So much of American art and culture feels fake. A more sophisticated term might be elitist. Looking through a certain lens could even show that the dominant power structures use art and culture, especially pop culture, to oppress working people and the underclass. Every once in a while, though, something slips through the cracks, in this case a film, and we see the real America. That’s what makes American Honey stand out. It’s a beautifully-shot film, with fantastic performances from veteran and first-time actors, but, at it’s core, it’s subversive. The value of that quality cannot be overstated.
Pick up a copy of Wired magazine and read the latest report on “microdosing” among Silicon Valley’s white, educated, pampered professionals, and you might think that’s America. But by sheer numbers, these people and their interests are a distinct minority. Fully two-thirds of our population did not go to college. And of those who did, only about half have a job that actually requires a degree. There are around seven million Americans in prison, or on parole or probation. Strip children and senior citizens out of the numbers and account for the fact that men are incarcerated at a rate of ten to one over women, and you see that, of this “prison-eligible” population, more than seven percent of men are under the thumb of the “justice” system in some way. And if you’re African-American, you’re six times as likely to go to jail as a white man. Almost twenty percent of American women have been raped at some point in their lives and close to half have been victims of some sort of sexual violence. And most of us haven’t had a real raise since 1979. So, you know, it’s rough out there, and perhaps those of us who just can’t relate to the suits and ties, and self-driving cars we’re supposed to aspire to can be forgiven.
If you’re nodding your head in knowing agreement to these sentiments, get ahold of American Honey to be reassured that you’ve not been completely forgotten by everyone who has a voice in our society. If you’re on the privileged side of this divide, watch American Honey and know that it is not a fantasy. This is how a lot of people, in some ways most of us, live in America. And remember this: eventually, the dispossessed become disaffected, and the pitchforks come out.