TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Resist TV Poster Image
Powerful docuseries looks into incarceration's price.

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

Positive Messages

Among the many messages, this series raises important issues about the economic and personal exploitation of Black people and other marginalized individuals in the U.S., with the intent of motivating citizen action to right terrible wrongs. Lines are drawn connecting over-policing, police brutality, and mass incarceration with their impact on marginalized communities. The integrity, courage, and perseverance needed to right these wrongs is clearlly demonstrated, and often commented upon as activists vow they will keep up their actions until things change. 

Positive Role Models

Many participants have been incarcerated and radicalized by their experiences; they explain that they don't want others to repeat their traumatic and damaging experiences. Several activists mention wanting to be a voice for those who are voiceless. Interviewees have strong convictions, are highly motivated, and well-informed. Many of them are actively involved in efforts to reform a broken system, sometimes risking their own freedom and safety to do so. 


We hear many terrible stories about what happens to prisoners: a mother talks at length about how her son died in jail, supposedly by hanging but, she believes (and was able to show in court), police brutality caused or at least contributed to his death. A former inmate discusses being beaten in jail. Patrisse Khan-Cullors relates the treatment of her brother in prison, when he was beaten and woke up in a pool of blood, starved to the point that he was forced to get water from a toilet bowl, and given psychotropic drugs; we see that her brother is still damaged from his experiences. Historical footage of protests shows people pushing each other, crying, people being handcuffed and put in police cars, armed police forming lines to oppose protestors. At one point, Khan-Cullors advises protestors shutting down a street to take refuge behind a steel structure because people who oppose the protesters will "drive through humans." 


Language is infrequent, but we hear a few bleeped versions of "f--k."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Prescription psychotropic drugs are briefly mentioned in the context of one man's experiences in prison. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Resist is a documentary series that illustrates the terrible effects of mass incarceration in America. It uses the lens of a Los Angeles plan to build more jails and the protestors who opposed the plan. Among its many emotionally resonant messages, this series connects racism and mass incarceration, over-policing, police brutality, unlawful arrest, school campus police presence, and other issues surrounding incarceration with the destruction of individuals and communities. Violence is one of the issues animating the protests this series, but it's mostly off-screen. Demonstrators, some of whom were once incarcerated themselves, tell personal stories about their own experiences and those suffered by loved ones, that include mentions of beatings, torture, medical negligence, and suicide. A protestor warns others to stay behind a steel structure because opponents will "drive through humans." Brief snippets of historical footage show people pushing each other, crying, and facing lines of armed police officers. Protestors and activists demonstrate courage, integrity, and perseverance strongly, often mentioning that they'll keep up the fight until their efforts bear fruit. Activists also demonstrate their involvement in reforming a broken system, sometimes at the expense of their own safety and freedom. Language is infrequent but expect a few bleeped "f--k"s; drugs are mentioned in the context of criminal justice.

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What's the story?

When Los Angeles announced a $3.5 billion plan to build new county jails, it galvanized local activists to RESIST. Black Lives Matter and Dignity and Power Now co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors is our anchor as we witness Khan-Cullors and other activists launching protests, participating in disruptive political actions, and pleading their cause with local officials, and learn more about the racist and fascist underpinnings of incarceration in America. 

Is it any good?

Gripping and incisive, this documentary series brings readers into a political movement, and makes them both understand the need for the protests and feel the tortured emotions of protestors. As we go behind the scenes of one particular Los Angeles action, in which a coalition drops off 100 prison beds in front of a Board of Supervisors meeting to protest a local plan to build new jails, Resist stitches together the activists' concerns in an emotionally resonant tapestry: the damage that mass incarceration does to black and brown communities, the LAPD's long and fearsome history with brutality, how cash bail and unlawful arrest affect the prison population, how an increased police presence on high school campuses winds up funneling teens into prison.

We hear from insiders, many of them ex-prisoners themselves, whose traumatic experiences are used to illustrate the social impact of incarceration, and are fed statistics: black students are suspended and expelled at a rate 3 times that of white students, 128 deaths occurred in California jails in 2016. All the while, we watch as Black Lives Matter and Dignity and Power Now co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors rallies her fellow activists, steering everything from the details on how to shut down a street (Khan-Cullors advises protestors to stay behind the set-up prison beds, because "No one's going to drive through steel beds ... but they will drive through humans.") to explaining to officials (and to us) how the $3.5 billion set aside for new jails could be used to prevent crime instead by investing in education, job resources, and housing. It's powerful stuff, and if viewers are inspired to protest unfair conditions in their own lives and communities after watching, it would be no surprise. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the intentions of documentaries: to inform, entertain, persuade, or inspire. Which category or categories best describe Resist? Explain your answer. Did filmmakers accomplish this purpose? 

  • If this series inspired you, what might you and/or your family and friends do to take action to change this situation? Some possibilities might be: actively working to elect like-minded individuals; recommending this series to others; joining and working with specific organizations that have influence in your community or on the internet. 

  • How do the activists in Resist demonstrate perseverancecourage, and integrity? Why are these important character strengths

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