Love, Change, and Government in “Southside with You”

In two months, the Obama family will be leaving the White House after living under its roof for eight years. However, they were not always living in D.C. with a well-established life and a beautiful family. At one point, Barack and Michelle Obama were two up-and-coming lawyers working in a trademark law firm in Chicago. However, this is not just an anecdote for the two to tell, as the recently released movie Southside with You brings to life their first date. During the summer of 1989 in Chicago, Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) and Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) meet up as two associates to go to a public meeting about a community center being set up in the Altgeld Gardens Homes neighborhood. Nevertheless, the ever flirtatious Obama has other ideas as he tries to spin the outing into a date, despite the adamant protestations of Robinson saying again and again, “This is not a date.” However, as the story moves forward, it is clear that these two are more than just friends or associates as the quick-witted and ambitious Robinson and the charming and level-headed Obama create a perfect match.  The movie creates a smart, engaging, and realistic romance movie that shows how first dates really go.

Despite being about the most important political couple in the United States, this movie is not about a political agenda. Instead, the movie focuses on two young lawyers trying desperately to make a difference and start their lives. It shows that even the future President of the United States and the First Lady had no idea what they were doing with their lives when they were young. This movie helps ease the anxiety and provide a small comfort to many young adults in their 20s because, if at 28 Barack Obama had no idea what he was going to do and turned out to be President of the United States, then maybe we’ll be alright too.

This movie is about a lot more than the romance and life of the Obamas. Even though the film takes place in 1989, the story focuses a lot on the issues that many African Americans still deal with on daily basis. During one scene, Robinson speaks about being a black woman working in a law firm controlled, ran, and owned by white men.  She points out that being a woman in law meant she already had to do twice the work to be heard, but that being a black woman meant she had push herself to work four times as hard in order to even be listened to and taken seriously. Talk to any African American woman on campus and she will tell you that this is the reality of their lives, not just a story line for a movie. The film delves into the reality that many black communities face when trying to make a change, which is that often their wishes feel ignored by their local, state, and federal government. During the public meeting scene, it is made clear by many members in attendance that trying to create a community center is fighting a losing battle because no one will listen to them. Obama then gives a speech about how working together to not only make government officials see why certain changes to the community should be examined, but not letting setbacks stop them from pushing forward. With the recent political climate, this message should be held closely and followed by anyone who believes they’re not being heard by their governing body.

Southside with You is a wonderful film that not only can be used as an adorable date night movie that follows a genuine love story, but also a film about change, fear, goals, hard work, and establishing one’s life.

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