The NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton was based on the lives of the iconic rap group from Compton, California and was directed by longtime associate F. Gary Gray. The screenplay about “the world’s most dangerous group” was written by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff with the story by S. Leigh Savidge & Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff. Despite the fantastic lens work by Gray and the convincing performances by the cast, it was the writing team that received any recognition at all from the film Academy, nominating it for Best Original Screenplay.
Naturally NWA fans and moviegoers who helped push the film–problems and all–to a $200 Million box office cried foul. Again. What would it take for a film taking place in modern times with a predominantly Black cast directed by a Black person to get a Best Picture or Best Director nod? Well, have it focus on the white guy.
In this clever re-edit of footage from “Compton” the narrative is pivoted to center around Paul Giamatti’s portrayal of record producer Jerry Heller. It follows the “White savior” trope that made films like The Blind Side, Amistad, Django: Unchained, The Help and 12 Years A Slave Oscar contenders.
The gritty and abrasive hip-hop soundtrack is replaced with a cheerful, guitar-leading score, as Heller is positioned as a supportive record exec who befriends Eazy-E and “took a chance on 6 troubled youth.” Everything is going fine until “injustice strikes” in the form of the LAPD and Heller saves the group from being harassed on the street, becoming so enraged by the racism that he declares “fuck the police.”
The edit is so convincing because this is exactly what has happened in the past and is still happening. Even when presented with a story immersed in the Black experience it is the one white presence that is acknowledged for their contribution and being the saving grace of the film. SNL took the practice to task in a spot-on sketch inspired by Sylvester Stallone’s sole nomination for Creed. The team at Super Deluxe hit this out of the park. Watch their clip above and our interview with the cast of “Straight Outta Compton” below.