How “Shots Fired” Kept The Fight For Social Justice Alive

When Fox first announced the limited-run series Shots Fired, Barack Obama was president, Loretta Lynch was in charge of the Department of Justice, and the tragic deaths of black people in the US, like Alton Sterling and Terence Crutcher, at the hands of cops put police and prison reform at the forefront of national conversation. Fast-forward seven months, one Trump inauguration, and 10 episodes later, when Shots Fired, which explored the relationship between law enforcement and civilians, came to a striking conclusion in a very different environment. From March through May, it seemed like the longest and most nuanced discussion about discrimination against black people was happening on the series.

While there are subjects Shots Fired only touched on, like Twitter’s role in social justice, husband-and-wife producing team Gina Prince-Bythewood and Reggie Rock Bythewood captured many subtleties in their exploration of community organization. In its story of two DOJ employees investigating the shootings of two unarmed teenagers (one white, one black), Shots Fired addressed both the way the black community tends to feel — no matter how they organize, it’ll be an issue for conservative America — and how criticisms of black people protesting often steer close to respectability politics.

Throughout its run, Shots Fired showed step by step how tension within the fictional Gate Station, North Carolina, bubbled up until riots erupted in the “The Fire This Time” episode, directed by the late Jonathan Demme. Rock Bythewood told BuzzFeed News the riot was a moment earned after the first half of the series provided “insight into the frustration that a community can feel leading to that.” He added that he and Prince-Bythewood were “inspired by the Dr. King quote, ‘A riot is a language of the unheard,’” a concept they embraced throughout the series.

Another moment that toed the line of those respectability politics was when Shameeka Campbell (DeWanda Wise), the mother of one of the slain teenagers the show focused on, scolded her fellow protesters for suggesting another riot after a court decision did not go in her favor. The moment didn’t suggest Shameeka was diminishing the crowd’s anger, but rather focused on her awakening as an activist, Rock Bythewood noted. To create the character of Shameeka, the couple visited and had conversations with Wanda Johnson, the mother of Oscar Grant III, who was killed by police on a BART Station platform after a cop mistakenly grabbed his gun instead of his taser. Shameeka represented all the mothers of slain unarmed black civilians who were “thrust into the limelight and had to transition from being mothers to activists,” Rock Bythewood said.

The Bythewoods also took inspiration from a real-life case in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the sheriff’s department had a program through which wealthy donors were given police-issued guns and tasers, and the chance to police black neighborhoods, until one of the participants, referred to as “reserve deputies,” killed an unarmed man — and the sheriff’s department staged a massive coverup. Rock Bythewood said that while the investigation brought the sheriff down, “clearly there were a lot of people within the police department that knew about it and covered it up.”

One of the biggest rewards for Rock Bythewood in making Shots Fired was the way it resonated with people in that Tulsa community. “There’s a former DOJ official who is working to use Shots Fired as learning tool for police officers, and we love that,” Rock Bythewood said. “It’s something that we never saw coming, but that would be very gratifying.”

Prince-Bythewood said she and Rock Bythewood were not interested in creating a television series; it wasn’t even on their radar. But with the recent popularity of limited series like Top of the Lake and True Detective, the Bythewoods realized TV would give them the space to tell the stories they had been developing in a more fruitful way. “The fact that we had this opportunity to tell a story like this about the subject matter the way we wanted to tell it. … It’s just been a really incredible experience,” Prince-Bythewood said. Rock Bythewood used to think that there were things film could do that television just couldn’t. “But in this limited series, it’s actually flipped,” he said. “What we’re able to do in this limited series is something we couldn’t do in film.” The plan was to look at Shots Fired as “as a 10-hour film, a 10-hour series,” Prince-Bythewood said. “That dictated the way we wrote it and the way we cast it, the directors that we brought in.”

