Baz Luhrmann's The Get Down premiered last Friday on Netflix and I dutifully sat through it from beginning to end. Honestly, it started off a little shaky, which I blame on Luhrmann directing the first episode. While I loves me some Baz, restraint is not a word in his vocabulary. But by the final notes of the sixth episode, I was fully on board.
The Get Down is a vibrant, consistently engaging ode to disco, hip hop, and '70s New York--and all the things that were wrong with them. Among the highlights is young, pretty, woke Jaden Smith, playing young, pretty, woke graffito Marcus "Dizzee" Kipling. He's the most soulful character, with an afro as expansive as his consciousness.
Dizzee tags subway cars under the name Rumi, and one day he meets a fellow graffiti artist, the young, pretty, woke Thor. The two definitely share a special connection, which we're beaten over the head with while at a gay club playing "Telepathy"--a new disco track from Christina Aguilera (a sentence I've been waiting to write for 15 years).
Even Thor's sassy, beret-wearing gal pal can sense there's something between the two and she says what we're all thinking.
But just when we think they're about to lock lips, we get bombarded with a montage of queer-baiting imagery, including an exposed breast that I don't mind yet certainly can't explain. Then we're left with the two of them locking...foreheads.
Get it, telepathy. It feels kind of like a dirty gip, much like having to wait till 2017 for part two of the series. With a tit literally in our faces, it's not like The Get Down's shying away from sexuality, just maybe homosexuality. Sure, they're at a gay club--note the duck walking drag queens--but where's the gay?
Ok, it's 1977. Dizzee is black, living in The Bronx, and from the gist we get of his character, this is his first time at the rodeo. He's also part of a hip hop group with his friends and brothers, who casually toss around the word "faggot" from time to time.
Hip hop, a traditionally ultra-masculine artform was nonetheless spiritual siblings with disco, which catered largely to gay audiences--disco tracks were used as the beats DJs and MCs used to make their own records, from "Rapper's Delight" to "Mo Money Mo Problems." Dizzee is symbolically bridging these two worlds, just as the show bridges the two genres. The only thing is, The Get Down does a better job at the latter.
So maybe Dizzee and Jaden have something else in common besides being young, pretty, and woke. Maybe Dizzee doesn't subscribe to labels either. We'll have to wait for part two to find out.
Still, with a tit literally in our faces, would a gay kiss have killed anyone? No. Would it also have been more meaningful/powerful if Dizzee and Thor had actually kissed rather than exchange a telepathic smooch? Of course. So was this a poor creative choice and not one necessarily rooted in homophobia? Perhaps. Check out the clip below and decide for yourself.
One thing, however, is abundantly clear: would the world be a better place if Christina just pulled it together and released a disco album? You fucking bet.
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