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Film / Blindspotting

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"You are a convicted felon, Mr. Hoskins. You are now that until proven otherwise. Prove otherwise at all times,"
Collin: Why blindspotting?
Val: 'Cause it's all about how you can look at something and there can be another thing there that you aren't seeing. So, you got a blind spot.
Collin: But, if someone points out the other picture, doesn't that make it not a blind spot anymore?
Val: No, because you can't go against what your brain wants to see first [...]
Collin: When you look at me now, do you always see the fight first?

Blindspotting is a buddy dramedy that is as much a story of its setting, the city of Oakland, as it is its two central characters, Collin Hoskins and Miles Turner. After getting released on probation, Collin, played by Daveed Diggs, finds work with his old best friend Miles, played by Rafael Casal, as a mover. However, this grants them a front row seat to the gentrification of the city that raised them, as both this and the growing Black Lives Matter Movement begin to pull at their friendship. Written by Diggs and Casal, and directed by Carlos López Estrada, what follows is a raw loveletter to their city in all its tense duality.

A spinoff series of the same name, focused on Jasmine Cephas Jones' character Ashley from the original film, premiered on Starz in June 2021. Casal and Diggs return as creators and writers, with Casal reprising his role as Miles.

The film contains examples of:

  • Ambiguously Gay: The bystander of the Scorpion Bowl fight is moving in with a black man with whom he has N-Word Privileges. It's never made clear whether the pair are a gay couple or just roommates who are Heterosexual Life-Partners like Collin and Miles.
  • Amicable Exes: Collin and Val. Both at times try to rekindle their relationship, but the fight and its aftermath have set them along separate paths.
  • Armor-Piercing Question:
    • "Are you sure?"
    • After discussing "blindspotting," Collin asks Val if she sees his felonious fight first when she looks at him. Her hesitation is all the response he needs to understand that there is no future between them anymore.
  • Arms Dealer: Des has a comical amount of firearms hidden throughout his car, and after some Reckless Gun Usage that nearly turns into I Just Shot Marvin in the Face, he sells one to Miles.
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: While fighting with a man over a flaming cocktail, Collins and the man are both set alight.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Collin is generally much more even-tempered and conciliatory than Miles, but can only take so much.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The film ends on a jokey note, but Miles and Collin's friendship has still been shaken, and Collin and Val will never reconcile; at the same time a murderous police officer has been shamed and his family has left him, but he will presumably never get justice, nor will the many other black men seen by Collin in his daydream.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian:
    • The film takes repeated shots at wealthy, white and Asian hipsters who have moved to Oakland, causing a culture clash between them and the predominantly black and poor locals. Many characters express opposition to the gentrification caused by their arrival. The most notable example is the wealthy tech company founder who hosts monthly mixers for his predominantly white employees. Miles, Collin and his two black employees treat him with barely concealed derision.
    • The only sympathetic portrayal is a photographer who is native-born to the area and moving out of a large, nice house. His art is critical of gentrification by showing the common people who have been pushed out of their communities by wealthier people. Even still, he's a Bunny-Ears Lawyer who thinks that his photographs are alive.
  • Buddy Picture: Collin and Miles form the heart of the film, struggling to hold onto one another in spite of the rapid changes in their hometown.
  • Chekhov's Gun: True to form, Miles buys a gun in one of the first scenes in the film, and Collin ends up using it in the climax.
  • Confirmation Bias: Discussed in-universe by Collin and Val while he's helping her study for her psychology class. The way bias warps our perception, causing two people to see the same events completely differently, is a central theme of the film.
  • Creator Provincialism: The writers and stars are from Oakland. The film is set in and very much about Oakland. In case you forget, the main characters usually wear something with "Oakland" on it, and Miles has a tattoo of Oakland's location in California on his neck.
  • Cultural Posturing: Miles and Collin frequently criticize the hipster transplants to Oakland, seeing them as worthless interlopers.
  • Dream Sequence: Collin has one where he is back on trial, with the Killer Cop as the judge, and Miles as the prosecution.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: The cop is seen doing this at the climax, after he shot a fleeing man on the job and his wife and son are moving out.
  • Establishing Character Moment: After Miles accidentally orders a vegan burger from the newly hipsterized Kwikway, Collin has to talk him down from starting a fight with the drive-thru guy. This sets the tone of their relationship for much of the film.
  • Gratuitous Rap: As Diggs and Casal are both prolific rappers, this is no surprise. The two transition into verse as a form of heightened dialogue, and the soundtrack is full of their fellow Bay Area greats.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Miles is enraged to violence for minor offenses because he's overly concerned with being seen as an outsider in Oakland's urban culture.
  • Hollywood Genetics: Miles is a white guy and his girlfriend is a very light-skinned black woman, but their son is darker than both of them.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him!: At the climax. Collin holds the cop at gunpoint, struggling with whether to kill the man who shot an innocent and still haunts him. He ultimately tells the cop a version of this and walks out, unsatisfied.
