A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
This drama connects Kaepernick's personal struggles to racial and political battles in a powerful and moving way. Themes of courage, persverance, and integrity are illustrated in scenes in which we view oppression and those who struggle under it. This drama's sympathies are clearly with political and social underdogs, who show impressive fortitude under both micro- and macroaggressions.
Positive Role Models
Though Kaepernick is a controversial figure in the U.S. (some would argue due to racism), this docudrama helps viewers understand the roots of his unease with racism, oppression, and other injustices. We meet Kaepernick as a young and idealistic middle- and then high-schooler, and understand how the experiences of his life contributed to his later activism. His adoptive White parents are presented with nuance: They don't understand and are often blind to racial politics, yet they love and support their son.
Kaepernick illustrates his unique perspective on sports, politics, and race in powerful scenes such as one that shows young football players lining up to be inspected by coaches and team owners, then fades into a vignette in which White men bid on Black slaves, talking about them as if they're less than human and examining their bodies dispassionately. The scene cross-fades into inspection by football authorities, then back into the slave auction to make the point that in both scenarios men who labor with their bodies are perceived as objects. In other scenes, this drama uses visuals and dialogue to illustrate how Black people are affected by racist oppression, as when Black Lives Matter protesters are called thugs, and greeted by violence, while the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, is treated more gently: "Some people get called thugs just for standing up for their human rights, while others are called more polite terms."
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Violence & Scariness
Kaepernick is discouraged from paying attention to his bodily pains as a school-age player; in one scene, his middle school coach tells him to run laps even though Kaepernick is tired and has a headache. In a scene from a movie, a man is showing reaching into another man's chest and pulling his heart out in a racist depiction of a religious ceremony.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Young Kaepernick is interested in romance and dating; expect scenes with young actors flirting, kissing, talking about boyfriends and girlfriends. A music video featured in one scene refers to "hoes."
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Language and cursing includes "damn," "s--t," Racial language is repeated to demonstrate how unfair it is: a successful Black football player is called a "thug" and criticized for his "image" (which includes a cornrow hairstyle).
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Products & Purchases
Imagery from vintage hip-hop videos shows conspicuous consumption, e.g., musicians brandishing stacks of bills.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Colin in Black and White is a miniseries about sports figure and activist Colin Keapernick, who brought significant attention to racial inequality and police brutality in the U.S. when he knelt during the national anthem in 2016 as a form of nonviolent protest at NFL games. This series combines aspects of fictionalized storytelling and documentary investigation, with narration from Kaepernick himself illustrating scenes from his youth. The result is a powerful portrait, as we see how the political became personal to one young man. Expect infrequent cursing ("damn," "s--t") as well as investigations into racial language, such as the word "thug." Violence is generally confined to vintage footage: scenes from the 2021 U.S. Capitol attack show protestors chanting "Hang Mike Pence!" and surging over police officers; a scene from a 1980s fantasy film shows one man reaching into another man's bloody chest, then holding up a dripping heart. Images of diversity are extensive; Kaepernick himself is biracial while his parents are White. We learn a lot about how Kaepernick's race affected his life in ways both good and bad, and understand how seemingly minor incidents created major trauma. Kaepernick's White parents are depicted with nuance; they frequently don't understand how racism affects their son's life, yet they love and support him. Young Kaepernick is interested in romance; expect flirting, dating, kissing. Themes of courage, integrity, and perseverance are powerfully demonstrated, and this show's sympathies are clearly with those who strive to succeed despite the many limitations placed upon them.
Is It Any Good?
Powerful, emotional, and enormously entertaining, this hybrid documentary and coming-of-age drama takes a look back at the sports figure who ignited a political flashpoint simply by taking a knee. To be sure, Colin in Black and White is unusual, both in its storytelling style and in its visuals, both of which skate back and forth between illustrating significant vignettes in Kaepernick's life and taking a critical look at race in America. Kaepernick himself appears in a black suit against stark visuals, narrating sitcom-style scenes in which a young Kaepernick struggles against the expectations of others, then connecting them with oppression both historical and modern.
In the miniseries' first episode, young Kaepernick struggles to find a hairstyle that works both for his sense of style and the demands of his parents, teachers, coaches, and other authority figures. Adrift in a decidedly non-diverse late-1990s California town with his (loving but also clueless) adoptive White parents, Kaepernick is overjoyed to find a Black-owned barbershop. The scene in which he walks in to find a new world, filled with people with skin like his, hair like his, heroes and ambitions and tastes like his is simply beautiful; talented young actor Jaden Michael lets surprise and relief and gratitude play out over his face. His new braids make him feel confident; he can run faster, shoot higher, get significant looks from attractive female classmates. Of course, that joy doesn't last. His (White) coaches demand that he cut his hair or vacate the team. "It doesn't look professional," says his dad Rick. Why should he have to look professional, Kaepernick asks back, "I'm a kid. I'm 14." No matter. His hair is soon cut, and the pain it causes Kaepernick is palpable. At the time, an older Kaepernick narrates, he didn't have the tools or language to fight back, though he knew it was wrong. But things are different now, and Kaepernick and co-creator Ava DuVernay are making the most of the mouthpiece Netflix has given them.
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