Screen Time

How The Hate U Give accomplishes what The Oath doesn’t

To bridge our country’s divides, we need deep emotion rooted in moral complexity—not jokey white-bro solidarity.

With the country divided into two sides that barely understand each other, two recent films take a crack at bridging the divide—one by means of satire, the other by emotional earnestness.

The satirical approach is taken by The Oath, in which director Ike Barinholtz imagines a parallel present in which the norms of civility have broken down to the point of violence. At a stop sign, the main character Chris (played by Barin­holtz) witnesses an angry white man get out of his truck, confront the woman in the car in front of him, and then slash her tires.

Chris is shaken, but not surprised. Everyone lives in a state of dread, and paranoia is amplified when all citizens are encouraged to sign a Patriot’s Oath that conflates unwavering devotion to the nation with unwavering devotion to the president. Legends circulate on­line about people being disappeared by the Citizen Protection Unit for refusing to sign the oath, corporations threaten to fire employees who don’t sign, and parents express dread about protecting their children. Most of the characters just try to keep their heads down and keep going.