I saw myself in, Troy. Crooklyn at times was hard to watch because she reminded me so much of myself when I was growing up with a rowdy brother and in a neighborhood full of rowdy boys. She was the outlier and she did a pretty good job of navigating that mostly male space, but still stood out. Growing up I used to wear my hair like hers, in tight braids (with no hair extensions), and this made me look a little more androgynous then I would have liked. It was hard being the small, not yet developed into a woman’s body, girl with short hair in braids. You do not exactly fit into societal standards of beauty– and you’re often told that by your peers (mostly the annoying boys you live with.) Troy compensated for this by being good at sports and quick to combat insults with even wittier comebacks. I know this act and it is a tiring one to perform sometimes.
Prior to this film I used to not like to think about my appearance during the ages of 9-12. It was a rough time for me, in my opinion. But actually watching Crooklyn changed that for me. Watching someone on screen that reminded me so much of myself, and seeing the beauty in a girl like Troy, made me see the beauty in my childhood self. I know this sounds incredibly cheesy and kind of annoying, but it is true. Crooklyn helped me actually become more accepting of my Blackness, and find beauty in myself. Growing up I always wished my hair wasn’t in tight, short braids, or that I had bigger breasts, or I wasn’t so dark. Watching Troy on screen, however, made me realize that there is beauty in being that little Black girl. The one that is pretty but does not fit into the mold of being “pretty” by American television standards (light skinned, long straight-ish hair, physically bigger.) I think it is awesome that Spike Lee chose an actress that is not your typical American TV star, because those girls exist too and they’re magical in their own way.
Troy is the first female character in a Spike Lee film that isn’t one dimensional, or stereotypical. For me Troy offered something different. And as a little girl Troy possessed a quality of rebellion and unapologeticness that many of his older women characters were lacking. I think it is interesting to take a look at how troy impacts the other women/girl characters in Crooklyn. In my opinion the most visibly and notably impacted woman she impacted upon her encounter with them was her cousin Viola. Although troy had to make some changes to her physical (her hair) in order to please her aunt she changed the women around her much more. From the very beginning of the time she stays with her family down south she is herself and doesn’t compromise that. I remember her aunt leaving the two girls in the room after she sends them to bed after prayer and as she shuts the door Troy begins jumping on the bed. This may seem like a minor and typical action to many but it was powerful because she got her cousin Viola to laugh and engage in it, although that typically wasn’t in Viola’s interest and personality for her to do. Viola’s mother was obsessed with making Viola always seem so poised, elegant and mature, that it is as if she was losing out on her childhood, Troy being there with her that summer and being unwittingly herself gave Viola back that. We see that in the scene where the two are riding on a bike through the neighborhood and playing with the neighbors dog on the lawn. Troy reached Viola the art of being a carefree black girl.
I want to talk about how Spike Lee treats women in this film as it has been a persistent topic of conversation in class. First of all, I thought he portrayed them as sexually empowered in their own right without objectifying. Teyonah Parris especially, shone on screen. You don’t often find darker skinned women getting the beauty nod by Hollywood (eh hem Halle Berry, Beyonce, it’s all been said before), but Spike Lee puts her up there and you don’t even think about it. She is beautiful, and strong, and just the right amount of everything. Her character is neither too much, in fact, maybe a little too little. I agree that Chi-raq got more of a triumphant moment at the end, in that we attribute the change a little more to him than we should. She started the movement and it should be her in triumph. However, she was already there, ready for change, and he was not. Just because she triumphed earlier does not lessen the significance of the act. I hope I see her in more roles, she is absolutely amazing.