*(via NPR) – This was the toughest TV show for me to watch in a long while.
When They See Us is director/writer/producer Ava DuVernay’s searing, four-part drama about five black and Latino boys who were railroaded into falsely confessing to the most notorious gang rape in New York City history. But it wasn’t difficult viewing for its violence—in fact, the Netflix series is very careful in how it presents many instances of assault, with the most grisly details left to viewers’ imagination.
It was tough to watch because DuVernay’s look at the Central Park Five depicts a chilling circumstance that sits in the back of my mind, as a black man in America, pretty much every day. What happens when/if white America decides you are guilty of a horrific crime, partially to confirm its own horrific prejudices about people who look like you? What if that happens regardless of the evidence or circumstance?
And when/if that time comes, what if every institution that is supposed to protect you — police, lawyers, the media, even your parents and family — all turn their backs, pile on, or are too overwhelmed to make a difference?
This is the stark picture DuVernay offers, in a masterpiece of a series aimed at humanizing five boys who were vilified for decades and served years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit.
Get the rest of this Eric Deggans review of ‘When They See Us’ at NPR.