September 14, 2006, - 5:42 am

“Gridiron Gang”: The Rock Plays Race Games @ the Movies

By Debbie Schlussel
If I were Black, I’d be angry at Hollywood.
Not because of the alleged lack of Black roles. But because of trash marketed specifically to the Black community.
Friday, “Gridiron Gang” opens nationwide. But the movie had weeks of heavy marketing targeting Black America. Black radio stations across America held free screenings.
That’s objectionable because “Gridiron Gang” is based on the true story of violent juvenile criminals in a detention facility, who get to play football on the outside. Their recidivism and mortality rate are so high that prison counselor Sean Porter (played by Duane Johnson a/k/a “The Rock”) develops a football team to give inmates self-esteem.
Is there anything peculiar to America’s Blacks that Tinseltown should sell them a movie portraying prison as fun summer camp?

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Well, actually, with a large percentage of adult Black males in prison in America, Blacks should be especially perturbed that “Gridiron Gang” is being directed at them with laser focus.
The movie’s messages should disturb Black parents.
One of those messages is that killers are people, too, and they deserve to date your daughter. A Black father–rare enough in contemporary Black families, mostly headed by single mothers–is ridiculed for protecting his daughter and being a good moral influence in her life. Apparently, father doesn’t always know best.
Because Dad does the responsible thing and keeps his daughter away from her convicted murderer boyfriend housed in the facility, The Rock visits his place of business for a lecture. In the end, father does “the right thing,” and lets his girl reunite with the murderer. Not the lesson parents and kids from any ethnic group in America need.
“Gridiron Gang’s” detention facility for hardened juvenile offenders is fantasy. The kids bunk together, have a swimming pool, and their prison guard is rap star Xzibit. Their packed schedule of gridiron games against local high schools is complete with cheerleaders from a girls’ detention facility. They nearly win the high school championship.
Take it from an attorney who’s represented juvenile offenders. This isn’t reality. Tour Macomb County, Michigan’s juvenile detention facility–dark, cold, and scary. With no outside play, a breath of fresh air from the outside is rare. No football teams, swimming pool, or counselor with movie star looks who gives a damn. It’s rough, tough, and scary. Definitely not fun.
Kids who see this glorious action-packed football film don’t see that. They don’t really see why these kids are in the pen, either.
There’s mention of a character stabbing an old lady for her purse. But the murder in the opening scenes is one of defense. A teen kills his mother’s boyfriend to stop him from beating her. Reality check: most kids are in juvenile detention centers for violent crimes that were simply violent and simply criminal. They weren’t heroes saving their mothers from the clutches of death.
Moviegoers see sympathetic characters who just want to be loved and just need something to live for. That’s the view put on by every defense attorney in America, desperate to get his or her youthful–and not so youthful–offender client acquitted for a heinous act. Rarely true.
The film’s “moral” is that youthful thugs who play football have enough self-esteem to stay clean when they get out. That’s a specious claim based on one detention facility where The Rock’s real-life character works. There’s little data to suggest football–already available in most public high schools in America–prevents anyone from committing crimes. If anything, statistics in several books by attorney Jeff Benedict show just the opposite. Football players in college and the NFL are more likely to be violent felons.
Finally, there is the issue of the protagonist’s race. “Gridiron Gang” plays with that, too. The real-life Sean Porter, who gave incarcerated juveniles the chance to play football, is White. But this movie makes a big deal of portraying him–via The Rock (who is biracial in reality)–as a Black man. Another shameless Hollywood ploy to elicit Black audiences to identify with this story.
“Gridiron Gang” is well executed. It tugs at the heart strings, and, incredibly, evokes feelings for violent criminals who don’t deserve sympathy.
But overall, it is just one thing: irresponsible.

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10 Responses

Similar to Disney’s ‘Remember the Titans.’ As a football movie, very good. As the truth, well…
The movie is based in 1971 Richmond, Va, at newly-integrated TC Williams High School. The local school board demotes the white coach with a winning record (Bill Yoast, played by Bill Patton), bound for the state coaches hall of fame (a fictional award)… and replaces him with Herman Boone, a black coach played by Denzel Washington.
That movie made a big deal of black vs. white, having them “all come together” in camp at Gettysburg, VA. It truly is an inspiring story, but not completely on the level.
The movie depicts the players coming to terms with their race, with the white players eventually giving into their cool ‘blackness’ and singing and dancing to Motown tunes. Of course, the black players never succumb to the attraction of country music (clearly an anti-white statement, but one I can actually relate to).
In reality, the conflict of the players at Boone’s camp was because of two local high schools merging, so the players were fighting for positions and playing time, not because of race.
Apparently, TC Williams actually was integrated about 4 years before, but the Disney story wouldn’t have the juicy race issue for its basis.
You can check out the story of the real 1971 Titans at http://www.71originaltitans.com/

Al Jay Z on September 14, 2006 at 8:01 am

This is so typical of Hollywood and a recurrent theme in movies and television. Minorities are the good guys even when they commit terrible cirmes and the white guys are the bad guys even when they commit minor crimes.
Reality however tells us a different story but who is concerned about truth these days.

tinylady on September 14, 2006 at 8:24 am

Anyone who has worked with gangster kids in any setting will tell you that the main thing wrong with them is that they refuse to work together on anything. I once coached at the Pitchess (sic) juvie joint and all they really wanted to do was fight and smoke dope. We played a few local teams and got really whipped and both games had to be stopped because out guys started cheap shooting. However, surpassing all other things wrong is the fact that kids who are good at sports or who are coordinated and quick don’t end up in juvie; the kids who are inside are (usually) small, violent, and incapable of playing any sport well.

