November Criminals Trailer Would Be Incredible Commentary If It Were Satire & Not Plain Old White Savior Garbage

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The trailer for Ansel Elgort’s November Criminals, adapted from Sam Munson’s book of the same name, has the potential to be great … if you make some adjustments on your own. Specifically, if you choose to believe it’s a Funny or Die video, skewering the idea of the White Savior. Is it parody or satire, like that Netflix movie modeled after the current true crime trend, but about graffiti of dicks? If so, it might be something close to interesting.

Unfortunately, this trailer, the book it’s based on, and presumably, the upcoming movie, are none of these. Instead, it’s the story of a black teenager’s murder, except not really–it’s the story of some *super woke white teens* reacting to that murder and fighting the system by way of Holden Caulfield impressions.

The trailer opens with Chloe Moretz uttering a homophobic joke and Ansel Elgort ever-so-graciously giving his black friend books because a White Savior loves to educate.

That friend is played by Jared Kemp, who is billed so low on IMDB it’s hard to imagine he’s more than a featured extra in his own story

The book has been called “chokingly irritating.” The Washington Post writes “Munson has, intentionally or not, engineered an exercise in the worst aspects of high school — the cruelty and cliquishness — without the benefit of any softening anthropological hindsight.” My favorite GoodReads review says “If this book were reddit.com it basically summarizes the subreddits of r/iamverysmart r/ThatHappened r/leWrongGeneration r/justneckbeardthings and obviously r/trees.”

Worst of all, though, is that black people’s stories are still being told–and then retold, rewarded and celebrated in adaptation–without black characters at their center. It’s still seen as perfectly acceptable, or even preferable, to filter these stories through the lens of the peripheral white experience.

Pajiba points out that the movie has been shelved for three years, and even now is going straight to VOD a full month before its theatrical release. Presumably, it’s only the success of Elgort’s Baby Driver that made anyone think there might be some money to be made off of this flagrantly mediocre white-centric garbage heap.

(image: YouTube)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.