Wednesday, August 14, 2019

REVIEW: 'David Makes Man' - David's Life Is Defined by Ongoing Struggles and Choices in 'David's Sky'

OWN's David Makes Man - Episode 1.01 "David's Sky"

Wanting to do well at school, David ends up in a physical altercation with his best friend Seren. At home, David acts as a lookout for The Ville at the request of Raynan. Gloria leans on David, and the truth about Sky is revealed.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of OWN's David Makes Man.

"David's Sky" was written by Tarell Alvin McCraney and directed by Michael Francis Williams

David is a young black man in pain. He is in turmoil both because of generational trauma and the harsh life he has already lived. He feels responsible for so much in this world. But he is still a young boy innocent to life and what all could be available to him. From a young age, he has been forced to personify a certain identity. It's the same choice that his younger brother JG is having to make as well. Their childhoods are essentially being ripped away from them simply by the systemic oppression of their community. Their life in the projects is separated from the community around them. This is their insular world in which crime and drugs are frequently present. David tries to avoid it for as long as possible. And yet, it's also consequential to his own survival. He finds himself having to go along with the demands of the local leaders of this criminal lifestyle simply to take that burden off of someone else. He aspires for the opportunity to break free of this world. He wishes to move up in society. It's a status change that can not only uplift himself but his entire family too. He sees his mother working constantly. He knows just how susceptible his brother is to the dangers of this world. But David is also looked at with suspicion. In the projects, he is seen as entitled because he doesn't embrace the local culture. At school, he feels isolated because he is the only student who looks like him. In the one class seen here, there is only one other student of color. David lashes out at him because there is so much of a burden for him to be seen as a successful. He has such a depressing view of the world. He associates Seren's success with his failure. He believes that only one of them can succeed and go on to have the opportunities the world rarely has to offer to them. David lashes out because he is angry. He looks at his classmates as having the opportunities that are never present for him. He has to rush to make it to school every single day. He has to take the bus just for this privilege. He works hard in order to make his way. But even then, he is crippled with doubts. He fears that he isn't good enough. He isn't smart enough. He isn't brave enough to overcome these obstacles. He feels the pressure bearing down on him. One wrong choice can lead to a destructive and tragic life for him. One where he will never be able to move up to something better than this. One where his fate could be getting shot by the police. He's terrified and traumatized. This premiere amplifies these nerves and paranoia. He flinches at the sheer threat of police presence. He spends a lot of time talking with the ghost of a man who was killed because of the crime in this neighborhood. That too signals a mind that is damaged and in pain. It's tragic to see David having these explosive arguments with no one else. He needs help. The school certainly has the aspirations of wanting to step in and better understand his life. Even then, it requires the approval of his mother. The school is concerned about David not being in a safe and healthy home environment. But that is the typical story for so many. Many don't get this willingness to understand and empathize. Dr. Woods-Trap assigns her class to detail how they got here. It's a broad assignment but one that could be powerful if the students take it seriously. David understands the power of words and how his story connects back to generations of pain and tragedy. He knows that his life is one built around an identity crisis. It's presented as a constant and agonizing choice. Every single day since a young age he has had to decide who wants to be in a world that wishes to condemn him. This premiere wants to paint it in a stark way. He can either embrace life as a criminal or flourish in school. It's not as simple as that though. In fact, it's often both at the same time. David wants so much more but he also acknowledges the reality of his circumstances. The burden of his life is likely not going to get any easier. That pressure will only amplify with the audience hoping for the best while also fearing the worst. David is a young black man in pain who needs compassion and understanding.