By Allyson Chavez
New York, N.Y.
A director who refuses to paint his main character as a Christ figure actually depicts that character as something much more important: a complicated, real human being. In other words, someone who is not at all a stereotype.
That certainly isn’t true for the rest of the characters in director Ryan Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station”—a true story about a man named Oscar Grant (played by Michael B. Jordan) who is unjustly killed by police in Oakland. One is able to find many different stereotypes in the film: the teenage mother, the “homies,” the older angry white cop, the younger scared white cop, and the mother of the “thug” who has to constantly visit her son at jail.
But at the center of the film is a character who isn’t a cliché at all. If Coogler would have used his paintbrush and painted Oscar Grant with a simple reality, the movie would just be another generic movie depicting the “hood.” But Grant is not a simple character. On the one hand, he is a guy who wants to make sure his mother doesn’t spend a dime on her birthday, who offers to help cover his sister’s rent even though he has lost his job, and who is a good father to his young daughter. Yet he also cheats on his girlfriend and resorts to selling weed to make it economically.
The fact that Coogler doesn’t idealize Grant makes the film extremely powerful and allows viewers to empathize with him. Coogler’s message is clear: Grant was not a perfect Christ figure but a regular human being, and no human being deserves to die the way in which he did.