Boots Riley Talks ‘I’m a Virgo,’ the Superhero Industrial Complex and Working with Amazon


But I also think that things that are called comedy are more natural. They’re more realistic because it takes a lot of work to suck the joy out. I mean, people in prison are laughing at stuff, right? It is part of how we view things, how we talk, how stories have been told.

I told this story for The Moth and in the story that I was telling, there was a point where in the early 90s, we heard we were on some white supremacist kill list that always came out every year and it was like Ice Cube, Ice-T, and us. I bring it up in the story because that’s why me and E-roc bought guns. We were scared, but also, we were like, “We’re on the fucking same list as Ice Cube and Ice-T. Hell yeah!” That was in the story, and they were like, “We feel like it takes away from the seriousness” or whatever. So at the first event, I didn’t say that. But then at another, I said it, people laughed, and then they got back into it.

Joy and laughter show humanity more than life devoid of joy and just filled with sorrow. Obviously, I understand that atrocious things are happening, but to me, it’s very important to talk about how humans take that in.

It’s interesting because there’s humor everywhere, and usually, more humor where there is less wealth and stability.

And there’s joy! When people are playing characters in some of these situations—maybe they don’t relate or maybe they’re told a certain thing about that character—they sometimes play it devoid of that quality that makes them human, which is looking for that joy.

You and I once talked about Megan Ellison’s Annapurna providing funding for a movie about the tech industry’s effects on Oakland, to which you said, “Even Marx sold books,” and talked about left-leaning capital being a motor for radical movement. Were you conflicted about putting a show about labor and worker uprisings on Amazon?

I want my work to get out there in the biggest way possible. There are other platforms that might actually be bigger, but this is the one that the chips fell to. As you pointed out, there was a conflict already with Larry Ellison’s money; in order to get your work out in a big way, you’re going to be dealing with folks that are involved in the extreme exploitation of labor.

Think about it like this: the biggest investors in Amazon are also the biggest investors in Netflix. They’re also the biggest investors in Disney, Warner, and all of these things. Two of them that I can think of off the top of my head are the Vanguard Group and Blackrock. Basically, what you’ve got is the ruling class using different avatars and business models to see which one plays out the best for them, which is why you can have the industry shut down over a fight over 2 percent of the profit. They’re thinking about the long game, and about all of their other industries in which people are striking and the statement that they want to make. Otherwise, it’s not worth it for them.

Boots Riley Talks ‘I’m a Virgo,’ the Superhero Industrial Complex and Working with Amazon

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