Netflix’s Barry is a powerful, tragic rumination on race and belonging


Barry, now streaming on Netflix, imagines Barack Obama as a brooding young black man living in New York City and attending Columbia University as an undergrad. We find him dealing with normal college kid things: classes, studying, roommates, drinking, partying, dating, etc. If anything, young Obama knows how to have a good time. What he can’t seem to figure out is where he belongs.

While Obama is engaged in much of the life of a young college student, there is not an aspect of that life that is untouched by race. In classes he argues the importance of slavery to understanding government. In his personal life, he negotiates how to exist in both black and white spaces. He plays ball with a group of young black men and attends a black party, but there are small, sometimes serious, reminders that he’s an outsider. He’s teased for his bookishness, and…

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