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Analysis: Leave The World Behind

Malcolm X once said that an enemy is someone who is retarding your growth as a people, someone blocking our direction, someone on the collision course of our upward mobility, someone standing in direct opposition to Black progress.

The message from Sam Esmail in his new Netflix film, Leave The World Behind is clear; when the world falls apart protect white people at all costs. Cater to their needs and ensure they get the best accommodations in your home, and never forget that their children are more precious than yours. And even if you’re a powerful, rich black man your own kid will be featured as a heavily tattooed pothead with a bad attitude. Even way up the ladder, there will be no breaks from negative black stereotypes. At least Kevin Bacon was on hand to do what he does best, be Kevin Bacon. In his film, Esmail’s stereotyping of certain groups of people spoke the loudest.

And in spite of all the glaring and disappointing subliminal messages throughout the film, the internet went into a frenzy over one ridiculous line uttered by Ruth, “don’t trust white people” confirming yet again the fragility of many whites who see black success and excellence as a threat to their own existence and well-being, (White Rage). And this film did not escape the chance to sexualize black women either. It’s an easy mark to aim for and Esmail reached for the low hanging fruit. Nevertheless, his art is meeting requirement in our current society, one that is steadily losing its freedom, its mind and very soul. The sexualization of Ruth, played by Myha’la Herrold was apparent in the film, but painting an even cruel and distasteful picture of rich black people, the film tells us what Esmail imagines goes on in these households. He shows us a black father laying in bed with his adult daughter as she utters the line, “he wants to fuck me” in recounting her exchange with Clay, played by Ethan Hawke. Mind you, Ruth is shown as the young sexual aggressor in their exchange at the pool, asking Clay if he’s ever “fucked one of his students” as she compliments his looks and offers him marijuana. Even high up the corporate ladder, this film still aims to portraits black folks in an uncomfortable light. I’m surprised Leave The World Behind didn’t include a scene reminiscent of Stepin Fetchit because G.H. or George, executed by Mahershala Ali is a complete disaster and mockery of successful blacks.

G.H. went above and beyond to come across as subservient, his sole mission to ensure the comfort and protection of a white family renting his home. Because, “it’s the right thing to do,” he explains to his frightened daughter who by now is begging him not to leave to go play hero for this family. It was frustrating to watch, especially when there are countless ways to truly reflect the lives of diverse black and brown people in films. G.H. was prepared to kill and even die for this precious white family he doesn’t even know. Compounding the foolery, the scene where he’s made to cuddle his adult daughter in bed, is in the basement. Why? Because again, “it’s the right thing to do” when called to appease whites during Armageddon. Leave The World Behind seems to suggest to black and brown people that they must protect and be subservient to whites when the Chinese, Arabs and or the Russians attack America’s White Lion.

And the film also depict G.H. as a black man who craves the attention of whites because he secretly wants to sleep with the white man’s wife. The two even share an intimate moment, denying their lust in an embrace. Never mind that two planes just fell out of the sky. And white men should also take notice of how they’ve been emasculated in this film. Bud Light is not the only company that has turned them into female caricatures like Dylan Mulvaney. Apparently white men can’t protect their families anymore. As portrayed by Clay, they become so frazzled that they’re unable to maneuver themselves or their family away from clear danger.  At least they still have Kevin Bacon. And these creatives didn’t forget to include “Karen” in this film either, using Julia Roberts for the role. Esmail presented Amanda, played by Roberts, as a mean-spirited and bona-fide Karen, complete with a performance of Seinfeld’s Elaine Benis dancing to…you guessed it, her favorite genre, rap. And she’s the levelheaded one in charge of leading her family from danger. She does it in full Karen face, using racially charged comments like, “because of your hair?” during the pool scene with Ruth.

The character Rose played by Farrah Mackenzie, captures perfectly what modern society has done to young people. We have a generation of the most selfish and self-observed humans the world has ever known, making it very fitting that Rose would sneak off on her own to gorge herself on junk food while her family worry and search for her, and putting themselves at risk. If this film got anything right, it is through Rose who captures the glaring reflection of a people that have lost their way and humanity to computer screens and an unrealistic world view they space out to. The film shows how we’ve failed our children. And the obsession of Rose with Friends is also a subliminal message. Friends, a show about a group of white friends is what’s important to her in the midst of chaos and world collapse, because having so much fun like Barbie or Taylor Swift and her cool jet-setting friends is what makes life truly worth living. Just tune out the noise of a collapsing world order and enjoy your favorite show. And as long as Rose is happy, apparently as God intended for her, all is well in the world.

It’s disappointing that a racially charged film without any creative depth is still what’s offered as art and entertainment today. But what’s even worse is this film delivered its subliminals courtesy of the Obama’s, a dismally revealing fact that reminds one of how Malcolm X described enemies of black progress and upward mobility.

Lois Lane , Contributing Writer