She Ball is confusing and offensive, telling an incoherent narrative of Black life. It should go without saying that Black people aren't monolithic: There will be Black characters who are criminals, some who are heroes, and some who are just everyday people. We, like anyone else, run the gamut of personalities. But Hollywood is notorious for banking on negative portrayals of Black characters, and Cannon hits on all of them, wrongly treating stereotypes as endearing parts of African American culture. The film seems like it was made specifically for Black viewers, which could explain the lack of context for some of the film's portrayals and scenarios. For instance, seeing gang violence in a Black-led film without context is different than seeing it within the context of why gang violence has become linked to inner-city life (lack of economic opportunities, depression and hopelessness from experiencing racism, barriers to entry in the workplace, etc.). But if She Ball is intended for a broader audience, that lack of context could reinforce some viewers' incorrect beliefs about Black people. It's also off-putting to see Shelby, a White person, telling a Black person not to use the "N" word, a word that has a layered history and meaning within the African American community. This, and other scenes in which Shelby lectures Black people about racism, are head-scratchingly confusing. It's as if Shelby is there to educate Black people on their own struggles.
Avery is right to call Shelby out on this in the long speech he gives in one scene, but it's always been clear that he and Shelby will become an item. Her presence as the "special White person" in the film is annoying, since her character highlights an ongoing issue within the Black community regarding Whiteness. Shelby is seen as different and desirable because she is tokenized and exoticized by the Black male gaze. Shelby is humanized throughout the film, and her beauty is seen as admirable. Meanwhile, her Black women counterparts are overtly and offensively sexualized and objectified. Avery's former girlfriend, a Black woman, is also killed in the film in a flashback, adding to the film's undertones of promoting a story in which a White woman takes a Black woman's place in her community. All of this happens while viewers are supposed to be invested in Avery's mission to raise his daughter, Magic (Jaliyah Manuel). What sense does it make to have a girl at the center of a film surrounded by objectified women and rap songs with highly sexual lyrics? The feel-good aspect of Avery raising his daughter doesn't make up for the fact that She Ball does anything but empower women and girls, especially Black women and girls. If anything, the film reinforces aspects of toxic masculinity, such as women being sexual objects, especially if they aren't attached to a prominent male figure (one character says he would want to sleep with Avery's sister if she wasn't related to him). Women are also judged on their bodies instead of their skills or talent (i.e. Avery's basketball team being sexualized in a montage, compared to Buck Star's team of competent female basketball players). She Ball commits, in basketball terms, several flagrant fouls against the viewers it wants to serve.