Does 'Three Billboards' Deserve The Hype?

Does 'Three Billboards' Deserve The Hype?


The other Sunday at the Golden Globes, one of the films that surprised me in how well it did is 3 Billboards. Not because I disliked the movie, but because it was one of the most controversial films of the year. While few debate Frances McDormand's stellar performance, the film's depiction of race in America has been widely critiqued.

In my opinion, the shaky depiction of police brutality in the film made it unworthy of winning Best Screenplay, and potentially Best Picture at the Oscars. This isn't to say that a film must be ideologically perfect to be a good film. In many ways, Three Billboards is a great film, and I loved many aspects of it. However, I believe that when it comes to award shows, the cultural context in which a film is released is a major part of whether it deserves certain awards. Furthermore, if a film seeks to tackle difficult issues, how it tackles these issues should be an aspect of its critique.

The film is advertised as mainly a story about Francis McDormand's character Mildred's campaign to get the corrupt local police department to investigate her daughter's rape and murder. And that is the main focus, but the film also spends a considerable amount of time humanizing these corrupt police officers.

The chief of police, Willoughby, who is originally targeted by the billboards Mildred puts up, ends up being the moral center of the film. His flaws, most obviously his refusal to fire Dixon, the violent, racist cop who allegedly has tortured black people (and who never refutes these allegations), are glossed over because of he is dying of cancer.

There are some very heart-wrenching scenes dealing with this, and I understand and admire McDonagh's desire to show the humanity in the supposed villains of the film, but it comes off a bit cheaply that his illness is the main reason we are supposed to sympathize with him.

Furthermore, his major monologue is the main emotional turning point in the film, and sets him up as the moral center of the film. We are supposed to forgive him for running a police station that is undeniably corrupt, and truly has failed Mildred and everyone else in the town of Ebbing.

The fact that Mildred, who kicks schoolchildren in the balls and tells her daughter she hopes she gets raped, is a less likable character than Willoughby is part of the point of the film: there are no good guys and no bad guys. But her over-the-top anger and his preachiness are a clear choice by the (male) writer and director of the film to villainize a female character and lionize a male character. This is an oversimplification of the film, of course, but it is the impression that it leaves, whether this was an intentional choice or not.

The main controversy about the film, however, has to do with the previously mentioned Dixon. For the first half to three-quarters of the film, he is a completely unlikable character. Racist, sexist, homophobic, and just straight up stupid (sound familiar?). Like Willoughby, however, he is humanized. His redemption arc is triggered by Willoughby's belief in him that despite everything, he is a good person.

Though the idea that everyone has good inside of them waiting to be released is beautiful and an admirable message, this seems like a flimsy excuse for a complete 180 in characterization.

Another aspect of the critique of the film is its treatment of the black people within the town of Ebbing. The victims of Dixon's "torturing" are never named or seen. There are almost no black people shown in the film, period. One of the few, Mildred's colleague Denise, is shown very briefly at the beginning, before she is arrested by Dixon in an effort to make Mildred comply, and then completely forgotten until she reappears, smiling, without another word about what must have been a traumatic experience, knowing what we do about Dixon.

This episode, to me, is the most egregious and troubling example of the lazy writing in the film. Black people as a whole are used in the film the same way cancer is: as a device to further the emotional development of white people in the film. For a film that seeks to explore the failures of law enforcement to deal with citizens' issues, this is quite an oversight.

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11 Things Psychology Majors Hear That Drive Them Crazy

No pun intended.

We've all been there. You're talking to a new acquaintance, or a friend of your parents, or whoever. And then, you get the dreaded question.

"So what are you studying in school?"

Cue the instant regret of picking Psychology as your major, solely for the fact that you are 99.9% likely to receive one of the slightly comical, slightly cliche, slightly annoying phrases listed below. Don't worry though, I've included some responses for you to use next time this comes up in conversation. Because it will.

Quick side note, these are all real-life remarks that I've gotten when I told people I was a psych major.

Here we go.

1. So are you, like, analyzing me right now?

Well, I wasn't. But yeah. Now I am.

2. Ugh so jealous! You picked the easy major.

"Lol" is all I have to say to this one. I'm gonna go write my 15-page paper on cognitive impairment. You have fun with your five college algebra problems, though!

3. So can you tell me what you think is wrong with me? *Shares entire life story*

Don't get me wrong; I love listening and helping people get through hard times. But we can save the story about how one time that one friend said that one slightly rude comment to you for later.

4. Well, s**t, I have to be careful what I say around you.

Relax, pal. I couldn't diagnose and/or institutionalize you even if I wanted to.

5. OMG! I have the perfect first client for you! *Proceeds to vent about ex-boyfriend or girlfriend*

Possible good response: simply nod your head the entire time, while actually secretly thinking about the Ben and Jerry's carton you're going to go home and demolish after this conversation ends.

6. So you must kind of be like, secretly insane or something to be into Psychology.

Option one: try and hide that you're offended. Option two: just go with it, throw a full-blown tantrum, and scare off this individual, thereby ending this painful conversation.

7. Oh. So you want to be a shrink?

First off, please. Stop. Calling. Therapists. Shrinks. Second, that's not a psych major's one and only job option.

8. You know you have to go to grad school if you ever want a job in Psychology.

Not completely true, for the record. But I am fully aware that I may have to spend up to seven more years of my life in school. Thanks for the friendly reminder.

9. So you... want to work with like... psychopaths?

Let's get serious and completely not-sarcastic for a second. First off, I take personal offense to this one. Having a mental illness does not classify you as a psycho, or not normal, or not deserving of being treated just like anyone else on the planet. Please stop using a handful of umbrella terms to label millions of wonderful individuals. It's not cool and not appreciated.

10. So can you, like, read my mind?

It actually might be fun to say yes to this one. Try it out and see what happens. Get back to me.

11. You must be a really emotional person to want to work in Psychology.

Psychology is more than about feeling happy, or sad, or angry. Psychology is about understanding the most complex thing to ever happen to us: our brain. How it works the way it does, why it works the way it does, and how we can better understand and communicate with this incredibly mysterious, incredibly vast organ in our tiny little skull. That's what psychology is.

So keep your head up, psychology majors, and don't let anyone discourage you about choosing, what is in my opinion, the coolest career field out there. The world needs more people like us.

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Short Stories On Odyssey: Roses

What's worth more than red roses?


Five years old and a bouquet of roses rested in her hands. The audience-- clapped away her performance, giving her a standing ovation. She's smiling then because everything made sense, her happiness as bright as the roses she held in her hands.

Fifteen now, and a pile of papers rested on her desk. The teachers all smiled when she walked down the aisle and gave them her presentation. She was content then but oh so stressed, but her parents happy she had an A as a grade, not red on her chest.

Eighteen now and a trail of tears followed her to the door. Partying, and doing some wild things, she just didn't know who she was. She's crying now, doesn't know anymore, slamming her fists into walls, pricking her fingers on roses' thorns.

Twenty-one and a bundle of bills were grasped in her hands. All the men-- clapped and roared as she sold her soul, to the pole, for a dance. She's frowning now because everything went wrong, but she has to stay strong, for rich green money, is worth more than red roses.

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