Mark Tapson is the Shillman Fellow on Popular Culture for the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
If, like most of America, you don’t care about Hollywood’s Academy Awards anymore and you missed its recent all-time lowest-rated broadcast, then you likely haven’t heard about an ugly bit of Black Lives Matter agitprop that scored an Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film.
The woke propagandists at Netflix, the streaming service that made multi-million dollar deals with the Obamas and with former British royals Meghan and Harry to create social justice content, produced the half-hour film titled Two Distant Strangers. It was written and directed by Travon Free, whose credits as a writer include leftist political comedy for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and The Daily Show. It centers on a young, black graphic novelist named Carter who is trapped in a time loop somehow and, Groundhog Day-style, is forced to re-live deadly encounters with a police officer named Merk.
The officer – white, of course – is a caricature of racist evil (“merk” is slang for committing violence, usually killing). Carter, by contrast, is polite, affluent, and intellectual. Over and over in a sort of living nightmare, he experiences being rousted by the cop on the street for no reason, in confrontations that always end with the unarmed Carter being killed – first suffocated to death in a chokehold while complaining “I can’t breathe” (sound familiar?), then shot to death by the trigger-happy Merk in subsequent run-ins.
Carter finally realizes both he and Merk are caught in some kind of endless cycle of lethal police brutality. When they manage to postpone the inevitable long enough to discuss their situation, Carter asks why Merk became a cop. “I guess I got sick of being bullied,” he confesses, and Carter counters, “So you became one.” This is a disgusting smear of hundreds of thousands of law enforcement personnel in this nation who choose to put their lives on the line every day to serve and protect strangers.
But it gets worse. Carter goes on to lecture Merk about black victimhood: “You guys over-police our neighborhoods, over-punish us, lock us up for life, for some shit that white boys joke about in their memoirs. And then we’re stuck in a cycle we can’t even break.” Everyone’s responsible for their own choices, Merk retorts, including criminals. Carter shoots back: “What choice do they have when white people are born on third base and niggas outside the stadium?”
What outrageous, racist claptrap. In Travon Free’s race-mongering worldview, blacks are all given a raw deal at birth and whites are all given a backstage pass. In this patently false narrative, there is no thriving black middle class or wealthy blacks rewarded for talent and hard work, just as there are no poor, unsuccessful whites. There are no affirmative action boosts, welfare checks, or go-to-the-head-of-the-line perks for any “person of color.” There is only white privilege, black oppression, and unjust mass incarceration.
“If we’re being really real here,” Carter continues, “the system rewards you with the best possible prize for the only thing you had nothin’ to do with – bein’ white.” Actually, if we’re being really real, the only systemic racism is affirmative action, which rewards blacks for the only thing they had nothing to do with – being black. But there’s no room for the truth in this short film; only lynch-a-cop propaganda.
Just as the two characters seem to be heading toward a sort of grudging racial rapprochement, Merk reveals that their honest conversation about race was all just part of this game, and he has no intention of letting Carter go after all. Merk murders him (again) with a cold-blooded smile and says, “See you tomorrow, kid.” Carter lies dead in a pool of his own blood (shaped like the African continent, no less, because no symbolism is too ham-handed for this clunky allegory). He wakes up yet again and tells his girlfriend he understands now that no matter what he does or says, this white cop “just wants to kill me.” The reality? Even the extreme leftist attorney general of Minnesota who prosecuted the Derek Chauvin case admitted to 60 Minutes that they were unable to find any “racial element” in the circumstances that led to the death of George Floyd.
End of spoilers
The film’s sledgehammer messaging is straight out of Critical Race Theory – or more accurately, Crackpot Racist Theory, packed with all the anti-white, anti-cop lies that drive the national lynch mob’s campaign of hate against officers of the law and the country whose citizens they serve: that America is “white supremacist”; that even black criminals are innocent victims and helpless pawns of an irredeemably racist system; that the police are its murderous storm troopers; and that only burning everything to the ground in the cleansing fire of “mostly peaceful” protests can bring about justice.
