Keanu: What is a Gangsta Kitty?

First, let me start by saying: Yes, I am a cat lady. I’m young and already own more than one cat, and, I own multiple articles of clothing with felines on them. So, you can imagine what thoughts I could have had about a movie that’s all about rescuing a cat. Forget the damsel in distress. You could watch Keanu just for the sake of seeing a kitten in a durag. Worth it, right?

But first, let’s revisit Key and Peele. Key and Peele are a comedic duo whose takes on comedy are typically ridiculous, fun, dumb, and hilarious. The Black Ice skit is probably one of my favorite ones. This one is also pretty amazing. Starting with their skits and show, they’re now moving into Hollywood to be up on the big screen. Keanu is their first movie together, one in which they are the main characters…after little Keanu of course.

So they go on this journey to rescue Keanu, and the entire movie is about their move into the drug/crime scene. Now, these are two regular Black guys who don’t own guns or sell drugs. The movie makes a point to show that they don’t fit in with the 17 Street Blips, who now have their hands on Keanu aka New Jack. One reviewer from the NY Times writes, “It’s funny at first. Then it isn’t. And then, somehow, it’s funny again,” and I have to say I agree completely. In fact, that is how I feel about Key and Peele as a duo altogether.

However, what really stood in my way of enjoying Keanu was my level of comfort with the movie. I watched it in New Hampshire. The only other Black person in the movie was the guy I went with, and we may have been the only Black people in the theater. It was New Hampshire, after all. And times are tough for Black and African-American Americans. Obama is leaving the office and Trump is being seriously considered for office. So during this movie, I definitely had on my #BlackLivesMatter goggles.

The stereotypes of “gangsters,” which have an underlying sense of a stereotype being “more Black,” put me in a strange place. Especially as one of only two Black people in that theater. I thought it was no better than watching Get Hard, with Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell, which I refused to see. To be honest, I’m tired of seeing white characters who are just too white to understand what it is to be black, whether actually Black or the Hollywood version of blackness. This includes characters like the white roommate, played by Jenny Zigrino, from 50 Shades of Black. What the hell was that trash? We live in a world where young men and women are still getting told they speak white for using proper grammar, and speaking black is equated to slang and “they is…” statements. For me, it is not the time or the place, and it’s just not that funny.

Coming back to Keanu, Key and Peele did use these two worlds of Blackness —one of gang members and the other of just two cousins —to their advantage. For Key, he builds a relationship with the team of gang members by introducing them to a white musical artist. He convinces them that the song, although not hard/aggressive/etc, is real. And they start to open up about things, like why they have scars from being stabbed. And in 10 minutes, they’re all jamming to George Michael. Ironically, Key’s hardest scene happens at the end of the movie when he is no longer pretending to be Shark Tank (his gangster persona) and through his experience, has the courage to punch a dude in the face.

It could be said the movie explored the idea of a spectrum of Blackness. Some Black people prefer slang and others prefer academic language. Some Black people have tattoos and some don’t. Sometimes Black people with tattoos and piercings are the ones using proper grammar while the slang heavy talks haven’t marked their bodies. You get the point. Black people are PEOPLE. And like people, we are all unique. Most importantly, all this slang and tattoos don’t matter at all. And, the perceptions people have of them are simply stigmas and stereotypes. I get that. But we can all agree that some people still don’t. At the end of the day, this idea of being a thug is related to this idea of Blackness and the dangerous Black person.

I think Key and Peele get that. Their Black Ice skit tells me that they get that. They’re Black men and they’re aware of what it means to be Black in America through their own lenses. Comedy is a minefield of offensive and provocative references. And with more of an emphasis on social justice, people are constantly looking at language and questioning what is and is not offensive. People are actually speaking up about micro-aggressions and reserving their right to be offended about things some would consider to be minor.

Despite this, Keanu just seemed very behind-the-scenes white. It gave me the same feelings you get watching depictions of POC in media where the writers and directors are all white. Even still, it could be the exact humor you are looking for: even I laughed when Tectonic (Key) tells Shark Tank (Peele) that he sounds like Richard Pryor impersonating a white man. It’s still funny writing it now, and I immediately thought of many Dave Chappelle skits, especially those including Chuck Taylor.

I want to make it clear that I was not offended by Keanu. But in addition to laughing through parts of it, I also said to myself, “really, this again?” So, if you want to get a few chuckles in, go see the movie. If you want to see a kitten on the big screen, go see the movie. If you are a die hard Key and Peele fan, definitely go see their movie. But if you’re sensitive like me, maybe just wait ’til it comes to Netflix.


&On_Profile Pic&On is all over the Internet. Whether it’s Tumblr, Facebook, Youtube, and of course…REELYDOPE. Ze took interest in writing about media when ze began writing reviews in comments as ze watched music videos posted to zher page. Ze likes to look at the good, the bad, and the ugly, always keeping in mind the social implications of what we watch and are shown. And also turning up for entertainment.

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