Did Netflix's 'Bright' reinvent the wheel by creating an alternate race?

If one subject of conversation is uniquely American than it is the topic of race. And if one time of year is specific to the zeitgeist of our great land than that is the holidays.

The 'big movie', not typically the best movie, has always been set come out in time for Christmas.

Over the past years it has been Star Wars or Lord of the Rings or Avatar.

Here is a list of the internets best ranked Christmas Day movie releases. 


As Netflix has taken a firm hold of the reigns of all things entertainment it is only fitting that they  should craft a Christmas blockbuster of their own.

And they did.


Rotten Tomatoes lists Bright as being "set in an alternate present-day where humans, orcs, elves, and fairies have been coexisting since the beginning of time." 

Directed by David Ayer (writer of Training Day and director of Suicide Squad) "the storyline chronicles two cops from very different backgrounds. Ward, a human (Will Smith), and Jakoby, an orc (Joel Edgerton), embark on a routine night patrol that will alter the future of their world as they know it." 

“Bright is predictable, weird, and at some points cheesy; but what it gets right is race. The allegory that it contains captures the essence that is Los Angeles and therefore what is quintessentially America.”
— Dan Parks

'Bright' contains 4 races: elves, humans, orcs, and fairies -- & in that hierarchal class order.

In 'Bright's' Los Angeles humans live in uneasy peace with the elves and orcs after the races had fought for thousands of years.


The opening introduces the story the Los Angeles should be -- with driving and street graffiti.

Check out the opening below.




Elves represent the upper 1%.

We learn early not to like the elves as Will Smith's character dismisses them when he and his partner drive through 'Elf-town' (which looks as if it is a glamorized rendition of downtown LA) on the way to their police precinct.

The elves are rich and privileged and live in their own 'safe zone'. 



Human's have the same struggles that we do in our world.

Smith's character is worried about selling his house and how the 'gangsters' next door will affect his selling price.

The humans deal with interpersonal conflicts with co-workers and spouses and people on the street just as we do today -- except that 'Brights' world adds in the trials of the other races. 



Orcs are represented as the 'ghetto' class.



Orcs are big, angry, and tough.

Orcs live on the edges of the society. They follow a 'code' of loyalty above all else. Their race is important to them as without money or power or options their 'identity' is all that they have. 

Elves and Humans keep their distance from Orcs.


This is the beginning of where 'Bright' gets weird. 

Fairies play no specific role to the plot. They are represented as oversized flies serving as pests and being nuisances to homeowners and Will Smith's character specifically. 

Before Will Smith's swats the fairy with the broom stick he turns to his neighbor and says, "fairy lives don't matter today."


Yes, this is an odd choice of words.

Yes, this seems insensitive to take a phrase well known to represent the Black Lives Matter movement and is used out of context.

And, yes, this is the beginning of the cheesy elementary writing of the movie. Is it not racist because Will Smith says it? I don't know, ask writer Max Landis. It's definitely awkward though. 


'Bright' has received mixed reviews.

Critics give it a 28% on Rotten Tomatoes, but is contrasted by an audience score of 88%. 

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Recently, Chance the Rapper spoke about the social commentary that 'Bright' made on race.

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But, Chance the Rapper gets it wrong and it is actually one point where 'Bright' gets it right.



By creating a being outside of our own, i.e. 'Orcs', we are allowed to distance ourselves from the baggage that we bring to the conversation of race. 

Whether your white or black, from Asia or South America, Europe or Antartica -- it's likely that you've had some experience with racism or prejudice or xenophobia. 

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Jakoby, the Orc cop, is the first ever Orc policeman. 

The 1st ever non-human cop is a big deal in 'Bright's' world and if this reality was to be our own -- with elements of our current world in it -- then Jakoby would most definitely have been a guest on the JRE Podcast.

Love the idea of bringing Joe Rogen into the mix. Check out the video below:

Jakoby is stuck in-between worlds.

He isn't accepted by LAPD.


He isn't accepted by his own Orc community either.


But, Jakoby fights.

He fights against crime, against something called 'magic' (another really weird turn the plot takes in 'Bright'), and he fights against himself.

Take note of the differences in the teeth between the top picture and the bottom.

Jakoby has filed his teeth down. He does this so that he isn't identified with the 'clan' or the 'gang' that traditional Orcs adhere to. 

Jakoby wants to be identified upon his own merit. He has wanted to be a cop since his was young and against all odds and races he works to achieve his goal.


But, stuff goes down.

In defense of Jakoby, Ward kills four cops and a sheriff's deputy. Together the rescue an elf from other elves and a magic wand after which a Mexican gangs chases through what looks like east Los Angeles.

Ward and Jakoby are then captured by the Orc gang where Jakoby is executed.

But, by some ancient prophecy (this is another weird plot point) he is brought back to life.



A happy ending begins where Jakoby is accepted by his fellow Orcs, Ward, and Los Angeles itself. 


What 'Bright' gets right is the struggle Jakoby faces.

For LA, for the United States, and for the World as a whole to grow and move past racism it's gonna take strong individuals from all races to accept differences, to overcome struggles both personal and universal, and stand up for the right thing and not the easy thing.


If that's not the American dream -- than what is?


     - Dan

Works Cited

“Bright.” Bright (2017) - Rotten Tomatoes, 30 Dec. 2017, www.rottentomatoes.com/m/bright/.

Netflix, TVDan Parks