CONTENT WARNING: A WHOLE LOT OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AND OVERT RACISM AGAINST BLACK MEN
The week of “movies I’ve been dragging my feet on watching” is wrapping up, so let’s watch something that I was putting off because I knew it would make me uncomfortable! The premise of The Breeding is pretty simple: a white racist kidnaps a black gay man with the intention of torturing him until he submits to being a slave. Thank god this was written/directed by people of color, because if a white man was behind it I would cringe myself into oblivion. Based on that premise alone, I’m reiterating the warning at the top of the page: viewer discretion is advised, because sexual assault and racism against people of color is baked into the premise.
We open on a black man locked in a cage. I WARNED YOU! This is Thomas, and we flash back to him confessing his attraction to men to a priest while using the word “body” way too much. Turns out this was actually kinky roleplay in a bathroom, so less “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned,” and more, “Sorry Daddy, I’ve been a bad boy.” Thomas is dating–and cheating on–Amadi, another black gay man. For reasons that aren’t touched on, Thomas is bored of Amadi and seeking sexual encounters with white guys. A meeting in a different bathroom leads him to visiting Lee, a white guy who is the one behind Thomas getting locked in the cage. See, he wants a master/slave relationship, but in a racist and non-consensual way. After getting bagged, collared, and locked in the cage for a month, Thomas seems to break and Lee has sex with him, falling asleep afterwards. Ah ha! I said to myself. This is Thomas’ chance to kill him! While he does consider taking the chain attached to his collar and doing what Leia Organa did to Jabba, instead he… doesn’t. Stockholm syndrome or not, Thomas seems to enjoy his new life; we see him become a sort of “house boy,” doing chores for and being close to Lee. But when Lee unlocks the collar and lets Thomas go, Thomas snaps and FINALLY kills him. He returns to Amadi and puts together an art show with pieces inspired by the incident, part as a way of coping, but mostly because the head organizer was Lee’s ex-wife who… may have known he was being held captive? Big yikes.
There’s also a subplot that doesn’t really go anywhere of a different white guy fetishizing black men that ends with him stabbing a guy during a sexual encountered turned attempted robbery. Possibly to death? He gets away with it and it’s barely connected to anything.
This movie… sure was something. As expected, I–as a very white man–was uncomfortable for the duration of it. And I guess that’s the point? The filmmakers wanted to talk about fetishizing racial minorities, but it just felt… extreme, I guess. The tales show the worst possible results–murder and sexual enslavement–but it all feels like there isn’t a core message it wants to get across. And if there is, it’s probably, “Don’t trust white men.” Which is… fair. There are moments that showcase this better, though: when Amadi is talking to the police about Thomas’ disappearance, their less than helpful nature causes him to have an asthma attack, which causes the white cops to almost draw their guns on him in his own apartment. But moments like that are few and far between.
Also, and this is an incredibly minor thing, but this movie was weirdly shy about dicks. There are several sex scenes, a masturbation scene, and some general genital fondling, but the only penises we ever see are screenshots from what appears to be Craigslist. Hell, even the masturbation scene is shot to avoid showing any dick, instead focusing on Thomas’ ass. It was just sort of… awkward? I’m not saying that actors in sexually charged media necessarily need to bare all, but the intentional hiding of the actors’ dicks during sex and masturbation scenes the filmmakers decided were necessary was just a strange decision.
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