I recently came across the series American Crime (season three) on DSTV. The onscreen blurb says ‘Created by John Ridley, producer of 12 Years a Slave’. Associating the series with that film implies that American Crime will make a statement about social injustice and provide food for thought. This is indeed the case.
The message in American Crime is simple and clear. It’s about exploitation in modern-day, Western America. Those exploited include immigrants to the USA (both legal and illegal), homeless American teens and housewives. The crimes committed against these groups include cheap labour, physical and emotional abuse, entrapment and sex trafficking. Groups and individuals who try to intervene and help are social workers, specifically Terri LaCroix (Regina King), one of the housewives Barb Hanlon (Felicity Huffman), and finally the ‘justice’ system. But each of these ‘helpers’ is imbued with their own complex, real-life pressures. The series shows them trying to help and then gradually buckling under their own personal difficulties until the ‘help’ becomes tokenism. It is interesting to see that three of the story lines involve people eventually compromising morally on their interventions for the sake of their own children (or unborn children as the case may be). The final scene of the final episode highlights how the overarching problem is the failure of the justice system against all the victims.
So, yes, you don’t have to think deeply while watching American Crime. But it does make you ponder. Examine situations similar. Wonder how people have got into the situations they have. The characters in American Crime are numerous, complex and very well acted. And the situations are difficult and multi-faceted, just as they are in real life. Without moralising American Crime lays out how injustice happens and how we might all contribute in some way or other.
Daniel Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter sums up a response to the television series well when he says: ‘Nobody ever turns off an American Crime episode and says, “Sure, that’s what John Ridley was talking about on the surface, but here’s what I think the episode was REALLY about…” But if Ridley has done his job, and he usually has, you turn off an American Crime episode and say, “What do I think about what just happened? How does what just happened make me feel and what can I do about it?”’ http://bit.ly/2wHkrqL