Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 18, 2010 when a Centennial Mass was celebrated in honor of St. Margaret of Scotland (Waterbury) Church.
Catholic Transcript Reader Survey
Catholic Transcript Reader Survey

compton 20150813cnsto0013 webAldis Hodge, Cornelius Brown Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell and O'Shea Jackson Jr., star in a scene from the movie "Straight Outta Compton." CNS photo/Universal Pictures)

NEW YORK (CNS) – The proper limits of free speech and the appropriate use of violence are just two of the topics raised in the striking but gritty dramatization “Straight Outta Compton” (Universal). 

As he recounts the rise and collapse of the gangster rap group N.W.A, beginning in 1986, director F. Gary Gray clearly intends to use the ensemble's experiences as a vantage point for a larger critique of society as a whole.

While there's no denying the serious intent behind Gray's collective biography, the yawning gulf between the materialistic lifestyle the whole genre of hip-hop tends to glamorize and an outlook based on scriptural values is equally indisputable. Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff's script nibbles at the edges of the art form's assumptions, but never fundamentally challenges them.

The story focuses primarily on the two members of N.W.A – Ice Cube (played by the rapper's son, O'Shea Jackson Jr) and Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins) – who went on to have headlining solo careers as well as on Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), another founder whose life took a different turn. This trio's goal, shared with collaborators DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr..) and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), is to translate the frustrations of growing up in the Los Angeles-area ghetto of the title into popular protest music.

Aided by seemingly good-hearted manager Jerry Hodge (Paul Giamatti), who successfully markets their sound, the guys parlay their local notoriety into nationwide fame. But controversy dogs them, based largely on the perception that some of their lyrics call for attacks on the police.

The nature and legitimacy of N.W.A's actual stance is open to debate. But there's no getting around the fact that cops – whether they hail from Southern California or the Midwest – are relentlessly demonized in "Straight Outta Compton."

In the current climate of alienation between minority communities and law enforcement, such vilification becomes more than mere evidence of a narrow cinematic perspective. Reinforced by images of the Rodney King beating – and news accounts of the acquittals that followed for the officers involved in it – this unbalanced portrayal skirts the border between radicalism and irresponsibility.

The movie's outlook on violence in general, at least of the retaliatory sort, is ambiguous at best. Giamatti earnestly counsels Eazy-E to seek only legal means of redress after the singer is assaulted by menacing, semi-psychotic record producer Suge Knight (R. Marcus Taylor) –- who in summer 2015 awaits trial on murder charges stemming from an incident that, ironically, took place on the “Compton” film set.

Yet Heller, the only white character of any significance in “Compton,” turns out, in the end, to be more of a greedy manipulator than a genuine mentor. And an earlier scene has made giddy fun out of an armed confrontation between the freewheeling womanizers of N.W.A and some rivals for the affections of the ladies they're currently, er, entertaining in a hotel suite.

In fact, these competitors interrupt an orgy. Not only is this interlude needlessly explicit, it also serves to reinforce the picture's overall misogyny, under the terms of which women's body parts are far more prominent than their personalities.

A more critical treatment of the ethically impoverished worldview that permeates the music it celebrates would have made this sometimes flavorful slice of pop culture history endorsable for at least a few mature viewers. And including a line or two of dialogue not weighed down with an obscenity would have helped as well.
The film contains flawed morality, some harsh violence, strong sexual content, including brief but graphic casual activity and full nudity, drug use, several instances of profanity and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O – morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
- - -  
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.