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Netflix‘s Trigger Warning with Killer Mike distills the controversial Atlanta rapper’s various sociopolitical musings on hurtful ideologies, nationality, America’s addiction to porn, and contextual Blackness/otherness into a cultural docuseries. More or less an imperfect, six-episode thought experiment, Trigger Warning finds the affable Run the Jewels MC serving humor, absurdity, and truth in equal portions.
DIRECTOR: Vikram Gandhi
The Run the Jewels MC digs into America’s festering wounds with equal parts humor, absurdity, and truth.
“[The show] is about an anarchist having control of the status quo. It’s about not being judged because you’re a gang member, and how you can participate in capitalism and use your street fraternity affiliation to your advantage,” the rapper, born Michael Render, said recently.
Here, the wordsmith speaks on the Bloods and Crips’ inability to capitalize on their fame and notoriety, just as the largely white Hell’s Angels have. Mike helps a local set create “Crip-A-Cola” in the third episode, running the soft drink through the usual marketing paces—including an illuminating product study involving an all-white group. The second episode, “Fuck School,” contains arguably the series’ most ludicrous and genius idea, delving into America’s school system, lofty life expectations, and a deep need for skilled tradespeople, vis-a-vis our billion-dollar addiction to pornography.
Mike’s anti-religious message in “New Jesus”—that Christianity’s “white Jesus” ideation has had an adverse effect on Black people—will be sure to stir pots nationwide. In a subversive, tongue-in-cheek move, he recruits his laid-back friend, appropriately nicknamed “Sleep,” and a fiction author to create a religious text called the Book of Sleep. The episode gets to the heart of Mike’s core ideology, which primarily includes freedom of the Black mind, as well as the Black body.
There are instances where the ideas don’t quite work to the desired effect, such as Mike’s occasional pontificating, and his see-sawing in the finale, which haphazardly throws all of the series’ ideas into a leaky gumbo pot. This isn’t to say the somewhat satirical episode is a complete loss. His reckless (on the surface) and microcosmic effort at nation-building—specifically his recognition of the difficulty to reduce ego and reach a consensus—further illustrates the distance America has left to go, in the macro.
Trigger Warning with Killer Mike largely works, even in its lack of clarity—which is possibly part of the show’s design. With a wink and a black flag, Mike and director Vikram Gandhi stick their fingers into America’s festering wounds, attempting to scoop out infection, one episode at a time.
Need more ideas? Here are our Netflix guides for the best war movies, documentaries, anime, indie flicks, true crime, food shows, gangster movies, Westerns, and movies based on true stories streaming right now. There are also sad movies guaranteed to make you cry, weird movies to melt your brain, and standup specials when you really need to laugh. Or check out Flixable, a search engine for Netflix.
Kahron Spearman is a music and film critic whose work can also regularly be regularly found in the Austin Chronicle.