There's been a great deal of hype centered around ABC's American Crime premiere with the network assuring fans that this is nothing like we've ever seen before, especially on primetime television. And, in that aspect, they couldn't be more right. This crime drama seeks to highlight the racial prejudices that still plaque our society after the murder of a war veteran, Matt Skokie, shakes an entire community. But are these events in American Crime actually based on a true story? Well, that depends on how you want to look at it.
You see, this series is less about representing a specific crime and more about depicting an overall concept about the United States' very flawed judicial system. Like when the police are a little too quick to shoot a Hispanic suspect, which, in light of the events in Ferguson, strikes a very real chord. Or when Felicity Huffman's character, Barb, discovers that a Hispanic boy is a person of interest in her son's murder and she automatically assumes he's "an illegal." This isn't the show attempting to paint her character's bigotry as outright evil (though it's certainly not good), but rather a way to highlight some of the many unfair assumptions and treatments given to those of other races and ethnicities.
These characters may not be all that likable at times, but they paint a very clear portrait of some very real-life issues. As the promo smartly states, "nothing is black and white" — a remark that can be interpreted on several different levels. Murder is just one of the crimes that's being committed on this series. Faith is tested; racial lines are drawn; and everyone has the potential to be a victim — whether that be of full-on murder or some form of unjust prejudice.
So is American Crime based on a true story? Technically, no. But thematically, it is something of a true story. These characters may not exist in real life, but there are plenty of people out there who are just like them and know exactly what it's like to be in their shoes. Which, I imagine, is exactly what creator John Ridley (who won an Oscar for writing 12 Years a Slave) sought to accomplish: bringing real-life problems onto the small screen. It's not pretty and it's sure as hell going to leave a bitter taste in your mouth, but it's impossible to deny that it's also rooted in some very hard and depressing truths, making it all the more important to let those voices be heard.
There's no doubt that this is a bold move for a network like ABC to be making, but one that could end up paying off big time, especially with so many top-notch actors at the helm. So, really, not tuning in would be the biggest crime of all.
Images: Van Redin/ABC; Felicia Graham/ABC (2)