Hypothetically Marshall is a feel-good ode to allyship, but in practice, it ends up being a disservice to one of the legacies of the most accomplished, important legal minds in American history. We are living in something of a Black Renaissance right now in terms of the arts, music, and movies. After more than a decade of domination by Tyler Perry and reality TV, the silver screen and the small screen have exploded with shows like Insecure, Queen Sugar, and Atlanta and movies like Moonlight, Selma, and Fruitvale Station. But while the artistic zeitgeist of the Black Lives Matter era has paved the way for more ambitious Black stories, not all these productions hit the mark. The most recent to miss is Reginald Hudlin's Marshall featuring Chadwick Boseman in the titular role. Instead of a sweeping exploration of Thurgood Marshall's unreal career from trial lawyer to Supreme Court Justice, or an in-depth exploration of one of his many harrowing cases — rumbling into the South to save the life of a falsely accused Black person — this film zeros in on a case that Thurgood Marshall could not even argue. In Marshall, Thurgood is banned from litigating in court and can only serve as an advisor to a reluctant, white Jewish insurance lawyer who argues the case instead. Hypothetically the film is a feel-good ode to allyship, but in practice, it ends up being a disservice to one of the legacies of the most accomplished, important legal minds in American history. Thurgood Marshall was a lion of the court — a looming figure with a huge personality, who for much of his career pulled off impossible cases. He argued Brown versus Board of Education and ushered desegregation. He argued in the South amid the violence of the Ku Klux Klan. He crisscrossed the nation and even argued in front of the Supreme Court.
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