“Safety” on Disney+ is the drama inspired by the true story of Clemson University’s freshman football safety Ray McElrathbey (played skillfully and powerfully by Jay Reeves) and his young brother Fahmarr (Thaddeus J. Mixson). This was exactly the type of movie I knew I wanted in 2020, but had no idea I needed it. It was the reminder that we can do big damn things when we embrace our village and allow the help that we deserve and sometimes really need.
What is Safety about?
The story itself is pretty straightforward. In summary, the hero of our story finds himself in an impossible situation during his freshman year at Clemson University having to balance his already tough student athlete responsibilities with the additional responsibility of taking in his young brother when Ray Ray’s mother enters a treatment program and his brother becomes a ward of the state. The choice to take in Fay seems clear, but having to hide him in the dorms, balance practice/school, and then the fight back against the NCAA rules that allow him to accept his community’s help challenge him even further.
When Coach Bowden asks his team the following, “What does sacrifice mean to you? To me, it means putting it all in the line. It means being selfless, committed. You can’t be satisfied. There ain’t no room for comfortable. You must sacrifice.” I don’t know that anyone had the type of sacrifice in mind that Ray was facing. He feels the extreme pressure and privilege of the burden and gift he has received as a student athlete at every turn. Even his teachers question his workload. Ray responds to questions about how many credit hours he is taking with the telling response, “They are free classes, why not take advantage?”. This evidence of his content of character is a soothing balm at any time, but during the current times we live in it is especially appreciated.
Did I like it?
My final takeaway from this film was the message echoed by one of Ray’s coaches and summed up perfectly, “Taking care of your family isn’t something you hide and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”. 2020 has been hard. Harder for some than others, but doing what you need to do to take care of your family should never be a source of shame. This is a tough thing to remember when times are good and easy. 2020 has not been that time for most, including me and I consider myself to be in an extremely fortunate position during these trying times.
Thank you Disney for presenting me with the emotional release I needed without hitting me so hard that I needed help off of the floor. This was the spoonful of sugar version of some of my favorite sports films. It had just enough reality and heart without burying me in emotions. Also, Ray made you remember the greatness that can be achieved by not accepting limitations and instead accepting help. That reminder of grace is one that so many of us needed. Not all of us can “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” right now and make impossible situations possible just because we want it very badly.
Did it pass the media bias tests?
Every film that I review has one set of criteria that I always take a moment to examine closely outside of whether or not I like the film. Here is a link to the media bias checks that I have listed below in case you want to learn more about each set of criteria:
The Betchel Test- No, unfortunately Safety does not pass the Betchel test.
The Racial Bechdel Test- check.
The Mako Mori Test- check.
The Ellen Willis Test- check.
The Tauriel Test- check.
The Deggans Rule- check.
The DuVernay Test- check.
The Vito Russo Test- Safety does not pass the Vito Russo test. There are no characters in the film portrayed as identifying as LGBTQIA+.
Watch the trailer for the film below: