Don’t get it twisted. Dope is one of the most original, refreshing coming-of-age stories in a long while. It’s a time capsule piece featuring a set of most authentic friends, amazing original & featured music, flawless story pace, fantastic new talent, & the most delicious “wtf” climatic moments. It’s almost the best movie ever. But the work of a writer is never done and perfection is seldom achieved. Here are five tiny reasons why Dope didn’t earn its “Classic Movie” badge of honor.
But, the Voice in my Head Already Told Me That…
We love you Forest Whittaker! But as the film’s voiceover guide, there wasn’t much insight offered that audiences couldn’t figure out visually. Rhetorical phrases like “That’s a girl over there” or “Wonder what that means…” got silly fast. Surely, it was intended to add charm. But, it only proved itself as a case for poorly using voiceover for the sake of it. It dangered close to breaking the fourth wall.
What can this teach you about your own writing?
Narrators serve two good purposes – setting the tone of a story world or subtly feeding audiences information otherwise impossible to get visually. Anything more usually doesn’t warrant V.O. and can become an unattractive element in your film.
Dope has instant charm. However, some scenes had too much going on, sabotaging its replay potential.
How can you tell if your scene is bloated?
Scenes should be written lean with a good balance of character goals, conflicts, disaster points, dilemmas, reactions and decisions. But when you have too many unnecessary disasters or conflicts happening, scenes get hard to digest. It suggests something needs the axe.
That doesn’t mean you can’t jack up the conflict.
Think Quentin Tarantino and his high-conflict yet, simple scenes.
Scenes just gotta have focus, with characters intentionally placed to move the plot along. If story moments are aimless, or not showing character development, it’s fatty! That’s the rule of thumb. If it’s not moving the story along, and has too much entertainment vs. story, you risk losing audiences. While also upping their anxiousness to be done with the scene.
A Careless Dose of Nudity & Sex
The real clumsiness of Dope is in its portrayal of Black women. It definitely fails the Bechdel test. The Jezebel archetype, sexual objectification and public shaming were all too present. Which is sad considering the immensely talented female leads, Kiersey Clements and Zoë Kravitz.
How do you avoid this trap?
The trap being that you’ve unintentionally written controversial matter into your film and can’t explain how it ended up there. With every draft, it’s important to assess what our characters are subliminally teaching. What subtext is your dialogue carrying?
Get in tune with the wisdom you desire to share with the world. Because it matters, as it seeps into all corners of your work. That and you have the power to reach millions and inevitably spread your philosophies into the world, creating countless narratives that audiences will either subconsciously, or proactively believe. So be cautious.
Writer’s carry a very unique responsibility when it comes to storytelling. Dope, unfortunately taught some very bad lessons on womanhood, self-worth and body image
Shooting blanks in a heated debate
Considering Dope sets the rhythm of making bold statements, it’s interesting to see how little it brought to the ‘N’ word controversy.
Dope repeats what Dear White People also failed in doing which was covering new territory in long standing cultural debates. And isn’t that why we’re drawn to social commentary movies to begin with? To get new perspective that light up our old ways of thinking? Dope had the perfect chance to set a new narrative about the ‘N’ word but dropped the ball. As far as who and under what circumstances a person should use the ‘N’ word, the jury is still out.
He sat, she stood.
The dialogue in Dope wasn’t bad.
There were just a few supporting characters who mouths were stuffed with toxic clichés and filler lines, amounting to complete blah.
Every character, no matter how minuscule they are, should carry a voice that stands on its own. The voices of Dope’s supporting characters didn’t differentiate much, raising suspicion as to how many drafts this script went through.
Despite its hiccups, Dope was still a dope movie.
It’s class, style, and heart were addictive and fresh. Definitely worth the movie admission over Netflix. Peep game!
Still think Dope holds up as a classic? Share your thoughts below!