Mid90s: Racist, Sexist, Homophobic

Sunny Suljic and Lucas Hedges in Mid90s. Photo credit: Tobin Yelland.

Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, Mid90s, takes us back to the middle of the 1990s with a look at life for one teenager’s summer in LA.

Stevie (Sunny Suljic) lives with his older, abusive brother Ian (Lucas Hedges, appearing in 3 films at TIFF), and single mom, Dabney (Katherine Waterston).  Stevie’s world opens up when he discovers a skate shop.  It’s soon thereafter that the teenager meets a new crop of friends.  Among them are Ruben (Gio Galicia), Ray (Na-kel Smith), wannabe filmmaker Fourth Grade (Ryder McLaughlin), and the ever-so-vulgar Fuckshit (Olan Prenatt).

While I realize that the film takes place during the mid-90s, the frequent use of slurs seem to be a bit too much.  It’s not only that but you have someone like Ruben telling Stevie that saying “thank you” means you’re gay.  Just working from memory, Ruben was likely the source of the film’s many slurs.  Most of which were homophobic in nature.  I’m sorry but it’s one thing if you want to use a few of them to set the tone.  It’s a whole different animal if you want to make a full film out of this.  Sure, another skater, Ray, tells Stevie that Reuben is wrong but it’s all a bit much for my tastes.  With the way that Hill writes the film, Ray becomes a tropish character that becomes “wise” for the sake of the film (I have POC friends who are film critics and have heard people agree with my thoughts on the film).  Seriously, Jonah?  What the hell were you even thinking?!?

If this wasn’t troublesome enough, Stevie finds himself alone at a party with a girl, Estee (Alexa Demie). Estee is maybe two years older than him while Demie’s age is unknown.  She invites him into a bedroom at the party and makes out with him.  There’s more than that, too.  Wish fulfillment fantasy, maybe?  But like with Dabney, the women in this film are so horribly written that it’s just not funny.

The film stays true to the era in which it represents as far as the sound is concerned.  It may be one of the few positive things I say about it it.  Thank you, Trent Rezor and Atticus Ross.

I’m a fan of Jonah Hill’s acting work so I went into Mid90s wanting to like the film.  It didn’t take long while sitting in the theater before realizing that it would not be a pleasant experience.  Try going through elementary and middle school–when the film takes place–while constantly being teased with the F word.  I get that Hill is trying to depict this skater life in LA but it doesn’t make these words any less hurtful.

Mid90s won’t be for everyone.  If you don’t like watching films with racism, sexism, and homophobia, it’s best to pass.

CAST:  Sunny Suljic, Lucas Hedges, Na-kel Smith, Gio Galicia, Ryder McLaughlin, Alexa Demie, Olan Prenatt, and Katherine Waterston

Mid90s held its world premiere during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival in the Special Presentations program. A24 will release the film on October 19, 2018.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

3 thoughts on “Mid90s: Racist, Sexist, Homophobic

  1. I enjoyed the movie. This culture is so PC. As a journalist you come off so overly sensitive. What were the times like in the 90s? There’s nothing wrong with having an African American character who knows the right and wrongs. Yes I know your boss told you to write a controversial story. Yes I know the times are different now. The movie is called mid 90s. Different times. Different culture. I’m guessing you don’t skate either, so there was nothing else gravitating you towards the story. Like you said this movie isn’t for everyone. I used all of the bad words you speak of as a kid. Obviously it wasn’t right. But those were the times. Also, look how this movie made you actually feel something. Most people hate feeling anything from movies (marvel super hero movies). This movie said alot and made the audience feel alot. Thats art. That’s a film. Bill and Ted called each other F*g in Bill and Ted’s ultimate adventure.

  2. Art is art. You shouldn’t censor art because people may be offended by it. Jonah Hill made a great movie that was true to life. I never grew up in the mid 90s, but my friends believed that any showing of weakness or feminine behavior was “gay.” This was the early 2000’s in NYC. The idea is that the kids back then were ignorant to things that we’re a lot more tolerant of now. This is probably due to how we’re a lot more interconnected now than ever, but it wasn’t always like that. The film is not an endorsement of the ignorance, it’s simply an aknowledgement that the ignorance existed in a different time. The real world isn’t politically correct, and films shouldn’t be either.

    The idea that the female parts were underwritten is subjective. Jonah Hill did a great job of showing the difference in perspective from the male and female characters. The difference in perspective from Stevie and his mom, the difference in perspective from the girls and the boys discussing the same night after a wild party etc. Lastly, I found nothing racist about this movie. There’s nothing stereotypical about Smith’s character. The characters also acknowledge that their from different racial groups but it never becomes something divisive. In fact, they all laugh about it and move on.

    If you’re looking for PC movies then this isn’t for you. If you’re looking for something true to 90s skate culture then this is your movie.

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