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Film / Respect (2021)

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Respect is a 2021 musical biopic about the life of Aretha Franklin, with an ensemble cast, headed by Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, and Tituss Burgess.
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Aretha Franklin (Hudson) sings in her father, C.L. Franklin's (Whitaker) church choir as a child and grows up to become an international musical superstar and legend.

The film is directed by Liesl Tommy from a screenplay by Tracey Scott Wilson, and produced by MGM. It was released on August 13, 2021, after having been delayed by the COVID-19 Pandemic.


Tropes in the film include:

  • The '60s: Also perfectly represented by the hairstyles and clothes.
  • The '70s: Perfectly represented by the hairstyles and clothes.
  • Age Cut: We see Aretha singing in her father's church as a young girl. The camera revolves around the room to reveal an early-20's Aretha.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Aretha's loved ones frequently refer to her "demons". That she's The Alcoholic is clear, but the "demons" appear to be something else, possibly bipolar disorder (which she was never formally diagnosed with).
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  • Armor-Piercing Slap: Poor Aretha is on the receiving end of this by her father.
  • Berserk Button: Aretha at one point tries to honor Dinah as a guest by singing one of her songs, which royally pisses Dinah off for Aretha "stealing" one of her songs.
  • Child Prodigy: Aretha is seen as this by not only her parents, but the others around her.
  • Costume Porn. The '60s and The '70s (with the tail end of The '50s thrown in) are perfectly represented by the numerous gorgeous hairstyles and outfits.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Ted's temper has been evident before, but he slaps Aretha for the first time over the fact that one of her backup musicians put his arm around her. From then on, he flips out anytime anyone even talks to her, even if it's strictly in a platonic/familial/professional sense.
  • Daddy's Girl: Aretha used to be this to her dad until they got older and he became more demanding.
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  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Aretha starts dating a man her father hates. However, her dad ends up being right about him.
  • Domestic Abuse: Aretha's first husband Ted frequently does this, until she finally gets fed up and throws him out. We also see Aretha's father slapping her at one point and a conversation with her sisters reveals that he was abusive to their mother and has continued to be so to subsequent girlfriends.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Aretha and her husband enter an elevator after a mild disagreement about their plans for the next day. The next day she shows up at a meeting wearing sunglasses. Oddly enough, she isn't sporting any bruises as one would assume, even though a Flashback confirms that he did in fact hit her once the elevator door closed.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Ted has one to the point of taking everything anyone says or does as a racist insult.
  • Historical Domain Character: Martin Luther King is a friend of Aretha's father and they know Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dinah Washington well enough for her to refer to them as "Aunt" and "Uncle".
  • Hypocrite: Aretha's father, a minister, engages in some decidedly unholy behavior. It's not seen, but implied. Dinah says as much to Arethra, that the pious are often the most secretly depraved. She says Billie got the best sex she ever had on the gospel circuit.
  • Hypocrite Has a Point: Aretha's father is just as controlling as her husband Ted, but he's right in warning her about him.
  • Irony: Aretha marries Ted to get away from her father's control, and ends being controlled just as much by him.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The first ten minutes of the film depict the pre-teen Aretha's life.
  • Missing Mom: Aretha's parents are divorced, but she still frequently spends time with her until she's killed in a car accident.
  • Preacher's Kid: Aretha and her sisters.
  • Rape Discretion Shot: A unnamed man comes into 10-year old Aretha's bedroom and offers to be her "boyfriend". The next scene is of her sitting in the kitchen, looking very troubled, but refusing to tell anyone what's bothering her. A flashback shows her pregnant as a child (in Real Life, she gave birth at 12 and at 14, but never revealed the name of the father or the circumstances of their conception. The scene was created out of pure speculation, but given her age, she could only possibly have been the victim of child molestation/statutory rape).
  • Revisiting the Roots: Aretha's most successful album was a collection of gospel songs (she got started singing in her father's church) which she made after years of contemporary hits.
  • Signature Song: In universe. Both trailers naturally feature the titular song, which Franklin famous cover of catapulted her to stardom in the 1960s.
  • Spelling Song: "Respect".
    R-E-S-P-E-C-T
    Find out what it means to me!
  • Stage Dad: Aretha’s father becomes this to her when she gets older.
  • Trauma Button: Aretha's gets pressed when her husband, snuggling her from behind in bed, refers to her as a "little girl" in a comforting tone, which causes her to reflexively try to push him off, striking him in the nose on accident. She apologizes profusely when she sees what she's done.
  • The Unreveal: Neither onscreen nor in Real Life does Aretha ever identify the father of her two oldest sons.

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