The Bythewoods needed the extra hours to dissect the complicated issues Shots Fired ultimately tackles. By the finale — which aired on May 24 and cut between the court decisions for the indictments of the teen boys’ killers and flashbacks of what actually happened those nights — they had successfully “dug deep into all the characters and gave them all great arcs, gave every character a beginning, middle, and end,” Rock Bythewood said.

Even though Shots Fired is over, Rock Bythewood said the bigger fight is not. The Department of Justice under Lynch, he said, knew to “not just speak with officers, but to speak with members of the community, speak with activists that are really concerned with policing in communities of color,” and to start “looking at various police departments and their patterns of practice.” But, Rock Bythewood added, “it is very important for people to be mindful of the fact that Jeff Sessions is pulling back on that.”

Why Director Patty Jenkins Left Marvel’s “Thor 2”

Just months after Marvel confirmed the news, however, Jenkins departed the project, citing “creative differences,” with no further explanation.

Many unnamed sources speculated about the reason behind Jenkins’ exit, and until now, the filmmaker had never revealed what she had envisioned for the Thor sequel, which Alan Taylor ultimately took over.

“I pitched them that I wanted to do Romeo and Juliet. I wanted Jane to be stuck on Earth and Thor to be stuck where he is. And Thor to be forbidden to come and save Jane because Earth doesn’t matter. And then by coming to save her … they end up discovering that Malekith is hiding the dark energy inside of Earth because he knows that Odin doesn’t care about Earth, and so he’s using Odin’s disinterest in Earth to trick him,” she said.

“And so it was like, I wanted it to be a grand [movie] based on Romeo and Juliet … a war between the gods and the earthlings, and Thor saves the day and ends up saving Earth.”

BuzzFeed News has reached out to Marvel for comment.

Brad Pitt Has Strong Feelings About Sending More Troops Into America's Longest War

Brad Pitt is a military man in his new movie War Machine. The actor, who also produced the new Netflix film, plays Gen. Glenn McMahon, a headstrong leader with a lot of bravado and a bevy of die-hard loyalists. The character — who is based on the real-life Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal — is called into the war in Afghanistan, which by then had been raging for eight years. Tasked to “assess” the ongoing conflict, McMahon soon promises to do what no one else could do in that country: win the war.

The movie, set in 2009, plays out after the White House gives Gen. McMahon more than 30,000 US and NATO troops, a number he claims can end the war. Skepticism abounds, and the surge only ends up serving to highlight the hubris fueling the war.

War Machine is proving to be prescient.

Post-surge in real life, Taliban emerged stronger, ISIS moved into Afghanistan, and the Afghan troops have struggled to secure their country. Now, the US is again considering sending more troops to Afghanistan. This time, the US military has concluded that roughly 5,000 more troops can end what the current top commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. John Nicholson, called a “stalemate.” The Trump administration is expected to formally announce its strategy shortly after today’s NATO meeting in Brussels.

War Machine, which is out in select theaters and on Netflix tomorrow (May 26), is based on “The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan” by journalist Michael Hastings, whose 2010 story in Rolling Stone led to McChrystal’s resignation.

Earlier this month, BuzzFeed News presented a screening of War Machine and a moderated Q&A with Pitt, national security journalist and Hastings’ widow Elise Jordan, and with other War Machine filmmakers. NYU undergrads studying media to politics were invited to observe the discussion about the movie and what it portends for the way ahead in America’s longest war.

In the clip above, Pitt and Jordan talk about why the surge didn’t work then – and what War Machine says about repeating that strategy again.

“I Love Dick” Is A Hillary Clinton Kind Of Series In A Donald Trump World

Amazon Prime Video

Kathryn Hahn in I Love Dick.

Jill Soloway’s I Love Dick feels like something beamed in from an alternate reality in which Hillary Clinton is president.

Which is probably a reflection of when it was made — the rollout of the series straddled the 2016 presidential election like a pair of proudly unshaven legs. The pilot premiered on Amazon, already home to Soloway’s acclaimed Transparent, in August of last year, and it was ordered to series in September, when the potential for the country to be getting its first female president seemed very real. But by the time the first season was unleashed online earlier this May, Donald Trump had been in the White House for months, and the mood has become very different.

