This week we were introduced to Green Shirt Man. Alex Kack is a community organizer who rose to fame in a viral video after laughing hysterically and at length at an absurd protest by a pair of sad Trump supporters against a sanctuary city ballot question in Tucson, Arizona. In one of the many reports of his famed outburst, he quotes a lyric from one of my favorite Elvis Costello songs, Red Shoes ; "Well, I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused..."
I'm not familiar with much of Spike Lee's work, but this dichotomy is at the heart of my emotional reaction to BlacKkKlansman - Should I be outraged, or should I be laughing ? There were plenty of wry smiles to be had, and some laugh out loud moments, but when I review, I'm not sure if I was laughing at humour, or whether my laughter was that awkward, dry snort that comes from the absurdity of what I'm seeing.
The racism here is in-your-face, and that's inevitable for a movie with this subject matter. The vitriol is hot, the language is distasteful and that's expected in order to paint a picture of these sub-humans - although I expected the contrast with David Duke's brand of corporate-speak racism to be stronger. In contrast, the lighter moments - jokes, such as they were - were largely overwhelmed by the darkness of the evil on display. When the real (black) Stallworth puts his arm around David Duke for a quick polaroid snap, before we laugh we are already anticipating an outbreak of violence.
And in a picture of contrasts, what resonated more strongly is a film set in the early 1970's with era-appropriate slogans and all the black characters wearing afro hairdos should be setting you up for a historical lesson. But then it hits you in the solar plexus when Spike Lee reminds you that these people are still out there today - marching in Charlottesville, running down and killing protestors and having an American President call them 'very fine people'. After the closing frames of this movie, it was very hard to see this as a comedy and, indeed, laugh.