Understanding HBO’s ‘Native Son’ in Its Totality
If you’ve never read ‘Native Son’ by Richard Wright in high school or picked it up for casual reading, the novel tells the story of a young man living in Southside Chicago in the 1930s who is faced with the reality of his circumstance. Wright does not apologize for his main character, Bigger Thomas’ crimes, yet, portrays him as a byproduct of the systematic causation behind them. In the novel, the defense lawyer argues that there is no escape for an African American man because they are fated to relive the destiny of the oppressed as long as society has formed the institutions that in-prison African Americans in oppression at a young age. While Richard Wright’s novel has received critical acclaim, authors such as James Baldwin have critiqued it as a reaction to the oppression and ultimately advancing a stereotype.
While HBO has adapted the novel into a movie, the movie has been modernized and changed to fit the current climate. Here is how Native Son, directed by Rashid Johnson, has exceeded expectations and is the perfect movie to watch right now in all of its layered storytelling genii.
Despite the mixed reviews the novel received, the movie carefully examines the perspective of Bigger Thomas through the eyes of an individual who is faced with the anxieties of being invisible, with the pressure of becoming seen. A perspective begged to be understood by everyone, not to be judged, stereotyped, victimized or put into a box- Bigger Thomas is a character we all need to acknowledge and Wright’s story plays a much bigger role in how we function as a society and what needs to change.
- The Movie and Novel are Both Relevant To Today: While the novel, Native Son is set in the 1930s and features characteristics that give that space away, the HBO movie is modernized to fit today’s reality. While it is hard to believe that the years 1930 and 2020 could be linked through racial inequality and limited opportunity, it is aligned to enter the discussion around our current climate and connecting history to reality. The perfect movie to watch to gain perspective towards fractions of a population often oppressed, yet, blamed for violence surrounding inner-city communities. The bottom line, not much has changed and that should scare you.