A scroll in the closing credits of the film lists the names of dozens of blacks killed in police-involved incidents in recent years, including well-known ones like Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and George Floyd. “Say their names,” the scroll concludes. Added to some of those names are brief descriptions of what they were doing prior to their deaths – all of which have been so stripped of relevant detail that they are laughable to anyone familiar with the facts: George Floyd was “killed going to the grocery store”; Tamir Rice was “playing in a park”; Breonna Taylor, whose boyfriend shot and wounded a police officer entering her home with a warrant, was “killed in her sleep.” No, she was killed in a hallway with her boyfriend in the dark and the officers were defending themselves.
In Tamar Rice’s tragic case, Cleveland officers responded to a call in 2014 about a young black male aiming a gun at people in a park. The cops were unaware the male was a 12-year-old. When they arrived, they confronted a 5’7”, 195-lb. suspect who did not respond to shouts to show his hands. One officer shot when Rice drew the gun from his waistband; it was an Airsoft replica of a Colt M1911 semi-automatic pistol, indistinguishable from the real thing, even lacking the orange tip which would mark it as a toy. The Two Distant Strangers filmmakers would have you believe the cops simply murdered Tamir Rice while he played on a swingset.
Prior to the film’s Oscar win, a critic at RogerEbert.com had written that he liked the concept but complained that its “noble efforts can be phony and cartoonish when it comes to every interaction between Carter and the police officer” [emphasis added]. A critic at ReadySteadyCut gave the short only 1.5 stars out of 5, perversely praising the filmmakers’ “good intentions” but stating that the film “lacks empathy and depth, leaning on shock and aesthetic.” In other words, even critics who support its phony social justice messaging were unmoved by it as a story – because it’s not a story. It’s just a glossy vehicle for spreading hate about cops, white people, and a country whose black population has more rights, more privilege, more wealth, and more opportunity than any black population in the world, including all of black Africa and the black West Indies.
Two Distant Strangers is Black Lives Matter hatred toward America’s brave police forces who protect poor inner-city minorities that don’t have private security forces like the racists who made this film. That is the only reason Academy voters found it Oscar-worthy.
Who cares?” you might ask. “Nobody watches short films.” Not in theaters, perhaps. But Netflix has Two Distant Strangers prominently featured in its “New on Netflix” section, where it is readily available for nearly 208 million subscribers. An Oscar statuette gives these filmmakers, especially writer/director Free, enormous clout for other Hollywood social justice projects, and legitimizes the film’s grotesque lies about the freest, least racist country in history.
Netflix and Travon Free want Americans to believe their country is a racial killing field in which innocent “black and brown bodies,” as the left likes to put it, are wantonly killed by law enforcement in genocidal numbers. They don’t want you to know that there are over 500,000 crimes of interracial violence every year between whites and blacks, 90% of which are committed by blacks against whites, not by white supremacist cops against blacks.
They don’t want you to know any facts about race and police violence, because the truth undermines the narrative the left depends on. The Freedom Center’s Discover the Networks website notes, for example:
A 2019 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that white officers are no more likely than black or Hispanic officers to shoot black civilians. “In fact,” writes Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald, the study found that “if there is a bias in police shootings after crime rates are taken into account, it is against white civilians.”
Each and every year, without exception, whites who are shot and killed by police officers in the U.S. far outnumber blacks and Hispanics who meet that same fate…
When we compare black rates of violent crime, with the rate at which blacks are shot and killed by police officers, we find that blacks are represented among those shooting victims at rates significantly lower than we would normally expect. For example, in 2017, blacks were just 23.6% of all people shot dead by police, even though they were arrested for 37.5% of all violent crimes.
In fact, in the real world, as opposed to the lies Travon Free and Netflix are selling, the threat of violence against cops dwarfs that of violence from cops:
According to Heather Mac Donald: “The per capita rate of officers being feloniously killed is 45 times higher than the rate at which unarmed black males are killed by cops. And an officer’s chance of getting killed by a black assailant is 18.5 times higher than the chance of an unarmed black getting killed by a cop.”
The facts demolish the left’s cop-hating, black victimhood narrative. Unfortunately, when it comes to shaping the cultural narrative, the left knows that facts are less compelling than Hollywood’s emotional manipulation and politically-inspired hate against their own country and its defenders.
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