I’ve been looking forward to Short Term 12 since Film Crit Hulk reviewed the movie about the children who live at a temporary center for kids who have been removed from their own homes. “AFTER THE SCREENING A FELLOW PATRON SOUGHT TO QUESTION THE FILM’S REALISM, CITING “None of the kids really seemed that dangerous!” FAILING TO REALIZE THE BASIC FACT THAT THE REALLY VIOLENT KIDS WHO HURT OTHERS ARE KICKED OUT OF GROUP HOMES LIKE THIS AND GO TO JUVEY,” he wrote. “MEANING THE ‘REALIT'” THE PERSON COMMENTING ON WAS BEING DRAWN FROM THEIR SENSE OF THE WORLD THROUGH THE FALSENESS OF A MEDIA CULTURE THAT THINKS OF TROUBLED KIDS AS SOMETHING RATHER UNREALISTIC, PARTICULARLY WITH REGARDS TO ITS VIEW OF YOUNG BLACK MALES.” Now we’ve got a trailer, and I’m even more excited:
Part of what’s interesting about Short Term 12 is that the writer and director Destin Cretton actually did the kind of social work that Brie Larson’s main character does. It’s something of a stereotype of Hollywood screenwriters that they’re constantly writing what they don’t know when plenty of people who write movies have had other careers, and often interesting ones. But the very existence of a movie like Short Term 12 is a reminder of how valuable that kind of life experience is.
NPR’s Neda Ulaby, in a story about a new ABC Family show, The Fosters, sat down with a family that was fostering children to watch the pilot, and reported back that it was one of the few pieces of culture that actually reflected their experience, even if they had a few nitpicks. “It’s safe to assume no one wants to watch a show about the drama of getting recertified,” to run a foster home Ulaby reported. “But the foster care system is filled with intensely moving stories of conflict and messy emotions.” That may be correct–or the right person, who’s seen the narratively compelling drama in recertification, may not yet have written the screenplay to tell that story yet. The more kinds of life experience people writing movies or television have, the more kinds of stories they’ll have identified that the rest of us don’t yet know we’re missing out on.