San Luis Obispo High School students can feel that, because of our age or low status in society, we cannot be heard. A recently released and very highly rated movie hopes to show how sometimes even unorthodox methods of expression are powerful enough to spark a response, perhaps even a change.
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, directed by British director Martin McDonagh, recently won five awards at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, or the BAFTAS, including best film and best female lead.
The film follows the melancholy journey of Mildred Hayes, played by Frances McDormand, a mother whose teenage daughter was raped and murdered. Outraged at the local police department’s inaction, she takes matters into her own hands by purchasing three commercial billboards, painting them red, and inscribing one bold statement on each one. The phrases featured on the boards grow in intensity as one reads them, mirroring the plot of the movie and Mildred’s plight. In the movie, one travels down the desolate country road, and the signs come into view one by one reading; “How Come, Chief Willoughby?”, “And Still No Arrests?”, and finally, “ Raped While Dying”.
Mildred encapsulates the rage felt by every person who has ever experienced police indifference in response to injustice, though she is willing to take a step further beyond protest, even indulging in acts of violence, which she sees as the only way she will be heard.
While the aspect of personal loss and avengement is broadly applicable to our daily lives, another issue explored in the film is becoming increasingly prevalent in reflection on the recent school shooting in Florida and the “#MeToo” movement, which has swept the nation since October of 2017.
Following the movie’s release in November and the Florida shooting just last week, a Democratic action committee in Janesville, Wisconsin found inspiration in the movie billboards and decided to create its own. The board reads “17 killed in their classrooms/Still no gun reform?/How come, Paul Ryan?”.
“Logically, school should at least be a safe place, but as long as guns are permitted to anyone who wants one, no one is safe,” said junior Maya Nitzel.
Consistently, gun control laws fail to pass, just as shootings fail to cease, compromising the safety of millions of students across the nation under the argument that gun rights are civil rights secured by the Constitution.
“I wish that our leaders and representatives would do everything in their power to push gun control. It would take an enormous effort, but effort that should and needs to be put in so that everyone can be protected,” said Nitzel.
While not everyone can buy billboards to get a reaction from people in power, there are many things individuals can do like voicing their concerns to politicians, both local and national, or even just standing in solidarity with victims of gun violence. Even if you’re one individual, you can find strength in numbers by standing with others.
In her BAFTA speech, McDormand addressed those inspired by the film.
“I appreciate a well-organized act of civil disobedience, and I’m thrilled that activists all over the world have been inspired by the set decoration in Martin’s film, and have taken to the streets and let it be a part of the positive public discourse that’s happening,” said McDormand.