why XXXtentacion's past does not justify his death

why XXXtentacion's past does not justify his death

Yeah, he wasn't exactly an angel, but that doesn't mean he deserves to go to hell.

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Me and my roommate were lying on our dorm beds one night, jamming out to her Spotify playlist when I first heard X's hit song, "Sad." I instantly fell in love and forced my friend to keep the song playing on repeat. Once I knew who he was and how to properly spell his stage name, I listened to all the songs in his new album and went on Youtube to watch him perform them live. His stage presence and the inspirational words he spoke to his audiences quickly turned me into a giddy fan. His songs gave me an escape from reality and a breath of fresh air that I wasn't even aware I needed. X opened himself up to the entire world and his songs were a pathway for his listeners to do the same. Listeners like me were able to connect to the raw emotions X sang about: loneliness and hopelessness.

His death left me in shock. I couldn't believe all the tweets and articles I was reading of how X was just walking back to his car from motorcycle shopping when he was shot in broad daylight. I felt utter disgust towards those who were shamelessly recording him laying lifeless in the front seat of his vehicle. The idea of "views" on social media and tweeting "RIP" just to see how many retweets it gets has distracted us from what it means to respect other people's privacy and let those who passed on to truly rest in peace.

XXXtentacion's death is just another example of the unnecessary gun violence that happens every day in this country. No person shot in that manner deserves to die. Yes, X did not have the best reputation. He was part of a domestic abuse case from 2016 in which he was accused of abusing his pregnant girlfriend, false imprisonment, and even witness tampering. One of my Instagram followers kindly reminded me of these facts when posting a bunch of screenshots of X's criminal and homophobia history on their story. Yes again, X was not exactly the most open-minded, angel-like figure, but it is wrong to constantly shove all this in the faces of those who are simply trying to mourn. Those who relentlessly try to tarnish X's name even after his brutal death was either not a fan of his music or never even gave his music a chance. That's why it is so easy for them to antagonize him without understanding how much an impact his songs had on all his fans across the globe.

Strangely enough, before his death, X went on Instagram Live and said "If worst thing comes to worst, I fucking die a tragic death or some shit, and I'm not able to see out my dreams, I at least wanna know that the kids perceived my message and were able to make something of themselves..." He was in Florida at this time, the place of his death, preparing for a charity event. This shows that XXXtentacion was on the road to change and he obviously had a vision in mind for the youth. Rapper Jidenna said it best when he tweeted "For those who are so woke that their compassion is asleep, remember this... if Malcolm X was killed at the age of 20, he would have died an abuser, a thief, an addict, and a narrow-minded, depressed, and violent criminal." And it is true, X was only 20 but he had the potential to change the world and help millions of more kids who struggled as he did. X had a rough childhood growing up in foster homes, he wanted to touch any lost or damaged young minds and possibly prevent them from living the way he did. No, the fact that he had an abusive childhood does not justify his violent actions, same way his violent actions should not justify his death.

No, you cannot forget how he was abusive and homophobic but you also cannot forget how many hearts he touched with his music. I know people, including myself, who has used X's music to help get through some of the lowest points in our lives. X's life was taken way too soon. He will never have the chance to make more music, better more lives, or even better himself. His music provided a gateway for young people to open themselves up and face emotions that they were too afraid to go through alone. And for that, X will never be forgotten.

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My Best Original Screenplay Oscar Predictions Based Solely On The Writing, As It Should Be

Let's focus on the writing, not the politics.

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The Oscars are almost here, so it's time to make predictions.

Except, if you're like me, you probably haven't seen all the nominated movies. This year, I realized I had not seen any of the films up for Best Original Screenplay. This was a bit of a failure moment for me as a hopeful future screenwriter, but I took the opportunity to do something everyone always says to do when you're learning—read scripts.

I decided to read these scripts and make my predictions based solely on the writing, as it should be. I read each script, then watched the trailer and read a few articles about the movies to answer any questions.

And here's what I decided.

"The Favourite"

I'd heard great things about this movie before reading it, so I was excited to study this screenplay. It was well written, I will be honest, so bravo to Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. But, it still left some to be desired. It definitely has its good qualities and is justified in its being a, well, fan favorite.

Except, the script relied heavily on subtext for commentary. Any narrative, no matter what time period it takes place in, will be held against the current societal environment regardless of intentions. However, it was clear that this film's intentions were to place a female voice in history and in current outlets. Which, of course, is not a bad thing. However, this film does so with disregard for true equality. The female focus is at the men's expense, which is not true equality (but that's an argument for another time).

I actually found the story predictable. The story tried to build suspense around the war, but even that seemed like a second priority to the writers after the love triangle. The script didn't explicitly tell the reader "how to feel," but it was strongly implied by the end.

"First Reformed"

This was a solid film written by Paul Schrader. Each scene really does move the plot forward which is story 101 but still important to note sometimes. Even the scenes that seemed like they would be time fillers allowed for the voice-over narration of Toller's journal.

This voice over was a nice touch of characterization and introduced well in the first scenes. This introduction was so well written, I could see exactly how it would play out, which is textbook screenwriting. The dialogue was believable. The setting description was a good balance and told part of the story too.

