Dope: The 21st Century Hood Comedy
By Jayy Dodd
It may seem like White kids have had a closed market on teen comedies that combine relatable angst, beautiful love interests, and witty dialogue, but Dope (2015) was just like nah. Director Rick Famuyiwa, of The Wood and Brown Sugar fame, used his upbringing in Inglewood, CA (my hometown, what what 310) to locate this coming of age tale of Malcolm and his friends senior year of college. Dope follows Malcolm, Diggy and Jib, three Black hipsters navigating their suburban LA neighborhood often misrepresented as hopeless. After comically getting linked up with some gangsters, Malcolm and the squad have to, in the words of the prophet Future, move that dope.
However, Dope is more than just another heartfelt, slapstick, teen comedy. The star power on screen aside, the film is unapologetically Black in a time when Blackness and Black kids are under attack. From the aesthetic, to the music, Dope presents Black millennials as possible and nuanced and important. Each character was given depth and development; so little felt cliché. Even the clearly comedic bit parts were clever and well played.
While, Shameik Moore, who plays Malcolm is undoubtedly a star, his best friend, played by Kiersey Clemons, was a true joy to watch. Diggy, the Black masc-presenting lesbian, was never just regulated as one of the boys. Her friend defended her endlessly and supported her clapbacks throughout the film. The film even addressed the respectability politics of many Black churches, as a fruitless effort that Diggy just breezed through.
Like all favs, this film too has be complicated and of course the one white character had to show his ass. During their dope moving scheme, the squad enlists the support of a stoner-hacker played by Workaholics’ Blake Anderson. For whatever reason (whiteness), his character is compelled to say “nigga”. Despite all the other things he offers the squad, he keeps coming back to it, even having a conversation with another white dude in the film about it. Obviously it was comical (Diggy literally whooped him upside the head twice in the movie for it), it’s annoying when Black art has to allow that sort of space. Still, Dope carried on and not even annoying white boys could bring it down.
In the canon of Friday, Don’t Be A Menace, and Boyz in the Hood, Dope is a love letter to Black Los Angeles. The film encapsulates the urgency for Black artists to speak on Black life in our languages and icons. Black kids need to see themselves as inherently worth the space to self-express, they need to claim their worlds as real and relevant. Dope is more than just visibility, it is humor and heart and arguably the next great hood movie.
Jayy Dodd is a writer and performance artist based in Boston, originally from Los Angeles. After recently graduating Tufts University, Jay has organized vigils and protests locally for Black Lives Matter: Boston. When not in the streets, Jay has contributed to Huffington Post and is currently a contributing writer for VSNotebook.com, based in London. Jay Dodd is active on social media celebrating Blackness, interrogating masculinity, and complicating queerness. His poetic and performance work speaks to queer Black masculinity and afrofuturism.