“You People” Is an Offensive, Unfunny Mess
Also: Is Alix Earle an AI experiment conducted by Harvard University? Plus: Alec Baldwin is officially facing consequences, and his wife Hilaria (née Hillary Hayward-Thomas) continues to perturb.
Spoilers ahead for Netflix’s “You People.”
Jonah Hill? Eddie Murphy? Julia Louis-Dreyfus?! With a literal comedy all-star cast, “You People” was going to be a surefire, hilarious hit! Right? Right?!
Unfortunately, hardly any of the “bits” landed—and the movie’s cringe, lame, and unfunny attempts at humor weren’t the only things offensive about the movie (which was penned by Kenya Barris of “Black-ish,” Mixed-ish,” and “#BlackAF” fame in collaboration with Hill).
“You People”—another twist on 1967’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and its subsequent 2005 remake, “Guess Who”—runs it back with the ol’ “whirlwind romance between white and Black partners leads to awkwardness with their respective families” trope. Based in Los Angeles, Hill plays Ezra Cohen, a white Jewish man, who falls in love with Amira Muhammad—played by Lauren London—a Black Muslim woman. Eventually, both sets of parents meet—Amira’s parents played by Murphy and Nia Long, while Ezra’s are played by Louis-Dreyfus and David Duchovny—and chaos quickly ensues.
Shelley (Louis-Dreyfus’ character), for her part, is a clumsy caricature of a well-meaning yet out-of-touch white woman who makes clunky, tokenizing, and offensive remarks to and about her future daughter-in-law (“I’ve been researching Black womens’ hair!” “I’m gonna have Black grandchildren!”).
Eddie Murphy’s character—Akbar—is a follower of the Nation of Islam and diehard Louis Farrakhan supporter. He refers to his kufi—given to him by Farrakhan—as his most prized possession. (Of course there’s a bit in which said kufi is accidentally set on fire by Shelley over a cringe-worthy dinner scene in which the sets of parents more or less argue about who’s more oppressed between Jews and Black people, and whether or not the Holocaust was worse than slavery.) Akbar asks the Cohens if they’re “familiar with the Minister’s work,” at which point Shelley says, “I’m familiar with what he’s said about the Jews!”
Here’s a small sampling of some of the things Louis Farrakhan has said about Jews, since the movie inexplicably did not feel compelled to include the necessary context:
“German Jews financed Hitler. International bankers financed Hitler and poor Jews died while big Jews were at the root of what you call the Holocaust. Little Jews died while big Jews made money. Little Jews were being turned into soap while big Jews washed themselves with it.” (1995)
“For the small number of Jewish people in the United States, they exercise a tremendous amount of influence on the affairs of the government. They exercise extraordinary control, and Black people will never be free in this country until they are free of that kind of control.” (1997)
“The Jews have been so bad at politics that they lost half their population in the Holocaust. They thought they could trust in Hitler, and they helped him get the Third Reich on the road.” (1998)
“The Jews have control over those agencies of government. When you want something in this world, the Jew holds the door.” (2018)
“Satanic Jews have infected the world with poison and deceit.” (2018)
“Call me an antisemite. Stop it. I’m anti-termite.” (2018)
“The false Jew will lead you to filth and indecency. That’s who runs show business. That’s who runs the record industry. That’s who runs television.” (2018)
“The enemies of Jesus were Jews. They turned away from God and used the skill and wisdom that God gave them to trick people into sin.” (2022)
In one scene, Fatima—played by Nia Long—repeats a Farrakhan talking point that Jews made money from the slave trade. (The conspiracy theory that Jews ran the slave trade has been, of course, debunked over and over again.) This subject is never broached again, refuted, or corrected. Jewish publication Hey Alma refers to this particular line as “an insidious piece of misinformation.”
So, uh… yeah. It was a bit disappointing that the movie treated a Farakkhan supporter spewing antisemitic tropes as a blip, never to be revisited during the movie.
It’s portrayed as something the Cohens will just… have to learn to accept.
One bit that goes on far too long with very little reward involves Akbar attempting to get Ezra to say the n-word while playing Kanye West on the radio.
Later, during the couples’ rehearsal dinner, Amira’s mom Fatima toasts to her family’s “newly found generational wealth.” It’s set during a montage scene and quickly cuts to the next toast, leaving me slack-jawed. The Cohen family does appear to have money (it’s heavily implied by the fact that they live in Brentwood, among other clues), but the “Jews! They have money!” trope here gave “dog whistle” more than “intelligent attempt at humor.”
And it’s not just Jewish people feeling misrepresented by the film.
For The Daily Beast, entertainment reporter Kyndall Cunningham writes, “[Barris’] perspective on Black people and the way we currently exist in the world has proven to be, in a word, problematic. His television shows have a habit of re-contextualizing Black history to fit faulty narratives or attributing social ills to personal hang-ups within the Black community…While Ezra’s parents display some ignorance, they’re at the very least accepting of his relationship. On the other hand, it’s frustrating that the main antagonist in this film is an ultra-conservative Black man. It’s almost like Barris and Hill, who wrote the film together, don’t realize that the stigma they’re exploring is a result of white racism.”
(Shameless plug: Kyndall and I recorded a podcast episode together last year, and it’s one of my favorites to this day. Give it a listen for more of her brilliant commentary.)
By the end of the movie, Shelley is rightfully apologizing for the way she’s tokenized Amira. Akbar apologizes to Ezra for continuously attempting to sabotage him (ie, by bringing him into a Crips-run barber shop wearing a red sweatshirt, or crashing his cocaine-fueled Vegas bachelor party in order to ensure he “doesn’t have fun”).
Yet, there’s no mention of antisemitism or anti-Jewish tropes by the time the credits roll. In “You People,” Jews are simply generic wealthy white folks, indistinguishable from WASPy gentiles, which—in today’s climate—is an interesting choice, to say the least.
The dialogue is absurd and the jokes aren’t funny, but most damningly, the movie doesn’t say much of anything about the topical racial questions it’s trying to raise. And whatever it does have to say is questionable at best and David Duke-approved at worst.
What to Watch Instead:
“M3GAN,” of course. Not to brag, but I’ve already seen it twice: once in theaters with my boyfriend and again after I forced my parents to watch it and paid Jeff Bezos $20 to rent it at home. (Now available to rent on Amazon.)
What Is an “Alix Earle,” Exactly?
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