very different consequences for any mistakes he made (and probably no consequences at all).

Screenwriter Lena Waithe delivers a believable situation and sympathetic characters.  She also does well to detach the public portrayal of Queen and Slim from their actual personas.  They did not ask to be outlaws and they did not choose to become fugitives.  Those were the only choices they were left with after a cop accidentally got shot.  It helps immensely that we get to know Queen and Slim, ever so briefly, before their fateful confrontation with an overly aggressive cop.  We get to see how the chase is framed from the outside while also seeing that there are not two sides to this story, that the lazy media narrative framing these two as cop-killers is more than just wrong, it is dangerous.

Left unsaid, but hanging in the air to digest afterward, is the question of how many more times does this sort of thing have to happen in real life before our society stops arguing over whether there is a problem and starts working together to fix it.   The biggest strength of Queen & Slim is that Waithe doesn’t shy away at all from the underlying social issues but manages, above all else, to be a compelling love story about two people who just wanted a chance at a second date.

12 thoughts on “Queen & Slim

  1. sandomina

    Racism is a big issue, all over the world. People do it knowingly and unknowingly. Schopenhauer’s said: “we deceive ourselves into thinking that our beliefs and actions are subject to our conscience”. Nietzsche concurred suggesting that all the things we believe in at any time, reflect not truth but someone else’s power over us.

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  2. Birgit

    This is an intelligent and thoughtful review of a film I would like to see. I saw the previews for it and saw the one main character give an interview and it does sound very intriguing and makes one think.

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  3. Jay

    It’s a lot easier to slide into crime when society has already presumed that you are a criminal. I did enjoy how disconnected they were from both sides of the national narrative: the cop killers from the news, and the social justice warriors that some members of the community wanted them to be. In reality, they were just 2 scared people who never got a fair shake.

    The scary thing is, if you or I were treated this way, we would react with far more anger and hostility. And that’s privilege. So much of privilege is hard to see or acknowledge because it just feels normal, and a story like this helps us to understand that what is normal in our lived experience is not normal for everyone, and that’s what makes it privilege, that’s what makes it injustice, and that’s what we need to keep trying to find, and to eliminate. A story like this isn’t just to validate a minority community, but to wake the rest of us up.

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  4. Librarylady

    Wow, this looks intense but powerful. I’ll track it down. Thanks for the tip. I have a black friend from Haiti, who has three teen age boys. She has taught them to be humble and submissive if there is ever any encounter with law enforcement, no matter what is happening. Sad to have to do that.

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  5. Pingback: Queen & Slim — ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES | Thriller/Suspense Film and Writing Festival

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