A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Free Meek is a documentary series about rapper Meek Mill’s 10+ years in the criminal justice system and the efforts made to get him out of it. It features lots of mature content, related to a call for criminal justice reform, ranging from socioeconomic challenges to police corruption and racism. Conversations about violent acts (beatings, shootings) are frequent in some installments, guns are often visible, and on occasion bloody wounds and bodies are shown (during reenactments and archival news footage). Cursing (including the N-word) is constant, and drug-related activities are discussed (with the occasional image of an illegal substance). Logos for sports teams, Beats, and other products are sometimes visible in the background.
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What's the story?
FREE MEEK is a documentary series about Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill, and the events that made him an outspoken advocate for criminal justice reform. In 2017 Mill, whose legal name is Robert Williams, was sent to prison to serve out a 2-4 year sentence by Pennsylvania judge Genece Brinkley after violating the terms of his extended probation by getting arrested several times. But Mill's defense attorneys argue that Mill’s probation, which was handed down by Brinkley in 2008, is inappropriately long, and has kept him unfairly in the system. Meanwhile, a re-investigation into the 2008 conviction points to evidence that Mill’s conviction is a result of corrupt police work, a lack of evidence, and unreliable witness testimony. They also allege that Genece Brinkley has exhibited an ongoing bias against their client throughout the ten years that she’s been ruling on his case. The hope is that she is removed from the case, Mill’s conviction is vacated, and that he is retried and found innocent of the original charges.
Is it any good?
This series serves as an interesting and emotional call for criminal justice reform to end the way it consistently works against members of the black and other underserved communities. It uses Meek Mill’s well-publicized legal problems to document how minorities become trapped in the system, with little hope of ever truly getting out of it and improving their lives. Interviews with Mill, his family, and his defense attorneys, along with conversations with journalists, music industry insiders, and celebrities like political commentator Van Jones, and rapper and advocate Jay-Z, deconstruct the circumstances surrounding each stage of the rapper’s on-going journey. Many of these discussions position these events within a larger context, underscoring how socioeconomic disadvantages, lack of mentorship, and standardized racism should be factored into fixing and equalizing the overall system.
But while these conversations are compelling, some may not appreciate the edgy rapper serving as the face of reform, or the characterization that his five parole violations (committed in a span of six years) were understandable given the situation he was in. Nonetheless, Free Meek’s message succeeds in making you stop and think, and is a disturbing reminder of what can happen when a system purportedly designed to treat everyone equally and fairly, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or class, fails.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the reasons why people end up in the criminal justice system, often times for many years. What laws have to be changed in order to improve people's odds of getting out of the system and living better lives? What changes outside of the legal system have to be made in order to keep people out of prison?
Does Free Meek offer any points of view that do not support the idea that Meek Mill should be freed from the system? If so, how strong are those voices?
Is it necessary to include swear words in conversations in order to make a documentary seem authentic or to make a song more interesting? Why do some types of music tend to incorporate more curse words than others?
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