Lakeith Stanfield has been on a roll as of lately; notably so from his breakout performances on FX’s featured show Atlanta and other featured movies such as Deathnote. I was instantly hooked to the Sorry to Bother You trailer from the aesthetic of Stanfield’s ability to make his acting canvas his personal masterpiece and the direction of how he is used on screen. It looks like the the combination of eccentric directing helps aide the cause; Boots Riley is a master at dominating comical satire in his latest breakout Sundance Festival film for the big screen, Sorry to Bother You.
Sorry to Bother You stars Cassius Green (played by Lakeith Stanfield). Cassius is in a desperate situation of sorts as he lives in a garage with his activist girlfriend (played by Tessa Thompson). He barely has a house over his head, drives shotty car given to him by his uncle that wouldn’t pass any emissions test in the country. All of these factors heighten his overwhelming sense of worthlessness as he hints towards his life as a channel of where the ending is probably better than then present. His girlfriend snubs off his somewhat depressing notions as she is an artist, optimist, and the epitome of carefree.
A glimmer of hope arrives in the form of a new job as a telemarketer. Cassius attempts to be himself as he gets acclimated but his attempts get him nowhere. With most callers, he gets no further than the beginning into to his call script. An older coworker (played by Danny Glover) states that Cassius should use his “White Voice” to boost sales and to overall aid in keeping the customer on the phone.
Yeah, “White Voice”. I know. More on that in a second.
His very “poindexter” and unconventional approach works as he becomes the top rep as a bottom level telemarketer, soon to join the ranks of the top callers of Worry Free, which essentially sells industrialized slavery with the marketing of productivity and happiness to the masses.
This movie covers many cultural norms, with a sarcastic and comedic tone, making it easy to process whilst enjoyable at the same time. Below, we’ll go through the moments that grabbed our attention; taboo and thought provoking.
The Systemic Notion of talking with a “White Voice” Leads to Success.
Cassius’s life transforms as he joins the ranks of the “Power Callers”, which are the telemarketers that get the higher priority calls. This gain comes with some changes in self, as he can only talk in his “white voice” while on the floor. His office is several floors up from the rest of the regular callers and the office aesthetic looks like that of a gentrified San Francisco startup building. Boots Colins finds a way to poke fun of societal ideologies by making it overtly sarcastic in how the “white voice” comes off, which most would prefer Cassius’s regular voice as it sounds less exaggerated.
As a black man, I can identify with the shifting of speech to appease the demographic you’re around, however, there is more skill in those that can accurately adapt to multiple environments. Cassius shows that versatility . MAJOR KEY: Do what works without changing who you are.
Finding That Moral Stopping Point.
As Cassius continues to move up the ranks, he gets offered to become the spokesperson for Worry Free. The offer sounds great, however the company literally is turning humans into horse-people for profit, and controlling interests. The ballpoint figure given to Cassius was an exorbitant amount of money that most would at LEAST consider, if given the opportunity. Genetically turning people into hybrid forms of horses should be a sure sign to get the hell out and indeed it is where he draws the line, using the information to wage war against Worry-Free.
This can easily be used to relate to modern society professions and support groups. Many people will risk their moral compass for financial gain, not keeping in mind how it affects themselves and others in the long haul.
MAJOR KEY: Don’t become someone who can be bought at the expense of morality/ethics. Also, horse-people look hella weird, regardless of how productive they might be. Just, no.
Appropriation sucks, man.
Cassius is one of two black “Power Callers” in his office, so the standard of having to fit the aesthetic of his environment whilst also being subjected to the oddness of being an outsider to the world of Worry-Free goes back to modern office culture where blackness is only appreciated in spurts and as warranted. As Cassius goes to one of the Worry-Free parties, he is told to finally “take off your white voice” and “rap”…. which Cassius then addresses the crowd in his normal voice and proceeds to attempt to rap – poorly.
He sees that the all-white crowd was not feeling he was securing his sense of blackness of them, so Cassius literally starts rapping “N*gga Shit” over and over to a repetitive beat as the rest of the audience begins chanting with it. As hilarious as that scene was disconnected from it via film, it reminded me of some non-people of color’s fascination with the N-word and its taboo. This scene gave me some “Get Out” level vibes.
MAJOR KEY: Don’t entertain people with the idea of who they “think” you are as a person.
Stay True To Those Around You.
As the movie progresses, Cassius becomes less engaged in protesting Worry-Free and takes a “sideline support” approach, which is his way of distancing himself from the drama and ethical crossroads as he literally works for the opposition at this point. This causes a rift in his friendship and his relationship, as his nights end up becoming more centered around work, partying with the Power Caller colleagues, and the eventual break-up of Cassius and his activist girlfriend as it seems he is in too deep at this point. Cassius strays away and learns from his mistakes with Worry-Free, whilst using the valid intel to fight for the side of good.
Essentially, the plan of Cassius doing more damage from the inside, as suggested upon his new role as Power Caller did come into fruition, but with some moments of moral fragility. Thats life, though.
MAJOR KEY: Its never too late to make things right.