The Hate U Give: Film Review

The Hate U Give is a film based on the bestselling novel by Angie Thomas. The film first premiered in October 2018 and grossed $29.7 million in the United States and Canada. It is about a black teenager named, Starr Carter, who is code switcher travelling between two worlds — the black ghetto streets where she lives and the preppy white school that she attends. The balance between the worlds is shattered when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend at the hands of a police officer. Starr faces pressure from both communities: to find her voice and stand up for what’s right or to let it go and act like it didn’t happen and won’t happen again.

The film starts with a father going over “The Talk” with his three children: Starr, her brother: Seven and their younger brother: Sekani, at the dining room table. The father has a serious look on his face and a stern tone. The children have their hands on the table straight out in front of them. Their father has them practicing what to do if they ever get pulled over by a police officer. He tells them, “don’t act mad, stay calm. Make sure to answer their questions but don’t tell them anything extra. And if you drop something, leave it there.” He makes sure they understand; they nod their heads. The father continues, “keep your hands out of your pockets. Police get nervous around us so keep your hands posted, where they can see them and don’t move. It can get real dangerous so don’t argue with them.” They all relax and he then reminds his children and assures them of their greatness by telling them, “don’t forgot being black is an honor because you come from greatness.”

The next scene in the film features Starr as a teenager in her bedroom covered with Fresh Prince and TLC posters on the walls and listening to Kendrick Lamar’s song “DNA” as she gets ready for school. She walks in the kitchen for breakfast and watches her parents talking and being cute. She says that black love is a one true pairing. Hinting at the racial divide made between races mixing their cultures and bloodlines. She is giving an example of how many black people feel about their community sticking together and dating within the race to create a more powerful legacy and lifestyle for and from someone who understands you and what you go through in order to develop unconditional love and sacrifice. When they leave the house, the audience gets a quick tour of their neighborhood. You get to see all the local black owned businesses: Rueben BBQ, Lewis barbershop, and Carter’s grocery store. The mother went to high school in this neighborhood and wanted her children to have better opportunity. Starr and Seven pulled up in front of the preppy white school named, Williamson, where everyone is college bound. Starr immediately switches code when she gets inside the building. She states that this is Starr Version 2; she does not use slang because even though it makes white people cool, it makes black people more “hood”. Starr Version 2 is not confrontational. She doesn’t give anyone a reason to call her “ghetto”.

We see Starr is dating a really nice guy named Chris. Only thing wrong with him? He is white. She goes to his house to hang out and he pulls out a condom, hinting at sex. She says she’s not ready. This is one of many stereotypes about black women. It is referenced to in the Netflix series, “Dear White People,” where the main black female character who is the president of a conscious black student organization is the same person dating a white man. She likes him a lot but hasn’t told her parents about him and has no intention of introducing them to each other. Starr struggles with this same thing. Her father doesn’t know she is dating a white man. Her father raised her as a young woke sister who would never leave her mister. He would be ashamed and upset to see his daughter through her life away.

On Saturday night, Starr goes to a party with Kenya to tag team fight a girl named Denasia, who thinks that Kenya is trying to steal her man. Bianca shows up to the party a few minutes late and says to Kenya, “you didn’t have to bring your sister out dressed like that,” referring to Starr’s ugly clothing. Kenya and Bianca then leave to go fight Denasia.

Later on, Starr’s friend, Khalil shows up. You can tell she likes him. They get on the dancefloor and make jokes about their addictive sneaker habits. Gunshots are fired outside and everyone leaves the house party. Khalil offers to give Starr a ride home to ensure her safety. In this car ride, he plays Tupac’s song “Keep Ya Head Up.” They talk about how Tupac was a visionary and what his mantra T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E. meant. The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody. Khalil pulls over to tell Starr that he knows she has a boyfriend…  And then this happens…

Starr was taken back to the precinct. During the time she was in custody, the detectives and officers only asked negative questions about Khalil. So that they could have information from her about him to report back to the news and paint a negative picture of Khalil. Meanwhile the reality of it is that none of this would’ve happened if that officer wasn’t given a reason to fear a black man who did not maliciously do or say anything towards him.

The following week, Starr is having nightmares of Khalil’s death. She wakes up frightened and nausea. Her father leaves a bucket for her by the bed. He tells her that she needs to make a choice and shine her light. She pays her respects to Khalil’s family members. This is where she runs into her Uncle Carlos who is a local police officer. He shows his respects to Khalil’s family and informs them that the officer is on paid administrative leave because nothing like this has occured on his record before. However, the case has the chance to go to a grand jury, if Starr testifies as a witness. She’s conflicted because she doesn’t want the attention considering her double life…

Later that week, her white friends, Hailey and others, make a fried chicken joke during basketball practice in reference to their lunch that day but Starr takes it as a racist joke and leaves. She starts to rethink the security and loyalty of her double life. After considering T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E. and realizing that the system is set up against us, that’s why so many people in the ghetto turn to drugs as a easy/good way to make money and get out of their situation but instead you get trapped in the game and can end up in prison or worse, dead. As protests continue throughout the city seeking Justice for Khalil, it becomes a trending topic and Williamson students decide to have a protest at school to get out of taking exams. Starr is extremely upset saying, “they’re acting like Khalil was murdered so they could skip a chemistry test. Like he did something for them… Like it’s a good thing.” She finally decides to act as a witness and goes on air with a blurred face and voice alteration.

