BY REGINA GONZALEZ
It is a new year, and with it comes anticipated change, something America will endure after recently swearing in 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, to office.
However, with President Trump taking the reigns of the @POTUS Twitter handle, we must not yet forget about the man behind @POTUS44, former President Barack Obama.
With eight years in office, Obama did quite a job of showing Americans who he was as a leader, friend, father and husband. But, an interesting role we could all be appreciative as college students is seeing the man who had the honor of sitting in the Oval Office in more of a relatable setting– with a small afro and backpack on his shoulders walking the streets of Harlem; as a student just like us.
The Netflix original documentary Barry, directed by Vikram Gandhi, does just that, mirroring a young Obama’s journey as he transfers to Columbia University in NYC as a junior studying political science. With actor Devon Terrell completely nailing Obama’s soothing voice and charming attitude, viewers are able to get a glimpse of how the former president dealt with the same life-altering changes that come with being the new guy at a new school.
Although there are plenty of pictures and videos from the past eight years depicting Obama as a down-to-earth guy, it was even more interesting to see a depiction of how Obama could relate to some of us on a spiritual level as a college student. In Barry we see him reading books for fun, arguing politics with annoying classmates, throwing an occasional “fuck you” into his sentences when he’s angry and sometimes indulging in a joint with his roommate.
If this version of the past president seems difficult to picture, it is because this film is not actually meant to be about Obama, but about Barry, a confused young man who can also relate to some in the sense of feeling like an outsider and struggling to find his place socially and within himself.
Set in the 1980s, race plays a huge roll in his quest to find a sense of comfort in New York. Attending school with a majority of wealthy, white Ivy-Leaguers and then returning to his apartment and playing street ball in Harlem makes Barry question where he belongs and what his real “scene” is.
In the movie, Barry meets the cute Charlotte, a wealthy politician’s daughter who is in one of his classes. They begin to date. It is also interesting seeing a young Barry next to a woman that is not Michelle Obama, eating chinese food and making out on the couch like a couple of horny college kids.
Charlotte and Barry are constantly engaging in political conversation, where, ironically enough, Barry even once blurts out, “Politics is bullshit, the president’s an actor.” But Charlotte falls in love with Barry, and he must battle his own temper to decide if he is brave enough to handle the stares of walking down the streets of Harlem with a white girl on his arm.
Despite the film’s 79 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the film is a good Netflix watch that gives viewers a more empathetic angle on the lives of our leaders. After the past few months of a long election process and the ridicule and pressure that comes with being the president of the United States, it is a solid reminder that, no matter who takes on the job of running our nation, they truly were once just like us: young people who had no idea where they were going in life and leaving frat parties to go hangout with someone they liked. As far as Obama himself, it is truly apparent in the film why Barry’s actions and diligence led him to become President Obama, the first African-American president of the United States.
Regina Gonzalez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org