My husband and I watched Netflix’s When They See Us over the weekend. This is the hit, 4-part drama about the Central Park Five (or now known as the Exonerated Five)—5 boys aged between 14 and 16 who were arrested, tried, convicted, and incarcerated as having raped and nearly killed a Central Park jogger back in 1989.
This series gutted me, y’all. By the time I was watching part 4, which was mostly the story of what happened to Korey Wise, I was hugging a box of tissues and trying to keep my sobbing silent.
Here are my top 10 thoughts about the series, Oprah’s interview with the cast and the Exonerated Five, and the information I’ve read online about the case since finishing the series.
- Real monsters exist in the world. Sometimes they exist in the form of people in uniforms who use their authority to abuse a power that shouldn’t exist. Sometimes these monsters come in the form of disgusting politicians who also use their power for bad and to hate.
- There are heroes in the world. These heroes come in all shapes, sizes, and they, too, often wear a uniform and use their authority for good. (The correctional officer in part 4 that showed Korey Wise mercy and grace was a true hero.)
- The scariest kind of monsters are the ones you thought you could trust.
- Monsters run on hate and lies. And they are difficult to change.
- Ava DuVernay is an extraordinary director. She created a compelling and gut-wrenching drama. Just when you think she’s gone about as deep as one could go into the story of the Exonerated Five, she takes the viewer deeper. (She makes me want to go deeper as a writer.)
- Money does not fix what society took from these five individuals and their families. At the same time, they deserve more money and more justice for what was done to them. A couple of people getting a few board positions taken away is not justice.
- I’d like to hug Korey Wise.
- I admire Yusef Salaam. He has overcome incredible adversity and is now using his power for good.
- I hope I never write a thriller with as many holes as the NYPD’s case against these five individuals.
- Our legal system scares me. However, in our legal system’s defense, I do tend to watch and listen to a lot of true crime, so I might be consuming a disproportionately large number of stories of how our legal system has failed versus the many cases of where it worked well enough.
I have more thoughts on this series, but ten is a good number, so I’ll stop here… And my graphic is already made for the post…
No, wait. A few bonus thoughts. I want to hear from the detectives, the arresting officers, the prosecution team. I want to know their stories. Where did they receive pressure to prosecute these poor boys? If the victim was soaked in blood, yet none of the 5 boys had a drop of blood on them, how had they convinced so many people of the boys’ guilt? There is a Ken Burns documentary that discusses this case. Maybe I need to check that out. There’s also a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed written by one of the monsters in this case (Linda Fairstein), but I don’t subscribe to the WSJ.
I hope y’all will watch the series, if you haven’t already. Have tissues ready. Feel free to comment below if you feel the need to discuss, as I obviously have.
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