I Love Dick, which creators Soloway and Sarah Gubbins adapted from Chris Kraus’s experimental novel of the same name, is a series out of time — a heady, horny comedy about gender and authorship arriving at a time in which people seem more inclined to relate to the dystopian oppressions of The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s a celebration of “weird girls,” to borrow the phrase from an episode title, who’ve grown into unquestionably ascendant adults.

Amazon Prime Video

Sylvere (Griffin Dunne) and Toby (India Menuez).

“We are not far from your doorstep,” the ambitious Toby (India Menuez) — who received a Guggenheim for her work “look[ing] at hardcore porn without judgment, so I reduce it to its shapes” — cautions the title character (Kevin Bacon). Dick is a rugged area art star, a renowned sculptor of minimalist works that Toby sums up as “everything anyone has ever wanted from a late-20th-century alpha-male artist and scholar.” She doesn’t need to point out how many years removed we now are from the 20th century.

The whole series, which is fueled by the all-consuming crush that married filmmaker-in-crisis Chris (Kathryn Hahn) develops on Dick and starts chronicling in a series of letters, is built on the certainty of the gradual toppling of patriarchy. That’s something that not only comes across as unhappily premature in the shadow of Trump and Mike Pence, it also plays as downright wistful. Which is why, maybe, I Love Dick ends up being comforting even though it aims to be challenging.

The episodes, almost all of them directed by women (among them Andrea Arnold and Soloway herself), spike clips of video art into scenes and splash intertitles from Chris’s letters on screen. The best installment is a nonlinear one in which four of the female characters take the viewer on a tour of their formative experiences with desire while staring down the camera. But all of that formal and thematic boundary-busting takes place under the unspoken assumption that a degree of space and safety have been secured for its characters to hash out the intricacies of their feelings about being the subject of art versus being its creator, about what constitutes good and important art, and about who gets to play gatekeeper in that.

Amazon Prime Video

Devon (Roberta Colindrez) leads a rehearsal.

At a moment when subjects like masculinity, femininity, and authority all but demand a hard edge and shriek of urgency, I Love Dick is forthright but ultimately gentle in the way it takes them on — like it can afford to be, like a major milestone has been passed, like forward progress, however slow and imperfect, is an inevitability. It is the strangest sort of escapist television.

That’s true of the way it treats the art world it inhabits, too, one that’s allowed to be silly but that is taken very seriously. Its artists can be pretentious, self-important, flaky, and awful, but there’s never any question of whether art itself has value and relevance. Art can change the world in I Love Dick, even if that world is restricted to the bubble of Marfa, Texas, a bohemian oasis with complicated class dynamics. Or, in the words of Sylvere (Griffin Dunne), Chris’s writer husband whose research fellowship at the local art center is the reason they’re in town, a place “both dumpy and hip.”

It’s a place that, at the series’ start, is in the thrall of Dick, the professor-prince who quickly becomes the focus of Chris’s all-consuming obsession. But it doesn’t stay that way, thanks in part to how Chris, who’s “straddling 40ish” and questioning her career and romantic choices, ends up unleashing her debilitating-crush-as-midlife-crisis on the community and unsettling its power structures.

Jessica Brooks/Amazon Prime Video

Hahn as Chris.

By the season’s end, men are joyfully submitting themselves to being the stuff of genderqueer artist’s Devon (Roberta Colindrez) work, in front of a cheering, hooting female crowd, while gallery curator Paula (Lily Mojekwu), finally free to choose the art she wants, ecstatically takes down paintings and slaps aspirational Post-its in their place that read “Kara Walker” and “Laura Aguilar.” I Love Dick is generous with its male characters in the way that feels directly related to its conviction that the supremacy they have — apologetically, obliviously, or gladly — enjoyed is slipping from their hands. It takes place in the twilight of machismo.

