Malcolm X: Controversy Around Assassination and Lee’s Portrayal

What was the true role of the FBI in Malcolm X’s assassination? And how did Lee portray his murder in the biographical film of Malcolm X?

When Lee’s film Malcolm X was first released there was some controversial reviews on his portrayal of Malcolm X’s assassination. People were upset that they believed Lee to portray the NOI as solely responsible for the assassination, believing that the few radical muslims that murdered X were not representative of the NOI. As well, this portrayal sends a message of black-on-black violence that is destructive imagery. Lee responds to these criticisms in the following article, addressing his understanding of the assassination and the role of the parties involved.

Spike Lee Defends ‘Malcolm X’ 

Continue reading “Malcolm X: Controversy Around Assassination and Lee’s Portrayal”

Final: Critiques of Lee’s Malcolm X

I thought Malcolm X was fantastic. While researching the joint’s critical reception, I was pleased to discover that many critics had similar reactions. Even those with serious qualms with the film generally seemed pretty damned pleased that a major Hollywood studio was producing and financing a movie commemorating the life of Malcolm X. One reviewer wrote, “That this man is the subject of the first big budget Hollywood movie on the life of a black historical figure is, in and of itself, nothing short of a coup” (Yousman 2014).

Continue reading “Final: Critiques of Lee’s Malcolm X”

Black Lives Matter & Brotherhood

In one of our previous class discussions, we talked about the representation of an “individual’s story” and “stories of individuals”. Malcolm X’s story was an individual’s story, while Get On the Bus is a conglomerate of stories of individuals. In elevating one person’s story to represent the story of a people, I understand the significance of Malcolm X; but what I appreciate more about Lee’s Get On the Bus is that he showcases lives that doesn’t seem to matter in a larger context to be just as important– black lives matter.  Continue reading “Black Lives Matter & Brotherhood”

About Time for Prison Reform?

After watching Malcolm X this most recent time, I found myself most interested in the positive transformation of Malcolm X. We see Mr. X go from a child who was forced to endure the experience of watching his family become decimated by both racism and the state. Then we view his time as a young man enticed to join a criminal crew, before becoming a petty burglar, which then leads to his incarceration.

During his incarceration, Mr. X is lucky enough to meet Baines, a man acting with full devotion towards spreading the Nation of Islam and the teachings of Elijah Muhammad to all the prisoners truly willing to listen and learn. Mr. X, hesitant at first, eventually seizes this opportunity and transforms himself into one of the greatest thinkers, who utilizes his newfound mental and oratory prowess to join the fight for fixing the race problem in America. A problem that affected him from his birth.

For me, the most notable aspect of his transformation, was that it was catalyzed by his time in prison. Prison, at the time in the film and even true today, is not seen as a rehabilitative institution; its purpose has been to carry out punitive measures. But if Mr. X could transform from petty gangster to the ultimate charismatic intellectual, what about the other prisoners?

Mr. X found his opportunity for growth through Baines. Many prisons in America have side programs that provide a certain level of education, depending on the type of prison and location. But what if we reoriented the absolute purpose of prisons? What if we turned the institution into one that not only takes in criminally guilty people, but is also meant specifically to provide those people with the opportunity to better themselves? There are many prisoners who do not have a Baines, and as a result, they do not have an opportunity to transform the way Malcolm X did.

Malcolm X

I first watched this movie when I was in 7th grade. Not in school, not in a predominately white district in a small town in North Carolina. I saw it at home with my parents. I had known nothing about Malcolm X previous to viewing. My grandparents had a picture of him doing his famous thinking pose next to MLK Jr., who looked calmly ahead, on their wall. I didn’t even know that that was Malcolm X. But I was intrigued by the picture – he looked so intelligent. When I thought about Malcolm X, vague terms came to mind. “Radical”, “black panther”, and “violent” to name a few. That is what I got from school. MLK Jr. was lauded and Malcolm X was ignored, or spoken about in those terms. I watched Malcolm X for the first time, and also for the first time, felt rage over something not related to me. I considered it a gross injustice that he had been painted so poorly in my head; that I had been lied to, or at least mislead; and that he had been assassinated for daring to speak poorly of other people, when he was right. That is not the America I had known. And for the first time I was forced to think about free speech. I was forced to think, heavily, about being black. Following the viewing, I did research of my own. I learned about Fred Hampton, and COINTELPRO. This movie is the first time I critically thought about race issues. And for that reason, other than that it is an amazing movie in its own right, Malcolm X is my favorite Spike Lee movie. And I agree with him completely. Everyone should be forced to watch it.