The new Netflix movie about President Barack Obama, Barry, can be summed up through the young Obama’s line on his biraciality: “I fit in nowhere.” Throughout the movie, Obama, played by actor Devon Terrel, struggles to fit in at his college and his off-campus life as a biracial transfer student.
Released on Friday, the original film portrays a young, charming Obama as he navigates through his early college years at Columbia University in the 1980s. It was adapted by screenwriter Adam Mansbach from Obama’s book, Dreams from My Father, and the trailer inspirationally gushed, “Before he gave hope, before he created change, before he made us believe ‘we can,’ he was Barry.” Predictably, it is already being hailed as “terrific” by liberal critics.
Although the film contains a few liberal undertones, such as one Columbia student declaring, “If there’s one thing Ronald Reagan definitely does not have, it’s moral authority,” most of the film focuses on Obama’s obsession with race as a result of encounters with subtle racism – micro-aggressions, as they’re called today – and feeling like an outsider due to having a Kenyan father and a white Kansan mother.
Twice in the film, a police officer asks Obama to produce a college ID while on campus. In the middle of a political discussion in one of his classes, where Obama is portrayed to be the smartest student in the class (an interesting decision considering he has still not released his college transcripts), a white student asks him, “Why’s everything always gotta be about slavery?”
When Obama worries that his white composite girlfriend’s parents won’t approve of him because he’s a “black guy,” another friend jokes, “You’re not that black, Barry.” The young Obama continues to express doubt about meeting the parents, a sentiment the girlfriend repeatedly dismisses, yet he claims that he wants to meet them somewhere where there could be “witnesses.”
Later, Obama even becomes frustrated with her, citing the struggle of having a “white girl on his arm.” He rebukes her, “Just because you went to Kenya for 5 days doesn’t mean you understand who I am.”
Toward the end of the film, after Obama starts to tell a student “why everything’s about slavery,” the student yells, “It’s 1981, dude, get over it already!” Now, it’s 35 years later, a black man named Barack Hussein Obama has been elected President of the United States twice, and still everything is about slavery for him.
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