On the Record

TV review by
Mandie Caroll, Common Sense Media
On the Record TV Poster Image
Moving docu centers on race and culture in Me Too movement.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

It's never too late to speak your truth. Though there can be costs to speaking out about your experience of sexual violence, there are also many rewards, such as discovering inner strength, solidarity with other survivors, and social change.   

Positive Role Models & Representations

Drew Dixon, the survivor who's story this documentary is centered on, is thoughtful, determined, relatable, trustworthy, and fierce. The other survivors profiled share these traits and serve to illuminate the commonplace complications for black women in sharing their stories of sexual violence.

Violence

Multiple accounts of violent rape are described, though not shown.

Sex

Some images of scantily clad women in videos are shown. A few clips of audio capture Russell Simmons speaking about women as objects/conquests.

Language

Occasional swearing, including "s--t," "f--k" and "bitch."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

References to partying, drinking alcohol; no portrayals.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that On the Record is a documentary about sexual assault survivors in the music industry. Filmmakers Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick (The Hunting Ground) present the compelling story of Drew Dixon, a former music executive behind several 90's era hip hop hits. The film follows Dixon as she becomes one of the first women of color in the #metoo era to publicly accuse the "godfather" of hip-hop, Russell Simmons, of sexual assault. The movie covers the unique issues black women face as sexual assault survivors, which will add nuance to many older teens understanding of race, culture, and sexual violence. Positive messages about perseverance, solidarity, and surviving sexual assault are implicit in the sometimes stoic, sometimes emotional and always thoughtful ways Dixon, and the other survivors, describe their assaults and the aftermath. Occasional swearing including "bitch," "f--k," and shit "s--t" and a few references to partying and drinking.

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What's the story?

In ON THE RECORD viewers meet Drew Dixon, a former executive at Def Jam Records, as she contemplates going public with her story of being sexually harassed and assaulted by Def Jam's co-founder, Russell Simmons, in the 90s. The film follows Dixon as she works through the pressures she feels to stay silent -- including concern for family, her love of hip hop, and fear of bolstering dangerous and inaccurate stereotypes about black men. Other black women who have accused Simmons of sexual assault are featured as well. A long social and historical perspective emerges from the cultural commentary of leading black writers and thinkers while archival footage illuminates 90s era hip hop and the history of the sexual violence black women have endured since slavery.

Is it any good?

This heart-wrenching, though ultimately hopeful, documentary powerfully depicts the unique experiences of black women survivors of sexual assault. Not just about the women's stories, On the Record covers 90s era hip hop and schools viewers on the long history of sexual violence against women of color. Dixon is a gripping subject: thoughtful and measured, she is determined to heal from her sexual assault. There are incredibly affecting scenes throughout this movie, of women recounting the details of their assaults, but also quietly devastating moments like when Dixon sits in a coffee shop and reads the New York Times article that broke her story, while the camaraderie she finds with other survivors and the ending scenes provide hope to any person struggling with telling their truth. This documentary lays bare the limitations of a Me Too movement primarily led by wealthy white celebrities, and centers the too-often ignored issues black women face when it comes to confronting sexual violence. Older teens, hip hop lovers, and budding social activists will benefit from watching this film and discussing it with trusted adults.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about sexual violence in the music industry. How did love for hip hop influence these women's decisions to go public or stay silent? What can be done to make the music industry safer for women to work in?

  • What did you learn about the unique issues facing women of color when it comes to reporting sexual violence? How did the women survivors in On the Record deal with these issues?

  • What can viewers take away from watching the stories of these women?

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