David Makes Man
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David Makes Man
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that David Makes Man is a drama about a 14-year-old boy who struggles to find a balance between the environment at his upscale magnet school and his impoverished and difficult home life. Characters are realistic and complicated; their problems are treated with dignity and the systemic limitations of their lives are made clear. Drug dealers have a thriving business in the projects David lives in; we see them smoking cigarettes, drinking beer from brown bags, and engaging in sales, with customers driving and walking up to exchange cash for drugs (and on at least one occasion David acts as a lookout for the dealers, warning them when police are near); getting shot by rival dealers or cops is a constant menace, as is being arrested for dealing. The dealers are also a locus for violence, cheering on two young neighborhood boys as they fight and menacing David -- in one scene, a dealer threatens him sexually, saying he's going to "f--k" David's "ass." A young character is being sexually abused by his stepfather; we don't see the sexual abuse (just hear about the stepdad "touching on him at night"), but do see terrible bruises on his body after his stepdad beats him for getting in trouble at school. Jokes may target sex, as when a character makes a double-entendre about a cat: "p---y will distract you." Still, a gender-fluid character is treated with respect and accepted for who they are, an example of the compassion characters show each other, while their integrity is clear by the way they keep their promises and live up to obligations. Cursing includes "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," "hell," and "damn" as well as racial slurs (the n-word) and words about gender and sexuality: "faggot-ass." Yet the overall tone of the drama is uplifting, with characters who refuse to be defined by their life circumstances and the expectations of others.
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What's the Story?
David (Akili McDowell), the 14-year-old hero of DAVID MAKES MAN, is a boy in conflict. Sometimes it feels like everyone expects to see a different David. At his magnet school he's expected to be studious and hard-working, on a path to higher education under the watchful eye of his gifted English teacher, Dr. Woods-Trap (Phylicia Rashad). At home, he has to compensate for the gaps left by his struggling mom Gloria (Alana Arenas) and care for his little brother. Around the Miami projects where he lives, he's forced to act tough to save face, particularly when one neighborhood dealer takes a particular interest in David's future. This drama is created by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who won an Academy Award as the co-writer of Moonlight.
Is It Any Good?
This lyrical and achingly beautiful drama takes its time getting where it's going, but the destination is such an uncommonly beautiful one that you'll be happy to settle in and wait. From the moment we meet the title character, sweaty from an unsuccessful school-bus chase and supremely jittery about an upcoming class presentation he fears will expose his improverished background to his better-off classmates, we sympathize deeply with his conflict. At school he sees a display of privilege that adults tell him could be his someday; in the evenings, he returns to a place where the most successful people he knows eventually wind up dead or in jail. Stuck in between, his code-switching is made all the more plain by the different names others call him. To his mom and teachers, he's diligent David; to the rough crowd at the projects he's Dai; to his school friend Seren (Nathaniel Logan McIntyre) he's class clown DJ. And one of the main things this series gets exactly right is depicting just how much it takes out of David to maintain each conflicting persona, how exhausting and confusing and scary it is to be this boy at this time and place.
But the drama also has sympathy for each character we meet: for Glorida, trapped in systemic poverty; for Dr. Woods-Trap, who can only do so much for her students; even for Raynan (Ade Chike Torbert), the underage dealer who projects an aura of power but beneath it is just as desperate for security and authentic connections as David himself. It's painful to watch them struggle, but there's beauty in it too. As David explains in his class presentation, playing a Mary J. Blige song, so many people feel like they're unimportant and nothing special, "but something as simple as a song on the radio can tell you that you're not a nobody." David Makes Man is potent evidence that a TV show can too.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about David and how David Makes Man depicts the challenges he faces growing up. Is the movie respectful of and empathetic to his situation? Does it give viewers a deeper understanding of the social and economic forces that shape his life?
David is frequently a target for bullies around the housing project he lives in. How does the film handle the subject of bullying? How did Chiron's circumstances shape the man he becomes?
How is drug use portrayed in the movie? What role do drugs play in David's life, and in the life of those around him? How does it impact their futures?
How do the characters in David Makes Man demonstrate compassion and integrity? Why are those important character strengths?
- Premiere date: August 14, 2019
- Cast: Akili McDowell, Alana Arenas, Ade Chike Torbert
- Network: OWN
- Genre: Drama
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Integrity
- TV rating: TV-14
- Last updated: October 13, 2022
Our Editors Recommend
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