When I was young, a ‘stray’ usually referred to a cat or a dog without an owner – which traversed Britain’s outer community looking for temporary shelter and scraps of food. I believe there used to be so many that TV documentaries were made about this issue – particularly packs of dogs which were let-out during the day by their owners when they went to work – and went back home for the night when their owners returned. Today, for some reason, (probably various government-sponsored euthanasia pogroms enabled by the modern proliferation of ‘animal charities’), ‘strays’ are not the obvious issue they once seemed to be in the UK.
My point is that the term ‘strays’ usually refers to an animal without a home. Another, less considered definition of this term is found within the subject of ‘Geneaology’, where the term ‘stray’ may refer to a person’s name recorded in an incorrect or less obvious place. In other words, a written record that would not necessarily be used to seek such a name, if a search was ongoing because there appears to be no logical connection between a) the name under consideration, and b) the place within which it has been lodged (usually due to an unnoticed bureaucratic error made hundreds of years ago by the original clerk working for the church and/or civil authorities).
The term ‘stray’, therefore, may refer to a person, animal or object that lacks a permanent or proper home. Dictionaries, of course, define the term ‘stray’ as referring to something that is not in its proper place, or which has moved away from its intended group or target. I mention all this as I recently watched a Netflix (British) film entitled ‘The Strays’ – a very curious title. Of course, there are many traps involved in assessing such offering, but dialectical assessment is the greatest weapon the working mind possesses. A film about ‘colour’ must be ‘de-colourised’ if the parameters are to be properly set. For instance, this film is not about the safety records of non-White weightlifting instructors and how this impacts the safety of their ‘White’ clients. It is also not about inner-city housing records when it comes to allocating the ever-dwindling stock of council flats to non-White people.
So, what is this film about? The term often avoided by the mainstream media is ‘Black’ – because it is the term the White Establishment fears the most. And here is a significant clue. I suspect the Bourgeois Establishment will see a ‘Black’ film – but I suspect White people make-up by far the greater number on-screen. Why wouldn’t they – White people make-up by far the greater number of people in the UK which is reflected by the fact the White Bourgeoisie controls the country and sets the cultural agenda. This is where we must carefully distinguish between allocated screen-time – and the ethnic demographics of the actors themselves. A film might be about ‘Black’ people in the sense that a select group of characters are given centre-stage – but still contain a far greater number of non-Black people in it.
An interesting conundrum concerns the subject matter of this film. Is the writer attempting to convey a Black experience? Is the writer attempting to convey a Black experience through a set of central Black characters? Is the writer attempting to convey a Black experience through the reaction of the majority of non-White supporting actors? Is the writer attempting to communicate a male or female experience? Again, is the agency of juxtaposing gender being used to make a point or a number of points? Are we exploring postpartum depression and the issues women face when experiencing this reaction to childbirth? Is the issue being explored the type of mental illness which involves the ‘fear’ of mirrors and their reflections? Could it be the issues of betrayal and abandonment – honesty and truth?
What is identity and how does desire alter or infiltrate this agency of categorisation? Rejection and the wrong kind of accommodation can unleash highly destructive forces. This is a process which can be seen throughout all human history – but the writer tries to be tricky here (and deliberately so, I believe) – by playing upon White insecurities. The redemptive forces in this instance are presented as unmistakably ‘Black’. This feeds into White notions of Black criminality – but this film is premised upon dichotomy. White vs Black, rich vs poor, city vs country, man vs woman, education vs ignorance and even decorum vs faux pas! It is the dichotomy that makes it work!
Of course, at the end of the day, and regardless of how ‘clever’ or ‘insightful’ an assessment might be – the purpose of this film is the exploration of skin-tone. A lighter skin-tone is associated with affluence and civility – whilst a darker skin-tone is presented as unwanted, violent, poor, uncouth and criminal. Furthermore, the storyline is premised upon true events. With the popularity of the ‘true crime’ genre, it is now quite easy to research the subject of individuals abandoning one version of themselves and seeking-out ‘new identities’ – a process which is not illegal in and of itself – providing fraud is not committed. All this intersects with ‘class’ – which is the elephant in the room, and it is interesting to note how the White husband and his White friend are quite happily discussing the far-right notion of ‘White Flight’ – and that this is being allowed in front of his Black wife and children! I think that this demonstration of ‘White’ psychological violence is far more poignant than any of the destructive actions that follow – even the weightlifting killing – when the historical number of non-White people murdered by White people around the world is taken into account.
Misogyny is never far away when exploring post-modern and post-industrial reality. The centre of this drama revolves around a ‘light skin-toned’ Black woman who is successful whilst infiltrating ‘White’ (middle-class) society. Within Alex Haley’s biographical novel entitled ‘Roots’ – such a woman is usually depicted as the by-product of the White rape of Black slave women. The White ‘Masters’ or ‘Owners’ of the African slaves would rape their ‘property’ with impunity – and this actively included the sexual abuse of African men, women and children! Of course, this draconian regime was enforced with extreme physical, emotional and psychological violence perpetuated by the ‘White’ Owners toward their African slaves. Some of the offspring of these rapes resulted in very light skin-toned women (referred to as ‘high yellow’) – who were considered particularly attractive by their White captors – and often taken as ‘wives’, being presented as ‘White’ to polite society. They were trained to ‘think’ and ‘act’ like White (European) women, and to dress the same way – leaving behind (or ‘denying’) their African roots. Of course, in today’s multicultural society – biracial children are more or less ‘normal’ within urban populations – where various and diverse populations voluntarily ‘mix’, producing all kinds of beautiful children.
The central character of this film is a ‘Black’ woman whose history as a human being has obviously involved ‘mixing’ of various forms experienced by her ancestors. To what extent this has happened is a matter of debate and is certainly not discussed in the film, but the reality of her two original (biological) children being African looking suggests that the central character possesses genuinely ‘African’ genes and that the father of her children was also ‘Black’, etc. Indeed, her ‘Black’ children are a shocking contrast to the ‘White’ (middle-class) society she has infiltrated – particularly when compared to her ‘new’ children produced with her ‘White’ husband! Through their uncompromising attitudes and violent behaviour – her original ‘Black’ offspring are presented as positively ‘demonic’ – and it cannot be doubted that the writer of the film must have intended this to be the case! Again, playing upon ‘White’ sensitivities and ‘Black’ experience. The Bourgeois Establishment, as is usual for its double standards, has tended to avoid virtually any of the above issues, and instead has limited the assessment of this film to being that of a run of the mill script with no reality beyond the surface presentation! This may be termed a typical ‘White’ response of ‘denial’ when confronted with the progressive dynamics of Black intelligence!