But there was that ambiguous, "La La Land"-dream-sequence-ish ending though.

"Green Book"

Okay, this one. This film is important and was skillfully written, so definitely a bravo to Peter Farrelly, Brian Currie, and Nick Vallelonga.

This film spoke to racial equality in the sense of true equality—meeting on the same level. It took place in one of America's shameful times and followed a white man realizing how things really are for those different from him and learning how to use his privilege in a way that helps and not harms. Like Dr. Shirley said, "You never win with violence." And as far as movies nominated in this category based on true stories, this did the best at maintaining the integrity of the original.

The writing was phenomenal. There was a personality in the action. The characterization was shown, not told. This was done through the actions, letters, reactions, how the characters treat others and how other characters treat the main characters. There was evident development in growth in the two main characters Lip and Dr. Shirley. It ended nicely, and the scenes were paced well.

"Roma"

This story would be better as a novel, in my opinion. The descriptions were beautifully written, so much so that every time there was dialogue or a scene change, I was roughly drawn out of the story. For a script, the action was almost too artsy and I could tell that it would be better visually than in writing. There were a few inconsistencies, like how Pepe calls Cleo "mom" in the beginning when Señora Sofia is actually his mom. Of course, this was probably meant to be just a kid crying for his mom when he was tired, but it leads to some confusion going forward when introducing characters.

This film was artfully written by Alfonso Cuarón. Most of the time, there was a good balance between detailed and vague descriptions (except that one part that described the color of the sky even though this is a black and white movie). I was struck by the impactful use of sound descriptions woven into the script, such as the car horn or the plane flying overhead. This was something that was present in the other scripts but didn't make as much of an impact, in my opinion, as it did in "Roma"

"Vice"

Oh goodness, where to begin? Adam McKay begins this script with an indignant tone in the superimposed text saying they "did their f***ing best" to tell a true story. But did they? No. If this Best Original Screenplay award is based on the writing, then "Vice" is shockingly nominated. If it's based on political people-pleasing, then I guess the nomination makes sense. The film is riddled with a bias to the left. It assumes the viewers agree with the flat narrative of the film and that we all see the characters as the one-dimensional people they movie portrays. The film even addressed this bias at the end, but the way they did didn't level the playing field at all, but just pandered to that bias, trying to pick a fight. Well, they shouldn't be dignified with a response, in my opinion.

But I digress. The writing. That's what we're here for.

Unfortunately, even the writing was objectively bad compared to the other scripts. And I don't say that lightly. It read like a school project that was completed the night before it was due. There were typos everywhere (notably, "due" was spelled "do"). The story and scenes seemed willy-nilly thrown together with the only goal of pushing an opinion. The framework and organization were centered around how best to convince the viewer of McKay's views, not tell the story. It's a very serious subject that's covered here and could've been handled better instead of this script that reads like a comedy with political propaganda tendencies.

And now, my predictions for best original screenplay go to...

I'll break this down into categories.

My favorite: "Green Book."

What should win: "Green Book."

What will probably win: "The Favourite."

They all have a chance, but if "Vice" wins, then what are we all here for? The writing, or politics?

The other films all had their stance in politics without taking away from the story being told. "The Favourite" was female-driven with LGBT aspects and classist themes while telling the story of Queen Anne and her ladies. "First Reformed" critiqued megachurch culture, environmental activism, and big business while telling Toller's story of grief. "Green Book" also had some classist themes and attacked racist tendencies in a way that can educate and change minds by telling a historical story. "Roma" was the story of a family set in cultural and political context. But "Vice" was just about politics and not the story.

Let's focus on the stories. Let's focus on the writing.

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Coffee Shop Strangers

Lessons on being a fly on the wall.

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Let's consider why coffee shops attract people: they provide shelter in the form of commercialized couches, wooden chairs, and tables to sit and read on, food in the form of overpriced lattes, pre-packaged snacks, and outlets for charging our gadgets if we are so lucky to find one.

They are oftentimes corporate entities fueling society's infinite need for caffeinated beverages, to survive the inevitable workday.

Or maybe their purpose is to serve the lowly college kid who decided to escape the gloom of their dorm room and breathe in the robust espresso air while grinding away at their assignments.

Or maybe the first date for a couple who just met online and are feeling out the waters.

Or maybe the location of a kid who is struggling to pass his fifth-grade math class and is dropped off by his mother to be tutored by their overly enthusiastic neighbor.

Or maybe the businessmen and women who need a space where they can discuss the implications of their proposal to their boss the following day.

Or maybe the ominous guy who sits by the window sipping a cappuccino watching the rainfall as he considers why he has such difficulty keeping a healthy relationship, as he watches the Tinder couple giggling and canoodling.

And so, the tutor of the fifth grader looking towards the cappuccino guy wondering why he appears so sullen, in between the kid's problem sets.

And so, the businesswoman peering at the college kid wishing she was analyzing "Dante's Inferno" instead of perfecting her spreadsheets.

And so, the Tinder couple who are learning that they are no longer strangers to one another.

And so, such is the magic of hyper-connectivity, as we are all bound by our words, thoughts, and actions.

The magical thing about coffee shops is that they provide an environment where conversations flow, much like a bar, but more effectively.

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