Duke on September 14, 2006 at 2:57 pm

Except for the immoral, self seeking politicians that infest our government and the left-wing media that suport them, I can’t think of anything that has done more to corrupt and destry the moral values of this country than the entertainment industry. Yet, “good people” continue to support this industry and keep it alive by attending their movies and buying their trash. What’s worse, they allow their children to be exposed to the gross immorality of “Hollywood.”

Reprobate on September 14, 2006 at 3:02 pm

I find the whole storyline of black ghetto thugs boring and overplayed. I know there are a lot of poor black men in prison but come on, there are PLENTY who have worked hard and do well. I guess though that having a movie about a black person going to college, finding a good job, getting married and having children just isn’t what Hollywood wants you to see.
No they would rather push that ghetto thug crap to death in movies and rap music. If Hollywood is SO concerned about black people, why don’t they come up with better role models? Rap stars are not it. Gang violence and drug dealers are not positive role models.
However, until people stop watching this crap, they will keep making it. Luckily there is a small movement emerging from black women against rap music for it’s negative and downright degrading of women in the music videos. I hope it gains traction and the black community demands better portrayals of them in music and movies.
If you have noticed, now all you see are thugs and oppressed black people in the media. As opposed to the 80′s where you had The Bill Cosby Show. Whether you liked it or not, it was a clean show, where all of the characters were successful, hard workers, they spoke proper english and had a cohesive family. Now it’s all about bitches and ho’s and my baby’s Daddy. Definately not an improvement.

Minnie Mouse on September 14, 2006 at 7:03 pm

Having grown up in an era when “self-control”,”self-confidence” and “self-respect” were-I thought-common sense buzz words,when they began to be replaced by “self-esteem”,I immediately suspected a plot by Hoprah,Jesse Jackson,Dr. Phil,Phil Donahue…Alan Alda…an’ like dat.I haven’t seen this latest classic-but common sense-and a lot of current reliable research(as opposed to “studies show…second hand smoke…) both point to an obvious link between
high self esteem(alone) and criminal behavior,as in “I be very impo’tent”.

jaywilton on September 14, 2006 at 7:20 pm

Minnie Mouse,
you are right on target. I’ve applauded Dr. Cosby for his tenacity and refusal to cave to the stereotypes promoted by, and about, his race.
But his enemies within his own race want to play the ‘woe is me’ race card, forever whining and refusing to take responsibility for their actions.
Blacks need more leaders like Cosby in their midst, rather than whiners like louis farakan and jesse jackson.

Al Jay Z on September 14, 2006 at 7:46 pm

Remember, People, Hollywood likes bad boys and criminals. Remember Bad Santa? He has one good moment in an otherwise evil existence. And we’re supposed to like him. Remember Eisheid? Joe Don Baker was the protagonist. His character was a corrupt cop. Thank G-d, the show failed for those of you old enough to remember. Remember Mumia? the cop killer that was a cause celeb a few years ago? Just another criminal with some agenda. I think they said that he was a radio personality in Philadelphia or something.
I may have made some errors in recalling detail, but that the entertainment media loves criminals is obvious.
Anyone out there want to add to my list? Perhaps even you, Debbie?

Loser on September 14, 2006 at 11:25 pm

I have been involved with juvenile corrections for 28 years as a parole officer. I’ve seen many potentially great athletes come through our system. The problem is that very few of them have the self discipline to practice every day or accept coaching. Self esteem is not their problem. If anything they have super self esteem. They think that they are better than anyone and above accepted rules and norms. Maurice Clarett is a good example. It is only wimpy liberals, hollywood film producers and metro-sexuals who belive we must “improve their self esteem.”

steelydan on September 20, 2006 at 1:57 pm

I just saw this movie for the 1st time this evening ! Ive also seen remember the titans ! Both of these movies are great ! After reading Debbies comments and posts on here I just had to sign up and put my 2 cents in ! Why is it that people just cant see the good in something instead of going off on hollywood or politicians or criminals or this race or that race or blah blah blah ! My god its just a movie meant to inspire and give hope ! Yeah it tears at your heart strings because its meant to ! Who cares about the rest ! If 1 criminal or racist sees these movies and has a change of heart towards fellow man then the movie has done its job ! Yeah hollywood targets certain races and minorities because their in the business to make money ! What is everybodies problem with all this ? Its like those 2nd hand smoke commercials ! They tell everybody that 2nd hand smoke kills ! BS ! My mom is 83 and been around smokers all her life ! Propaganda folks ! I was in a boys home myself and I turned out just fine ! Get over yourselfs and try just enjoying the movie for what it is ! Somebody tries to help the less fortunate and everybody loses their minds !

stanley7td on February 23, 2009 at 11:43 pm

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