Or maybe it’s better put as the liberation of machismo, since we see it wielded just as comfortably by Devon, who admired Dick’s cowboy swagger, then borrowed and adapted and embraced it. Chris appropriates and lays claim to something traditionally male, too: the idea of a muse. “There are 500 times as many female nudes in art history textbooks as there are female artists,” Toby observes at one point. Chris seems intent on making up ground and turning that ratio around. She utilizes Dick — that Marlboro Man of MFAs, with a penis for a name, with his sculpture that’s a literal brick (“I love a straight line,” he says, “a straight line is perfection”) — as not only an object of desire but also a source of inspiration. He fuels the outpouring of love letters, profane and profound in their rawness, that she ends up posting around town.

Amazon Prime Video

I Love Dick

Chris’s lust is not just symbolic — it’s very genuine, and I Love Dick has gotten attention for the way it translates that giddy lechery in its gaze, the ways its lens glides along the planes of Bacon’s face and body like it has nerves and they’re all lit up, for its incredible fantasy of Bacon sensually shearing a lamb. But Chris’s lust can’t be separated out from the feverish creative spell with which she’s gripped — the writing she’s doing is both addressed to Dick (“Dear Dick: Game on”) and not about him at all. Her desire and how it makes her feel is an end unto itself — “I don’t care how you see me. I don’t care if you want me. It’s better that you don’t. It’s enough that I want you,” she writes.

He’s distressed and undone to find himself placed so unwittingly in her spotlight. “She has violated my privacy!” he yelps at one point, a strange sort of protest, since Chris knows nothing at all about him, and since her work is all about how she feels and what she knows she’s projecting on him. Though Dick, grudging, agrees the writing’s good, he adds, “So what? It’s still fucked up.”

Maybe it is, and maybe what’s most disturbing to Dick is how little agency in or ownership he has over this art that invokes him while belonging to someone else — the muse’s lament. But Chris writes because she’s driven to create, not because she wanted to humiliate him, despite their first encounters. It’s the moment Dick first looked at her, rather than the other way around, in which her life went off the rails, when everything temporarily went quiet in the embrace of his ever-so-valued attention.

Then at dinner, later, Dick dismissed Chris’s work without ever having seen it. Not just her work, but that of her entire gender. “I think it’s really pretty rare for a woman to make a good film because they have to work from behind their oppression, which makes for some bummer movies,” he drawls, daring her to get angry, leaving her spitting names (Jane Campion! Chantal Akerman!) in her own flustered defense, trying not to let him see how badly he’s skewered her current insecurities.

Patrick Wymore/Amazon Prime Video

Dick (Bacon), Sylvere (Dunne), and Chris (Hahn) at dinner.

From then on, Chris is consumed, wanting to fuck and to fight Dick, to gain his approval and to devour him whole. But in the end, she gets the best revenge by not thinking about revenge at all. Instead, she makes something real and good and marked by a whole other sort of authenticity than the kind Dick signals with his hand-rolled cigarettes and his refusal to explain his art. When looked at from the heart of 2017, that may be the show’s most plaintive aspiration of them all, the part that’s most out of sync with the sometimes merited and sometimes pandering go-girl defiance that has marked other recent series with overtly feminist bents, your Jessica Joneses and Girlbosses.

Chris’s desire to prove herself to Dick shifts to the understanding that, actually, she doesn’t need to, that she doesn’t require his validation or a spot in his prestigious, sparsely attended gallery — that rather than battling him to be seen, she pins her letters to public walls. She makes a sort of peace with Dick, allowing him to emerge from object to flesh-and-blood person who’s acutely aware that his moment is over — in some ways, it’s her biggest power move of all. But it’s a microcosmic shift dependent on the idea that the larger world has changed, which is why I Love Dick‘s freaky, free-dancing looseness has ended up unintentionally shot through with sadness. The world can change, but as everyone’s been reminded, it’s also capable of changing back.

