Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Akeelah and the Bee


Yes, it’s the classic underdog story so beloved of Hollywood, and yes, you can tell just about everywhere it’s going to go after the first ten minutes … and yet, sometimes that just works. It could have been about football, or chess, or swimming, or just about any competitive human activity (or horse racing), but it’s about spelling, and it manages to pull a rabbit out of the hat at the end, reminding us that it isn’t all about winning, and that, in some contests, there is an alternative to winning or losing … think about it, you’ll come up with the answer. Hint: Win, lose, or …

The movie works best because it is set in Compton in the African-American community, and it knows that just about the only thing that can be as frightening as fear of failure can be … fear of success. The underprivileged, black or white, begin with a sense of failure, and most of them never achieve anything because they never even get started. Add to that the certainty that, unless you’re an athlete, any accomplishment will be disparaged by your peers who aren’t trying and hate you and are jealous of the possibility that you might succeed. “Good student” is an epithet among the brainless in their endless attempts to bring you down to their level. I know from personal experience, being a life-long nerd and “brainiac” … and proud of it!