|flickr photo courtesy of Light Briganding|
I felt the director's message was an obvious and came in two underlying themes: racism/stereotypes/microaggressions are omnipresent no matter where you look, and not everyone conforms to the expectations that those stereotypes create. There are countless examples of both aspects in the movie. Sandra Bullock's character consistently demeans and verbally bashes people of various races and ethnic backgrounds throughout the movie, only to find herself needing to rely on her Hispanic employee when she falls down a staircase. The police officer that helps Terrence Howard's character get out of a stick situation ends up murdering a black man in his personal vehicle just because he was afraid he was about to pull out a gun (instead, it was a figure of the Patron Saint of Travelers).
The movie has many minority players, and it seems to do two accurate general portrayals. It portrays both stereotypical attributes and provides examples that defy the stereotypes. A prime example of this is the locksmith. He left a stereotypical bad neighborhood in the bad side of town to start a new life and get away from it all. The locksmith is a decent and honest man, despite Sandra Bullock's character's assertion that he is going to duplicate her changed lock keys and sell them to his "homies."
I think that there were enough racial perspectives in the movie, that it would be hard for any group in particular to be offended. Everyone is depicted in a bad and a good state. I like how the director provided examples of both the good and bad sides of every person, and how that we can change our perspectives.
The movie added to my visual literacy in the sense that there were many actions that could be considered racist and acts that could be considered as stereotype-defying portrayed in the movie. Some of the scenes did not need to use a lot of words to describe scenarios, but were instead enriched by actually having the actors go through the process physically. This added depth to the movie. Also, we were able to visually see many of the characters go through a transforming mea culpa, and then come out wiser. This movie relied a lot on showing us, not just telling us.
The director used the shock value of certain scenes and our emotions to really bring the movie to life. Even though I knew that the bullets were blanks, I was still afraid that somehow the locksmith's daughter had been killed. In fact, I almost turned the movie off right then and there. I have children of my own, and it becomes very real to parents very quickly. These shocking scenes prompted the viewer to think deeply and almost go through the same transformation as the characters.