All American: Dream Big. Stay Real.
Based on the true story of former NFL linebacker Spencer Paysinger, All American is an amazing binge-worthy series. The realism and relatability make this an entertaining series, especially with many of today’s issues being depicted. From his success on the field to his relationships with his family and friends, Spencer always seems to overcome the issues which are common in reality today.
In a review by Melissa Camacho from Common Sense Magazine, she described All American as “A football series addressing classism, racism, and bullying.”
Taye Diggs (Billy Baker) discussed his take on the issues portrayed in All American during an interview with ET “We really dig into issues and socioeconomics and race and sex. I was very impressed, and that’s one of the major reasons why I decided to be a part of this project. I’m very proud.”
Crime and Gang Violence in Inner-City Neighborhoods
All American effectively depicts poor, inner-city neighborhoods, and the disadvantages they have on their residents. This was evident from the beginning when Grace reached out to Beverly High School football coach Billy Baker to give her son Spencer a better opportunity away from Crenshaw due to the gang activity in the area. As described in a television review by Daniel D’Addario from Variety, “Spencer is now to be leading a bifurcated life, playing for the largely white Beverly Hills team while leaving his heart back in Crenshaw.”
Spencer’s younger brother Dillon also struggles with living in Crenshaw as it is unsafe for him to play in the public park due to gang violence. Dillon’s birthday party in the park was a major challenge for Spencer, with having to convince gang members to stay away from the party. Thankfully, the gang members kept their distance.
Leaving gang life in Crenshaw is a major challenge and can even be a deadly decision. Spencer’s lifelong friend Coop tried to lead their mutual friend Shawn away from gang life, but as soon as he made the decision to turn his life around, a gang member shot and killed him. Feeling anger and pain, Coop started getting involved to seek revenge for her friend’s death.
Like in All American, many people in poor, inner-city neighborhoods are at a disadvantage, having to work twice as hard to become successful, which is why many viewers from those areas can relate to the characters from Crenshaw.
Racial profiling was also shown in All American during episode 3 of season 1 when Spencer and Jordan were targeted by the police. Since Spencer and Jordan were not doing anything illegal, Jordan was appalled by the negative attitude of the officers and questioned their reasoning for stopping them. Despite Spencer warning Jordan to stop questioning the police, Jordan disregarded it. At that point, the police officers made them step out of the vehicle, then brutally wrestled them to the ground for no other reason than being African American males.
It was shocking to Spencer that Billy did not have the talk with Jordan that most black families have about dealing with the police. For many years, Billy avoided talking with his children on the subject because he stated that “he did not want them to experience the ugly side of being black.”
It is easy to see that Jordan and Spencer’s situation in episode 3 of season 1 correlate with many racial profiling cases, a huge problem plaguing America today.
Another episode addressed the increased police shootings of African Americans, with a police officer shooting and murdering a teenage girl named Tamika while she was sleeping in her car. The heat between Olivia and her mother, Laura, the district attorney working on the case, was intense. While Olivia leaked the footage because she felt nothing was being done about the murder, she later realized her mistake as Laura was one step away from justice if the footage had not been leaked.
Then, Spencer leading Crenshaw to forfeit the game to protest actually turned out in their favor as the other team forfeited as well for the cause. The fallout of Timika’s murder perfectly demonstrates emotional fallouts from similar incidents involving the police and African Americans in America today.
Spencer’s father leaving had a big effect on him, and Spencer experienced hurt and anger throughout his life because of it. Later in the series, Spencer’s father, Corey, returns, and Spencer was hesitant about allowing him to return to his life. Once the truth came out about Grace’s affair with Billy while being married to Corey, Spencer was even more devastated because of the lies.
Many viewers can relate to this series, given that people of all races struggle with absentee fathers, and All American clearly depicts the negative impact absentee fathers have on their children.
Besides the creative storytelling, the current issues depicted are a major component of what makes All American such an engaging series. It is one of the most relatable series today, and viewers enjoy shows they can identify with. So far, All American has lived up to expectations and will continue to be an entertaining program.