“Sorry to Bother You” makes common sense out of communism

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The last few years of American politics have proven that “socialism” and “communism” aren’t exactly the dirty words they used to be. Increasing frustration with the Democratic Party has led all kinds of people — not just the upper-class white men often associated with leftist movements — to launch truly progressive candidates like Bernie Sanders and New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez into the mainstream. This growing movement, oddly enough, hasn’t been very well-reflected in popular culture. Rapper, Boots Riley’s new film “Sorry to Bother You” harkens back to a time when radical leftist filmmakers were the norm while being explosively next-level in its shocking plot twists and genre-defying machinations. And in a time where more people than ever are disappearing in culture to escape from politics, it forces its viewers to wake up to the harsh reality of living in a capitalist society, while never seeming pretentious.

“Sorry to Bother You”’s main character, Cassius Green, is a down-on-his-luck telemarketer living in his uncle’s garage with his girlfriend Detroit. Saying anything more would ruin the fun, but essentially, the movie has lots of bones to pick with capitalism, from labor struggles to the commodified state of modern art to the dehumanization of workers. If this sounds dry and preachy, keep in mind that an insane sci-fi-infused plot twist completely shatters the film about halfway through in what is de nicely the most hilarious, mind-boggling scene of the year.

The impact of art and popular culture on politics is blown way out of proportion

A lot of recent political art immediately gets packaged into an easy-to-understand, “anti-Trump” criticism. What is primarily so radical about “Sorry to Bother You” is that it refuses to take the easy road of criticizing our ridiculous president, and instead focuses on an issue that has existed years before Trump and will continue to exist long after him — wealth inequality and the exploitation we all face in the workforce. Cassius’ journey up the corporate ladder and beyond the realm of all that is sane addresses the mutated, morphed, inhumane class issues we all seem to have accepted as “modern life,” and the film’s underlying rage comes from the simple fact that we shouldn’t accept that people have to work back-breaking, soul-destroying jobs to barely make ends meet.

In this, the film achieves what many leftist thinkers and even some activists cannot. It distills the difficult, jargon-heavy books of Marx into their absolute essence — common sense. It shuts the mouths of professors and poli-sci geeks who insist that reading thousands of pages of theory is tantamount to belonging to a political movement. Seeing the everyday lives of workers juxtaposed against the elite is really all most people need to realize that we shouldn’t have to live like this, and that something should be done about it. That something can be organized labor movements or, you know, maybe a violent uprising. Pick your poison.

Of course, the impact of art and popular culture on politics is blown way out of proportion. J.K. Rowling’s epic Twitter clapbacks aren’t taking down the Republicans anytime soon, and the popular sentiment of “well, at least we’ll get good art” when Trump was elected was frankly tone-deaf and disgusting. But America is still so far gone from achieving class consciousness that anything, even a small-budget indie film that was lucky enough to get a wider release than most people would ever expect, helps. Art can’t change the structural inequalities built into our society, but the messages within that art can be a helpful call for action. “Sorry to Bother You” is the screeching loudspeaker that is making that call. We can all at least try to listen.

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