'Rebel' Examines Current Events From A New Perspective


Director John Singleton, the executive producer of Rebel, a new series from BET, has long been interested in adapting current social issues into his work, like his debut feature Boyz N the Hood. Despite his more recent foray into action filmmaking, there's nothing stopping him from jumping back into taking on more weighty ideas in his often unconventional way. So when turning to TV, is Rebel based on a true story? The series, created by Amani Walker, is about a black female police officer, Rebecca "Rebel" Knight, who decides to quit the force when she has to shoot her partner in order to protect her brother. But while the characters may not be real people, the real tensions between communities of color, particularly black communities, and the police are some of the major inspirations behind the series.

In a press release, BET describes Rebel as "a hard-hitting, gritty, complicated and morally ambiguous drama series, featuring many issues ripped from the headlines." Presumably, those issues are tied to the central premise of a former officer disgusted with the state of police violence, and sadly, the series has many examples to choose from. From the shooting of young unarmed men like Mike Brown to the death of Sandra Bland, which started with a simple traffic stop.

But everything realistic about Rebel doesn't have to be negative. For example, when Rebel leaves the force, she could be inspired by movements like Black Lives Matter (or a fictionalized adaptation of BLM). Of course, the show is clearly going for a more heightened take, given that Rebel begins violent retribution on what looks like either her fellow officers or some criminals in a dark alley in the trailer above. Becoming a vigilante is the kind of overwrought drama that works well in a TV show, but doesn't have much relationship to real life, since there don't seem to be any actual examples of black female police officers going for some extralegal justice.

However, real black female officers have spoken out about current events. Ohio officer Nekia Jones posted a video to Facebook in July 2016 in which she explained that she was having a hard time reconciling the work she's proud of with the racism she's observed. "If I wasn’t a police officer and I wasn’t on the inside, I would be saying, 'Look at this racist stuff. Look at this.' And it hurt me," she explained in her video. "The reason I became a police officer is to make a difference in people's lives."

I think Rebel will show a very similar conflict, and adding issues from real life should help to ground some of the more extreme elements.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed John Singleton as the creator of Rebel. It was created by Amani Walker.