“We have seen this again with Trayvon,”said Coogler on his rounds to promote the project. “Someone’s character instantly goes on trial in the media. They’re either a martyr and a saint, or everything they ever did was wrong. The truth is more complicated.”
What “Fruitvale” manages to do is mold the martyr/hoodlum paradox in a complex composite of an actual human being. One who is capable of both patience and frustration, affection and isolation, good intentions despite missteps. It seems that somewhere along the way, the character arc for young brothers as interpreted by some in white America has been reduced to simplistic dimensions. There is no balance to the anger, immaturity or mistakes, thereby projecting them as a threat best left for dead.
It’s far easier to mistake a pistol for a stun gun when what you fail to see is humanity reflected in that black skin; when you feel a duty to society to eliminate a menace.
At stake is a virtue more vital than just racial understanding. Young black men are worth more than a bullet hole on a subway platform and “Fruitvale Station” presents an artfully complex commute to the heart of a man who is neither martyr nor saint.