Two Netflix documentaries I enjoyed recently: Disclosure & Skin

Sometimes I just say the most shit. lol

“[01:34, 5/10/2020] Douglas: Nice, I too could enjoy it, but I don’t watch documentaries on netflix, that’s a waste of my time and money.

[01:35, 5/10/2020] Douglas: Netflix is for entertainment, not learning shit”

That was my response to my friend Daniel when he was suggesting I watch the Michelle Obama Becoming documentary on Netflix. In my defense, I really want to read the book before I watch the documentary, he says I don’t need to but I want to so I’ll get to it whenever that happens.

Anyway, isn’t it so funny how I said that just two months ago but here I am now, raving about two documentaries I saw on Netflix.

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Disclosure

I saw the promo for Disclosure on Netflix’s twitter profile, I typically check their profile for new TV show recommendations and I remember watching the trailer and nothing really piqued my interest, actually I think the trailer convinced me that I won’t watch it because I just didn’t get what it was about. Looking back I think the description wasn’t so clear. I won’t blame them though, Disclosure is a very nuanced documentary (or maybe it’s not that different and I just haven’t watched a lot of documentaries), it’s an analysis on how Hollywood and media has played a huge role in the vilification of the trans community, it’s very rich with examples, and details the systemic structures Film & Television has setup to make not just the trans experience but how trans people are perceived painful. It cuts across a lot of things, why people act repulsed when they see trans people, why people feel deceived, why the hate is also related to homophobia, why straight men playing trans characters helps purport hate for them, how other gay and lesbian members of the queer community also purport their own hate for trans people, why they’re predominantly known for sex work, why TV also contributes to their abuse on so many levels and many more.

I eventually watched by accident, I opened Netflix scanning for what to watch, actually, scratch that, I also saw a retweet on Ozzy Etomi’s twitter profile saying it’s a good watch, so on one of those days where I couldn’t find anything to watch on Netflix, I thought, okay let me try this. I wasn’t sure what to expect, again, I’m not a fan of documentaries, I love drama and documentaries are usually lacking, except the theranos documentary, that was peak drama, I digress.

I was still confused about the point of the documentary in the first 10 minutes, but I was hooked. The story telling is amazing! Then it hit me, they’re talking about all the ways film and television has made everyone hate trans people, and all the misconceptions about trans people. What I loved most about it was how they addressed every fucking thing, they left no stone unturned, they addressed it all. Family neglect, instutional neglect, trans people being used as a joke, e.t.c.

I also loved the fact that they had trans-men in it, in that moment it dawned on me that trans men are never really visible. You see trans women but not trans men, I think I’ve only seen two trans men on TV, Glee and The Politician, and it’s no surprise they’re from the same TV creator — Ryan Murphy. Anyway, it’s a good documentary to watch, this might sound weird to some, but it’s the kind of documentary to watch with friends & family, and hopefully positively discuss it right after. I don’t see why anyone that watches Disclosure shouldn’t shed at least 10 pounds of bigotry. Trans lives matter, they’re here to stay and they will get their respect, just like everybody else.

At the end of it, I was in awe of how powerful media is, I know I’ve read something about media and hollywood being one of the best instruments of propaganda and keeping the peace during wars, but yikes, media is so powerful and people in the industry need to be more responsible, everyone of them.

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Skin

Okay, so this is going to sound creepy but I also saw this because of a tweet by Ozzy Etomi, I swear I’m not stalking her, but she’s cool and I love her tweets. I loved this documentary too. Mainly because I don’t think I’ve seen anyone talk about colorism in Nigeria on such a big scale. I don’t think I’ve heard colorism outside of twitter actually. It’s just that thing that everyone knows exists but no one talks about. As someone that is black black I’m ashamed to say it, but I think I was colorist for the longest time. I never really liked being black black per se, and just like the little girl in that documentary said, I never wanted to be fair fair, just like one or two shades lighter. It also pains me to say, but I think TheShadeRoom is what helped me shed off my colorism, yes, that triffling ass TheShadeRoom, lol. While they’re so triffling and messy, I remember seeing a lot of the content they put out praising so much dark skin people constantly, and with time, that made me think very good things about my complexion. I’m very sad this liberation is very related to TheShadeRoom, but it is what it is.

About this documentary, it was good, I loved it, I love the fact that someone thought it was a worthy investment to talk about colorism, bleaching and skin tone in the Nigerian community, I love the conversations, and I love the fact that they had one of the most popular bleaching cream advocates in it — Bob Risky — talking about her experience. I found that really good. Considering I watched Disclosure just a few weeks back, the comparism was at the tip of my throat but I realized that would be unwise to do.

I’ve seen the discourse on Skin not going too deep into the systemic issues of colorism, and I might be wrong but I don’t think that was the aim or what they were going for, I think the aim for Skin was just putting up a light in form of a documentary that says “Hey, you look great in your dark skin tone, you don’t need to bleach”. If you look at it through that lens, it’s a very sufficient and good documentary, and a lot of the decisions would make sense. Did it lose it’s way at the end with the visit to the village, yes, but we don’t need to talk about that. lol. It’s a great documentary that tries to address love for one’s skin tone and people taking a second look at their unconscious & conscious bias that “light is better”.

For those that wanted to see a discussion on the systemic issues of colorism and how it permeates the society we live in today, yeah, that would be a good documentary. However, I think this is a good family friendly, easy to swallow pill that we can all watch with our family and try to unlearn a lot of things. Share Skin with someone today. Put it in your family group chat.

Lastly, when I thought of writing this article, I was searching my WhatsApp chats for the reference to where I told Daniel I don’t watch documentaries, and I actually stumbled on a medium post another friend, Tolu sent me in 2019, it was a post by Oris Aigbokhaevbolo, critiquing Skin, link, I don’t know how I missed it then but I read it today and I see it and I understand it. The arguments are valid, and these are the things we want, more dialogue and discussion about not just topics that are uncomfortable but how we talk about those topics. One thing I learnt from the Disclosure doc or an interview from Larvene about the doc (I can’t remember), but Larvene talked about how people assume documentaries are these objective body of work using facts and data, but the truth is, documentaries are made by humans, whom already have a perspective and direction they wish to go with on a topic, and most times the documentary just aligns with their personal direction. So I think we can give praise for Skin and also acknowledge there are things that could’ve gone better. It’s the first of it’s kind, and hopefully, more hard conversations about real issues we face in Nigeria can be discussed on a big scale.

Shout out to Netflix btw, doing the damn thing! Buying content that needs to be bought! Watch these documentaries today and share them!

I complain about things (I care about) // Software engineer // Currently building Selar.co // douglas@selar.co

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