This article analyzes classroom discussions of Boaz Yakin's 1994 film Fresh—an unsettling urban drama about a young boy (Fresh) who devises a creative escape from the drug dealers in his environment: he buys a large amount of cocaine that he uses to trick those dealers into thinking that they're all trying to break into each others' markets. In the end, he turns these negative and violent forces against each other and then enters the Witness Protection Program. The social commentary in the film is paramount since it highlights the disturbing cultural reasons why a twelve–year-old African American boy has to devise his own escape from the inner city. Most important, class discussions of (as well as the writing assignments focused on) Yakin's film necessarily confront the role that class hierarchies play in America as well as the cultural myths—like the unconditional individual—that affect many of our expectations and assumptions. Herein resides the film's pedagogical importance: it offers an intensely emotional and intellectual challenge to many of our foundational understandings of American values and cultural narratives. That is, it critiques the problematic rationalizations (like “the just-world phenomenon”) that seek to not only dis-empower but also neglect whole segments of American society.

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