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Topics in History: History through Film

Topics is a course at Southport High School taught by Kevin Sanders that analyzes major events from United States and world history through Hollywood films that attempt to portray those events. Students investigate historical documents and other sources to determine if a film is historically accurate.

The goal is for students to develop deeper understandings of the historical discipline while generating questions about the way the world is around them, along with watching classical films that have graced American and international screens.

Student: Timmie Roome III

Film Reviewed: Straight Outta Compton

I believe Straight Outta Compton is a phenomenal film because it really shows the power of a group. In addition, the film’s themes include friendships that don’t always last forever; cherish those moments when you are with them because you never know when they might end.

During this movie, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E and Ice Cube create NWA, a rap group that expresses racism and discrimination that African Americans experienced. They decided to be one big group and make music to get a large following. They added more people to the group, like MC Ren, Dj Yella, etc.

They are on the rise and are gaining popularity fast. Eazy-E, debatably the most popular of the group at the time, runs into a manager named Jerry Heller who ultimately wants to sign Eazy-E and make his career bigger than they ever imagined. He agrees to hire him, and the group starts making noise around the country.

Everything was going well; they were the talk of the town and on top and couldn’t be stopped until the end of the tour they completed. Ice Cube was unhappy with his payment plans and believed that he was being scammed and tried to convince Eazy-E to fire Jerry or tell him to give him more money. Nothing changed so Ice Cube decided to split from the group, going independent. He later gets screwed over in the future at his new record label; so much that he destroys the owner’s office and demands his money.

Everyone else is still together, and they release more music. They diss songs back and forth until bodyguard-turned label boss Marion “Suge” Knight tells Dr. Dre to look into the contract Jerry had with him. They looked through it and realized that Jerry was scamming Dre.

Dre then confronts Eazy-E and tries to get him to fire Jerry, but Eazy-E doesn’t budge, so Dre makes a group named Death Row Records. (Dre eventually splits with them to become an independent artist.)

Time goes by, and Eazy-E is basically alone with Jerry. He then decides to look into his contract, and he discovers he is getting scammed again. He fires Jerry, then calls up Dre and Ice Cube to see if they wanted to collaborate again.

Once they pick a day to meet, Eazy-E is ill; he is admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with HIV. Everyone is heartbroken by the news. Eazy-E later dies of AIDS without having that connection with Ice Cube and Dre once again.

According to nfi.edu, apparatus theory suggests all films reflect reality in some way. It declares that every film element has meaning. People who believe in apparatus theory think they can learn more about a film’s meaning by analyzing the meaning of its elements.

In this film, this is demonstrated in many ways. It shows the way groups come together; they sometimes work out and sometimes don’t and shows the rise of the NWA group and how they were slowly falling apart. Later on they realize they should’ve stayed together. Everyone had to bear that pain. Unfortunately, when Eazy-E passes away, they don’t have that chance to group again. It shows how people should really think about and cherish the moments they have with each other. Along with this, it shows how powerful you can be with the right group of people.

Another example of the apparatus theory is when the movie shows the original NWA group, the way it shows them going into the booth and putting their all into the music; their fans actually liked what they were listening to. The group would go out and try to book shows even though a lot of people believed them to be harmful and bad for people to listen to. Many people tried to stop them, but they pushed through and kept doing what they thought was right. I believe they did the right thing though; they made sure to not let the media and the people who dislike them get in their head and stop the path they were taking. They showed that you need to just go out and try and not worry about the outcome; just do what makes you happy.

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