Netflix’s “Bright” tackles class, racism, and police brutality through Urban Fantasy


Fantasy in entertainment is often seen as a means to escape harsh realities and truths. Yet fiction and the fantasy genre are also a creative way to explore controversial issues that affect our everyday lives. From the exploration of race and gender in Octavia Butler novels, to social commentary on systemic power in Night of the Living Dead, stories about monsters and the supernatural “other” have often been used to discuss the human condition. Movie superstar Will Smith’s latest film Bright, set to premiere exclusively on Netflix this December, follows in these footsteps. Using an alternative reality where the supernatural is the norm, Brightexplores racism, class dynamics, and police brutality.

The first full length trailer for the movie was shown this past weekend at the 49th annual San Diego Comic Con. A panel of the film’s stars showed up to discuss the project at the popular event. In the world of Bright, elves are at the top of the food chain – the 1 percent.

Humans are seen to be part of the working class, along with the orcs. Yet the orcs are at the bottom of the social hierarchy:  they are the most discriminated against and exploited. The racial profiling portrayed in the film isn’t based on skin tone, but on if an individual has pointy ears. The movie may take place in a world with mystical orcs and fairies, but the hierarchies, oppression, and cop drama of the inner city is reflective of the world we live in today.

Netflix Original Film Panel: Bright at 2017 Comic-Con, San Diego, CA, USA - 20 July 2017

Stars of the film, Will Smith and Joel Edgerton (Loving), were on hand at the San Diego Comic Con panel for the film, along with co-stars Lucy Fry, Noomi Rapace, Edgar Ramirez, and director David Ayer (Suicide Squad, Training Day). Ayer commented at the panel that Bright was a great opportunity to offer social commentary through a format that people can take in, because otherwise they “don’t want to hear about the real issues.” There’s an obvious metaphor of race and racism in the first full-length trailer, yet the action and looming threat of magic and the end of the world, add elements of entertainment which allow those who may not want to focus on the politics of it to engage as well.

The official Netflix synopsis of Bright:

“Set in an alternate present-day where humans, orcs, elves and fairies have been coexisting since the beginning of time, this action-thriller directed by David Ayer (Suicide Squad, End of Watch, writer of Training Day) follows two cops from very different backgrounds. Ward, a human (Will Smith), and Jakoby, an orc (Joel Edgerton), embark on a routine night patrol that will alter the future of their world as they know it. Battling both their own personal differences as well as an onslaught of enemies, they must work together to protect a young female elf and a thought-to-be-forgotten relic, which in the wrong hands could destroy everything.”

With alarming statistics showing that police have killed as many as 258 Black people in the United States in 2016, and the recent upset in the Philando Castile murder case, it is clear that the United States has a systemic race and justice problem. Bright takes on this topic in an interesting and new way.

Check out the full length Bright trailer below. The film premieres December 2017 on Netflix.

Article originally appeared in People’s World.