A local gang run by Starr’s uncle, King, shows up at a restaurant to watch the family since Starr played witness on the news. The father, Maverick, goes outside to fight King and protect his family. The police show up and King drives off. Starr records everything there. A police officer commands her to stop recording and she says, “I have a right to record this.” (since she made the mistake of not recording Khalil’s encounter with the police). The police leave Maverick alone. When the family gets home, he has an exercise for them to do.

After school, at Hailey’s house a news report of the officer who shot Khalil is on TV. She says, “wow, that sucks. His poor family. He was only doing his job and protecting himself.” Starr and Hailey get into an argument. Starr mentions how she believes that Hailey unfollowed her on Tumblr and other social media due to Starr’s recent pro-black posts. Following this argument, they stop talking to each other.

At prom, people are staring and then looking away and sharing whispers to the side as Starr and her white boyfriend, Chris walk in the building. Everyone can tell that she was the witness on air. Chris and her are alone and have a private conversation about the night Khalil died. Starr asks Chris, “have you ever seen somebody die?”. Hi answer was no. To be honest, he will probably never have to see somebody die. His life is simple, easy and white. She explains why she’s at Williamson and about how she lives a double life switching code between two worlds. She gets emotional remembering Khalil and admits, “Khalil was my first crush, my first kiss, and he was going through some much and I turned my back on him. On all of my people. Do you know what that’s like?” Chris is still unable to relate. He takes her home after their talk and when her father sees the white boyfriend he’s pissed off. He yells at Starr. As he’s yelling, the local gang does a drive by shooting of their house. (I bet the white boy didn’t see that shit coming lol). Everyone ducks down. Seven gets hit and they take him to the hospital. He stays overnight.

The next day, Starr is having a conversation with her Uncle Carlos about how police officer’s perceive, react, and handle situations when pulling people over.

This film thus far has addressed so many stereotypes and questions about what black people feel and have to go through in everyday life in America as people who are not appreciated and treated equally. They are literally living in two worlds under one country name.

When the Grand Jury trial takes place, Starr testifies with all the good things about Khalil; about how much of a good person he was to the people around him. Starr is adjusting to her quiet social life until Hailey disturbs her peace by asking Starr, “so I guess you’re not going to get over it?” At first, Starr doesn’t take Hailey seriously and is intrigued by the question. They go back and forth for a moment until Starr can’t take anymore and she completely goes off on Hailey.

And as if losing two friends wasn’t enough, Starr soon gets a text message that her uncle King got into a fight with her brother, Seven who is recovering from his recent gunshot wounds. She goes home on the search for her brother but he’s not there. She grabs her cousins and they leave. As they’re driving through the city, they notice a protest headed towards City Hall. It turns out that the Grand Jury did not indict the police officer. Starr sees her brother in the crowd and joins him in the protest. When they reach City Hall, there’s a SWAT Team waiting there for them. They are demonstrating a peaceful protest and yet, are told that they most leave. They refuse to be moved willingly and are taken by force. The SWAT Team beat, arrest and throw tear gas the crowd of protesters. Starr picks up a tank of tear gas and throws it back towards the officers.

Starr and Seven run from the protest site to safety. They are picked up by some local good-doers who know their father. The good-doers drop them off to their father’s shop and pour milk into their eyes to help them gain their vision back after being exposed to tear gas. The good-doers leave. Starr and Seven stay in the shop, thinking they’ll be safe until the protest dies down.

This is the pivotal point of the film where we see the T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E. principle come to life in a moment where a child’s life is at stake and can cause danger at the same time. We see Starr in shock, analyzing and seeing the situation exactly as horrible as it is happening. She takes the lead and stands in front of her younger brother with her hands up. She does not fear what could happen to her because she makes it clear that this is wrong and that this situation needs to be handled better from all sides of it: by the cops, by her feuding father and uncle, by her brothers, etc.

The film ends with the meanings of the trio’s names: Sekani for joy, Seven for perfection, Khalil for friend, & Starr for light. Every young, black character in this film played a part in the meaning of the story. They serve a larger purpose in our understanding of the overall film. Think about the meanings of their names along with the theme and scenes portrayed; see how it all fits together?