Sorry to Bother You is a Dystopian Parody of 21st Century America

Sorry to Bother you was directed by Boots Riely (above). Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons. 

By Richard Heaton

Watching the trailer of a film normally would give you a good understanding of what to expect. That’s not the case with Sorry to Bother You. After you leave the theater, the first thought that crosses your mind is “I can’t rationally explain the last two hours.”

The film’s trailer makes it appear funny, strange, and dramatic. However, it doesn’t really do the film justice and can’t prepare viewers for the twists and turns director Boots Riley throws at them in his debut film.

Sorry to Bother You starts off simple. It follows the story of a young man named Cassius who gets a job as a low paid telemarketer. We watch as he quickly rises through the ranks once he adopts a white accent. This is where simplicity ends. From there, the film takes a quick and chaotic turn towards mythical creatures and large corporations that want to rule the world.

Many viewers may have been disturbed by some of the later scenes. Others may have been confused or questioned why the scenes are even important to the film at all.

The truth is, all of these weird and crazy scenes are just a ruse. The film throws weird elements at you left and right in order to boost its entertainment value all while it discusses actual issues and phenomenons within American society. A first time viewer of the trailer would jump to the conclusion that the film is about race. It is to an extent, but it’s just one of many ideas and topics that are brought up.

One topic is simply capitalism. The rich make even more money while the poor make less. While working his new job, Cassius meets Squeeze, who he becomes friends with. Squeeze is fed up with the company they work for, claiming the job doesn’t even cover basic necessities of life.

Squeeze and the rest of the employees band together to protest the company in order to create a union and receive benefits. At this time, Cassius is on his way up in the company and is introduced to the greed of those above him.

Throughout the film we see a huge contrast in wealth. At the start, Cassius lives in the garage of his uncle’s house. His uncle can’t even afford the house and is on the verge of losing it. We see many citizens who can barely survive and yet we also see many executives who are living the life.

The idea of capitalism evolves so much in the film and into new ideas. The protests become full-fledged riots in between citizens and police. Those rich in either power or money prove they will do whatever they can to make even more money, whether it’s cutting corners, lying, cheating, stealing, or whatever else you can think of.

Even though the film probably takes place in the future and in some weird alternate reality, it’s an accurate representation of what America is like today. This also brings us to the next topic, which is what entertainment has become.

In the film’s version of America, their most popular TV show is literally a game show about hitting people. It seems crazy to us, and some characters even mentioned how dumb it sounds, but that actually has become what TV is in America.

It’s a stupid show but millions of people are hooked on it. This is a perfect example of how TV has branched out into hundreds of different avenues over the past few decades. People can get so attached to some of the silliest ideas and fads, such as some reality shows.

Along that same route, is a parody that’s pretty much aimed towards YouTube and other sources of “homemade celebrities.” During one of the protests, a woman throws a can of Coca-Cola and hits Cassius on the head. A video of her doing so goes viral and she becomes an instant celebrity, to the point where she has her own clothing line.

Some people might watch this film and think that scene is ridiculous or that something like that would never happen. But it happens every day with regular people doing regular or stupid things and becoming famous for it.

If anything, a good chunk of this film is a parody of what makes America, America. It may be set in a weird version of America with science fiction experiments gone wrong, but at its core it’s really about being a young American caught up in the world of trends, struggling to get by.

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