The thing about being Black is that you’re dealt with a great deal of adversity without even welcoming it in the first place. It’s like an unfortunate birthright to be placed with the burden of having to build up survival skills in order to operate a decent life. Though times change, the struggle stays the same, and what’s more unfortunate is that the parents take their pain and struggle and place it in the hands & heads of their offspring to carry the load because of the pressures mounted – it doesn’t have to be harder than it is, but because of oppressive conditioning, it has been so. Being a Black man, and having a Black father, Fences is a movie that speaks volumes about my personal relationship (or lack of) with him, and most of that came from the pains of his past trying to impose on my present to ensure that I had a future that he would rather have seen grow into. That wasn’t the case, and because dialogue between father & son is more like a dictatorship than respected parental authority, a bond that is supposed to be strengthened can be broken, and that affects more than just the children, depending on what kind of man it is.
Enter Denzel Washington’s character in this movie (based on a play of the same name by August Wilson), he’s the parent in life that is hard-headed, selfish, stubborn, but did what he could to provide for his family to ensure that food was on the table and a roof was over their head. In the North America we live in today, the times have changed in such a way where that dictatorship doesn’t have to fly. Yes, it’s still imperative to have respect for a: parent, spouse, sibling, or whatever relationship you have with other people, but the tolerance for disrespect within those relationships has gone down where people are not expected to lock it down and put up with the mess simply because they have to. In the 50s, it wasn’t that easy, which is why a lot of narratives within the movie were understandable in that time, although I still wouldn’t condone the actions (nobody’s perfect). Troy Maxson represents someone’s father, grandfather, uncle, or father figure that hovered over them like a shadow and tried to influence their lives in such a way where they where literally trying to control everyone that revolved around them. He talked down to his child, he neglected another, he boasted, bitched, and complained about all things that were in relation to him and it was never about anyone else. He was a character that you weren’t supposed to like and he did just that in bringing up those bad memories that are embedded in my brain to remind myself of the one parent I chose & dedicated my life to not be like.
Viola Davis served as the strength that so many women back in the day had to be because they didn’t see much of themselves outside of what they had in front of them. She bore the children, she tended to the needs of her husband, and that came with the good and bad. But she was there; she was the backbone, and he was ungrateful. He professed love, but lacked respect. With no respect, how do you form a union? How do you share the idea that two people come together as one to live in “holy matrimony” if one is not willing to hold up their end of the vow? It’s fascinating, and yet a sad reality that a lot of women still face, but don’t have to put up with.
And then there’s Cory. The child. The apple of Troy Maxson’s eye. Black people love hard. They won’t necessarily say it often, but they’ll display actions more than words to validate that love. It may come out of an act that could come across as resistance that you try to defy, but it’s typically in your best interests. Parents do what they can to protect their children and want to put them on a path to life that’ll see them not only be successful, but useful. The problem is that parents don’t have all the answers. They’re teachers, listeners, discipliners and providers – they’re not psychics, and that’s never going to be their jobs. The job as an individual is to make a life for themself that they see fit to do. It’s trial and error, but at the end of it all, it’s their trials and their errors that they have to make. Parents who try to get in the way and set their kids on a course that takes away from their life experiences do nothing but build tension that could last a lifetime. Sometimes it works out, but there’s no fun in playing the gambling game of life. Cory represents me, my friends, and heck even my parents at one point were Cory and the tolerance for the old school trying to beat (physically & emotionally) their teachings led to only passing that along until they found themselves saying “No!”
This is a powerful movie, and I hope many people (specifically Black people) watch it because of the narratives that it explores where it doesn’t cost anything to be a decent human being in life, and that the pains we experienced today don’t have to be the pains of the offspring we may bring into this world behind us. This is my opinion, this is my review,
That’s My Word & It STiXX