  • In the Back: The White police officer in the beginning shoots a Black man fatally who was running unarmed this way, making it blatant Police Brutality (though the film implies he still won't get punished, or at most lightly).
  • Jive Turkey: Miles and Collin mock an overcompensating yuppie for going on about "drank", clearly oblivious to what it means. Miles being called out as this in turn causes him to snap.
  • Just Got Out of Jail: Collin, though he's still on probation. His fear of being sent back for something as minor as missing curfew at his halfway house is a constant source of tension.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Collin's stepbrother is no older than 12 and treats him like dirt.
  • Killer Cop: Collin witnesses a cop shoot and kill an unarmed black man, which haunts him throughout the film.
  • Man on Fire: The decorative flame in the middle of the scorpion bowl ignites the alcohol, setting both the hipster and Collin on fire by the end of their fight
  • Motor Mouth: Miles, naturally, as a hustler. He frequently transitions from sales-pitch to rap to slang even he doesn't understand and back.
  • Murder Simulators: Collin is visibly uncomfortable watching his young stepbrother play a violent first-person shooter. The stepbrother is a real jerk as well, so it's easy to see what attracts him to the game.
  • N-Word Privileges:
    • In the beginning Collin uses it freely talking to Miles. However, as their friendship starts to unravel, Collin demands Miles call him the n-word, and Miles is unable to do so, arguing that he's never called him that and Collin's been referring to him as that since they were 12. Inverted in the following scene, where Miles tells his (black) girlfriend that he is uncomfortable with her calling him "nigga".
    • The Southeast Asian bystander of the Scorpion Bowl fight drops an N-bomb while telling the anecdote, prompting his black friend to interject, "Only use that with me." He promptly apologizes.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Miles and Collin delivered one to a hipster outside of a club, which got Collin thrown in prison. Miles later delivers one to a man outside of a party.
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Miles is always testing out new raps, wears a grill, and hates gentrifiers with burning fury. However, he grew up in the now-fading slums, and feels he has as much a stake in them as anyone. Throughout the film, he struggles with being seen as one of the very hipsters he despises.
  • Police Brutality: Central to the film. Collin witnesses a Killer Cop shooting and is haunted by the specter of police brutality throughout the film. A pamphlet given by Collin's mother implies that all black children must be taught how to avoid being killed by police.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: In the very first scene, Miles and Collin discover a half-dozen guns lying around Dez's car. Miles points several at Collin, who objects, but Miles assures him that they aren't loaded. Dez counters, "Those are definitely loaded." Later, Miles leaves a loaded gun in his house to step out for a smoke and returns to find his toddler playing with it. Ironically, he initially bought it to try and protect his family.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The quick-talking, quick to anger Miles to the conflict-averse, measured Collin. Given Diggs's strong Shakespearean influences, the parallels to Mercutio and Benvolio from Romeo and Juliet are almost certainly deliberate. Inverted at the climax.
  • Rice Burner: Dez fitted his ride out with absurd hydraulics. Between this and the loud purple paint job, it seems more at home in a music video from the 90s than reality. Lampshaded by several characters.
  • Scary Black Man: Collin is quite conflicted about being seen as this. On the one hand, Miles views it as an enviable mark of authority and authenticity. However, Collin is increasingly fearful that it, and his prior conviction, will land him swiftly back in jail, or even dead.
  • Shattering the Illusion: The characters all struggle to see beyond their various biases, with their success, and even the existence of an objective reality outside their differing perspectives, left ambiguous. Optical illusions, in particular the Rubin's Vase illusion, form a recurring motif.
  • Shout-Out: When telling the Scorpion Bowl anecdote, a bystander refers to the white hipster by the names of several white "square" characters.
  • Take That!: The film aims a lot of criticisms at gentrification. In one scene, a wealthy Asian woman has just moved into a derelict house and dismissively tells the movers to toss the previous owners' possessions in the trash. Collin leafs through old photos of the family she's wiping off the map. In another scene, a white yuppie acts like a man of the people while only hiring two black people and forbidding guests from using his expensive coffee table.
  • The Talk: Subverted. Collin's mother gives Miles' family a pamphlet titled "The Talk" for use with their young son. It turns out to not be about "the birds and the bees" but how to not become a victim of Police Brutality.
  • Tattooed Crook: Miles is covered in tattoos and is the more violent and unhinged member of the pair.
  • Title Drop: In the end, Val says that she nicknamed the Rubin vase optical illusion "blindspotting" and explains her reasoning.
  • Tone Shift: Collin witnessing the killing of a fleeing black man by a police officer heralds a sudden dark turn to what was up until then a fairly light slice-of-life comedy
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Miles is often this to Collin, starting fights and leaving Collin to deal with the aftermath. The fact that Miles didn't go to jail for starting the Scorpion Bowl brawl drives a wedge between the two.
  • Tragic Mistake: The scorpion bowl fight. Collin lets Miles goad him into fighting an aggressive hipster at the bar he worked at, ending in the hipster being set on fire by his gimmicky drink, Collin going to jail and his girlfriend breaking up with him. This sets the stage and the stakes for the events that follow.