Earlier this month, Netflix released Seven Seconds, an eye-opening crime – drama series revealing the lives of several people connected to one black teen’s death. Director Jonathan Demme and executive producers, Veena Sud, Gavin O’Connor, Lawrence Bender, Kevin Kelly Brown, Alex Reznik, and Dan Nowak managed to create a series covering themes that every viewer can relate to, all the while shedding light on controversial topics that are often overlooked. While watching the series, I narrowed down seven of the most impactful themes the show covers.
*WARNING SPOILER ALERTS BELOW*
From the beginning scene, we are first introduced to a young, white officer who finds himself rushing to the hospital during a harsh winter. His plan is to go see his wife and his newborn baby. Along the way he manages to get into an accident, killing a 15-year-old black boy by the name of Brenton Butler. As he examines what he has done, he calls his other colleagues with hopes of doing the right thing, but soon finds his boss doesn’t have the same idea. His boss then tells the young officer to go to the hospital while he cleans up the crime scene and leaves the scene as if nothing happens. The show truly exposes things that go on within law enforcement including what may be hidden from the public and victim’s families.
(JoJo Whilden / Netflix)
This was a huge takeaway from the series. Several lines in the show display how corrupt the relationship is between police and black teens. After the death of her son, Ms. Butler is asked the whereabouts of her son, what group of kids did he hang out with, etc. Immediately, she is offended that they would suggest he was a gang member, or that he came from a torn home. The plot does an excellent job of showing how easy it is for someone to stereotype minorities, specifically black people. One of the terrifying lines from episode five says, “The only color I see is blue, that’s the only color anyone in my district ever sees.” It truly is a testament to what is going on in the world today with our young black men being murdered.
(Cara Howe / Netflix)
This was incredibly insightful to see how a tragic, unexpected death affects the mental health of everyone involved. Brenton’s death exposed several issues going on within the Butler household. Ms. Butler is practically the only person that has seen the man who murdered her son, and it takes over her life. She can’t eat, sleep, or have a civil conversation with her husband. Her emotions begin to get the best of her throughout the series. Not only does it affect the parents, but the guilt of the crime affects Officer Jablonski as well. He has taken the crime that he’s committed to his home. Neighbors see him acting strange and his wife begins to get concerned. He has so much anger and rage and is completely paranoid. It is only a matter of time before he begins to break.
One theme that everyone in the show faces is the pressure Brenton’s death has caused. Shortly after the death of his son, Mr. Butler finds himself without a job and in a financial crisis. When his younger brother finds out, he turns to selling drugs with his former gang to make ends meet. Again, Officer Jablonski and his co-workers are pressured to remain quiet about his crime. KJ the prosecutor is pressured to get justice for Brenton and his family. We are repeatedly shown that law enforcement and the criminal justice field is a very high-pressure scene. Even more shocking was the pressure Brenton’s closest friend was feeling when he reveals what happened the night before his death.
Lastly, the main thing that I related to in the show was KJ’s experience at work. She is the only woman in a male-dominated field. Not only is she a woman, but an African American woman, struggling to forget her past and persevere through her male co-workers and their demeaning comments. The show tackles gender equality in the workforce and the lack of respect women face within the criminal justice field.