February 7, 2017
'Focus' Movie Unintentionally Brings U.S. Race Relations Into Focus

The Twittersphere and YouTube are ablaze over Will Smith's new movie, Focus. In it, Will Smith plays Nicky Spurgeon, a con man who takes Jess, played by Australian actress Margot Robbie, under his wing to teach her the game. Focus is a caper film, a la Ocean's Eleven, set in glamorous locales from New York to New Orleans. Normally, this sort of film would be a good time for all, but a spate of racist remarks on YouTube are spoiling the fun.

Apparently, a number of people are upset that Focus' leading man, Will Smith, who is African-American, has a couple of love scenes with Margo Robbie, who is white. The comments range from relatively mild to downright hateful. One commenter, Denise Celt, wrote her thoughts.

"Race mixing is literally sick. Gene incompatibility creates a host of physical and mental problems. Jews love to promote sickness and evil."
The exchanges go downhill from there, including using the "n-word" and invoking Hitler.

The irony is that the film does not even address race. That may be the very reason why it's such an issue for some people. The Daily Beast reports that racist comments against Focus have been on the rise ahead of the movie's release. Despite the fact that few films have involved black male/white female leads unless the main theme of the movie was race relations, the racist comments would have you believe that race mixing is part of an on-going, evil Hollywood agenda.

But, race isn't the only issue the film has. According to The Atlantic, Jess, the lead female character, is treated as a caricature that only proves her worth when the men in the con crew realize she is adept at distracting their male targets. Sophie Gilbert at The Atlantic writes, "Is Jess an exemplar of what men want or of what men think women are actually like?" Jess clearly is not going to be heralded as a symbol of feminist ideals.

Still, many movie reviewers seem to have found Focus to be good, if somewhat predictable, fun. The Inquisitr quotes Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times.

"Smith and Robbie are terrific together. At various points along the way, he's playing her, and then she's playing him, and then we're almost positive they've let their collective guard down and they're really in love … Or are they?"
[Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]