Why it might be hard to identify with MLK:
- He never really has that “I thought that person was waving at me but they’re really waving at someone else” moment. We never break through his monumental edifice. It’s hard to take a figure like King and say, “No, he’s just like us, folks!”, and the movie opts not to do that. It has to get us to Connect, Care and Commit without asking us to fully identify with him.
- He starts out giving his Nobel speech, then we see that he’s practicing in a mirror and getting annoyed by his ascot. “Wait till the brothers back home see me like this, they’ll have a good laugh.” Prep moments always help us connect.
- He talks about his retirement but we know he won’t get to do that. We then get intimate glimpses of the horrors he’s fighting: We bond with four little girls talking about hair before they get blown up, then we experience the indignity of Annie Cooper being turned away from voting. (“How many county judges in Alabama? Name them.”) LBJ subtly belittles him. We get snippets of FBI reports on him. He gets cold-cocked as soon as he arrives in Selma.
- He gives a hell of a speech. He bravely confronts the president and refuses to be cowed. We quickly realize that he’s much more cunning than he lets on. “Big speech lined up for these folks tonight, doc?” “We need to see what’s what first, big fella. We’re just here to test the waters.” After he’s hit, he slyly smiles and says to his lieutenants, “This place is perfect.”
- Eat: He lets LBJ pour him some tea or coffee, but he doesn’t drink it. He later sits down for a good meal when he arrives at a volunteer’s house.
- Exercise: Never. I think it would have been good to see some, but it might have been ahistorical to include it.
- Economic Activity: No, we’re never sure where the money’s coming from. We never see him preach to his own congregation.
- Enjoy: We get to see from afar him playing football with his kids in his yard, but we’re with Coretta who is upset while watching them. I’d rather be there with him as he does it. Later, he calls Mahalia Jackson and asks her to sing to him, but he doesn’t really seem to enjoy it. We find out from Hoover halfway through King’s been committing adultery, but the movie never shows us that onscreen.
- Emulate: He feels like he’s playing dress-up when he wears an ascot to accept his Nobel.
- His job is saintly, so it’d be pretty hard to rise above it! There’s certainly never an “I quit” moment.
High five a black guy
- He is goodness personified (or seems to be until we hear that tape), but there’s not really a moment of him doing a specific act of compassion to a specific person.
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