Who am I Becoming?
Directed by Nadia Hallgreen
Michelle Obama’s Becoming documentary is a refreshing peer into the life of the best First Lady I will probably ever see in my lifetime, considering the current trajectory of American politicians. Michelle is a prominent public figure, yet her honesty makes her feel like the mother figure she is for all of America. It was reassuring that not everyone out there is corrupt and power-hungry, that there are good people encouraging hope rather than seeking to divide, and that true power comes from self-empowerment.
This documentary opened with a vlog like shot following Michelle out of a house and into a black SUV. I thought this was interesting and obviously purposeful. I don’t know what I expect documentaries to open with – usually a montage of aesthetic shots or a few shots that quickly set the scene before the first interview. But Becoming opens up like hey. Welcome to my life. You’re in for an hour and half of no bullshit.
And that shot set the right tone, because what followed was completely bullshit free. Just Michelle, uber comfortable being on camera and in front of large live audiences, as she simply tells you how it is. “These interactions are the perspective I need. So many of my interactions are sanitized,” she says about her meet and greets, as women approach her in tears, some happy and grateful while some longing to feel heard. I think she makes an incredible point – at what point do we recognize the level of sanitization of our own interactions? It’s funny how with the change of times, this could be taken literally or figuratively. But figuratively, if my circle is entirely white, my interactions are sanitized. If I’m only concerned with white stories in the media I consume, that’s sanitization. This does not change without active effort.
In a round table discussion with Becomingreaders, one black student asked Michelle how she dealt with the issue of feeling invisible, to which Michelle replied, “I never felt like I was invisible. That feeling of invisibility starts inside. We cannot wait for the world to allow us to be seen.” Michele’s words speak volumes over the experiences of people of color. Lately, I’ve felt inspired to see people – black and white – use their voice to fight against injustice. When you put yourself out there, you no longer allow yourself to be invisible. You demand respect, attention, and you demand your story to be valued. She states, “If we are going to get anywhere with each other, we have to be willing to say who we are. Sharing stories breaks down barriers, but first you have to realize the value in your story,” and there is value in the story of every single American. We all come from something, and we are connected at some deep basic human level. Why do so many public officials try to run from this basic truth? None of us have it all together and we may as well be there for each other while we all try to figure it out.
As much as Michelle speaks of bringing us all together to help one another, people will always be there to assume the worst and tear each other apart. It’s so upsetting that the media wanted to continually slam Michele for all of her behavior during the Obama presidency, yet we hear close to nothing about “portrait” Melania Trump, who has done nothing for this country except further her own business initiatives and make sure that her prenuptial agreement is solid before taking on any duties in the White House. It’s even further upsetting that despite the progress our country made during the Obama presidency, old ideas of white supremacy are now being validated under our current president.
I took for granted the amount of decisions that were made out of love during 2008 – 2016. It’s disheartening to watch an awful lot of decisions stem from fear nowadays. Fear of black people, fear that the white supremacy this country was built off of is dying, fear of change. As much as I want to just get back on track, Michele, in her documentary, tells us that after we go through things, we never quite get back on track. We simply make a new track and figure out where to go next. I have hope that our country will build that track out of genuine love for this country – all of its colors, backgrounds, genders, religions, beliefs, and communities – rather than build it out of fear for our inevitably diverse future to come.