The New “Spider-Man: Homecoming” Poster Has Some Pretty Intense Graphic Design

All right, now we finally have shots of Tom Holland, our newest Spider-man. Holland looks like he’s about to kick ass, take names, and do it all before he has to be home for dinner. Then we have a whole angel and demon vibe going on to Holland’s left and right.

On the left we have a giant, full costumed Spider-Man and on the right is Robert Downey Jr. aka Iron Man. Not gonna lie, RDJ totally looks like Holland’s disapproving father, and it’s pretty great.

Your Starbucks Order Will Reveal What You Should Watch On Netflix In June

Here’s everything coming to Netflix in June:

June 1

1 Night (2016)

13 Going on 30 (2004)

Arrow, Season 5 (2016)

Burlesque (2017)

Catfight (2016)

Catwoman (2004)

Chingo Bling: They Can’t Deport Us All

Days of Grace (2011)

Devil’s Bride (2016)

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Intersection, Season 2 (2016)

Kardashian: The Man Who Saved OJ Simpson (2016)

Little Boxes (2016)

Mutant Busters, Season 2 (2016)

My Left Foot (1989)

Off Camera with Sam Jones, Series 3 (2015)

Playing It Cool (2014)

Rounders (1998)

Spring (Primavera) (2016)

The 100, Season 4 (2016)

The Ant Bully (2006)

The Bucket List (2007)

The Queen (2006)

The Sixth Sense (1999)

Vice (2015)

West Coast Customs, Season 3 (2013)

Yarn (2016)

Young Frankenstein (1974)

Zodiac (2007)

June 2

Comedy Bang! Bang!, Season 5, Part 2 (2016)

Flaked, Season 2 — Netflix Original

Inspector Gadget, Season 3 — Netflix Original

Los Últimos de Filipinas (2016)

Lucid Dream — Netflix Original

Saving Banksy (2014)

The Homecoming: Collection (2015)

June 3

Acapulco La vida va (2017)

Blue Gold: American Jeans (2017)

Headshot (2016)

Three (2016)

Tunnel (2016)

War on Everyone (2016)

June 4

TURN: Washington’s Spies, Season 3 (2016)

June 5

Suite Française (2014)

June 7

Disturbing the Peace (2016)

Dreamworks’ Trolls (2016)

June 9

My Only Love Song, Season 1 — Netflix Original

Orange Is the New Black, Season 5 — Netflix Original

Shimmer Lake — Netflix Original

June 10

Black Snow (Nieve Negra) (2017)

Daughters of the Dust (1991)

Havenhurst (2017)

Sword Master (2016)

June 13

Oh, Hello On Broadway — Netflix Original

June 14

Quantico, Season 2 (2016)

June 15

Marco Luque: Tamo Junto — Netflix Original

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 4 (2016)

Mr. Gaga: A True Story of Love and Dance (2015)

June 16

Aquarius, Season 2 (2016)

Counterpunch — Netflix Original

El Chapo, Season 1 (2017)

The Ranch, Part 3 — Netflix Original

World of Winx, Season 2 — Netflix Original

June 17

Grey’s Anatomy, Season 13 (2016)

Scandal, Season 6 (2016)

The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015)

June 18

Shooter, Season 1 (2016)

June 20

Amar Akbar & Tony (2015)

Disney’s Moana (2016)

Rory Scovel Tries Stand-Up For The First Time — Netflix Original

June 21

Baby Daddy, Season 6 (2017)

Young & Hungry, Season 5 (2017)

June 23

American Anarchist (2016)

Free Rein, Season 1 — Netflix Original

GLOW, Season 1 — Netflix Original

Nobody Speak, Trials of the Free Press — Netflix Original

You Get Me — Netflix Original

June 26

No Escape (2015)

June 27

Chris D’Elia: Man on Fire — Netflix Original

June 28

Okja — Netflix Original

June 30

Chef & My Fridge: Collection (2014)

Gypsy, Season 1 — Netflix Original

It’s Only the End of the World (2016)

Little Witch Academia, Season 1 — Netflix Original

The Weekend (2016)