The criminal connection of the aspiring gorilla rapper in ‘Sing’ is viewed by some a typical representation of an African American artist trying to make it big but caught up in a web of dirty deeds, and the movie has been ripped apart on social media.
Illumination Entertainment’s hit children’s movie Sing earned nearly $130 million at the box office in the first week of its release. The beloved film includes a full cast of animated animals who compete for a spot in a musical performance designed to breathe new life to a failing theater. An eclectic mix of characters with varying musical ability, with everything from a pop group, to a hard rocker, rapper, and jazz singer, first compete against each other, then work together to put on a show stopping performance for the community, but inevitably meet with unforeseen obstacles and mishaps making for imaginative twists and turns that culminate in a true happy ending. Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson and John C. Reilly are just a few of the big named actors who have teamed up to provide the voices for the beloved cast of characters.
Taron Egerton of Legend, Billionaire Boys Club and Eddie the Eagle serves as the voice of Johnny, an inspiring hip hop artist gorilla forced into his family’s legacy of gang related crime whose voice earns him a spot in the production. Unfortunately, show rehearsals interfere with his ability to stay true to his roots and serve as a getaway driver for a robbery headed by his criminal mastermind father, landing the elder gorilla in jail. Later, his father breaks free, fleeing from officers just long enough to tell Johnny how proud he is of his musical accomplishments before returning to his less glamorous fate behind bars.
The character’s link to crime has been deemed as a racial stereotype toward the African American community, even though the ethnic background of the character is ambiguous and the actor behind his vocal ability is actually Caucasian. The color of the “monkey” is enough for racial tensions to flare, and when compared alongside reports of the recent shootings of unarmed African Americans by police officers, daddy gorilla’s jail break and subsequent chase has been met by viewers with mixed emotions. The criminal connection of an aspiring rapper is viewed by some a typical representation of an African American artist trying to make it big but caught up in a web of dirty deeds, and the movie has been ripped apart on social media. With all of the negative flack, the innocence of the film has been tainted, and the crew may face racial discrimination lawsuits in the coming weeks. In the meantime, however, their project continues to fill the pockets of producers, and will inevitably be followed by spin offs and merchandise sales, proving children are caught up in the bright colors of the film’s backdrop, not in the skin colors of the characters.