The Hate U Give is a must-see movie determined to make a point about the roots of hate. We are living in a time of crisis over racism. It cannot hurt to deepen understanding and start a dialogue.
But cinematherapy is about the individually felt experience. In this film, the main character, Starr Carter, draws us into her struggle to understand the world and become herself in it. We see her being raised in an African-American family that has long been part of a poor black community. Her parents are doing well enough with their grocery store to send her to a mostly white, wealthy private school. This is a source of conflict between the parents, which Starr witnesses. However, the larger conflict is between Starr’s separate selves: the one who grew up in the black community, freely playing between homes under the watchful eyes of local grandmothers, and the one living the life of a prep school student. Most mornings, Starr leaves her neighborhood in a hoodie, her school uniform hidden underneath. Then, the hoodie is stuffed into a backpack and Starr becomes part of the cliquish world of an affluent white high school.
It isn’t just a clothing change; through narration, Starr tells us how she changes her speech and thought processes as she tries to be a different version of herself. Although she describes it matter-of-factly, we can see the stress it puts on her: her strained face and her looks of confusion, frustration, and even exasperation. As tensions are heightened, she is no longer able to keep her worlds separate. And so, the wall between the different parts of the self crumble. There are some tears, but in the end, she finds her voice and a sense of peace. No longer the tense girl on a tightrope, Starr walks confidently between her worlds.
THUG is a coming-of-age story, but one that shows what it is like to come of age in a world complicated by racism and shifting cultural contexts. In a country that is simultaneously growing more diverse and more tense, this is a movie to see to understand today’s youth.