Capitalism is a system that forces people into roles they wouldn’t otherwise choose, just to make money. Workers talk, act, and follow rules set down by the boss whose agenda is money-making overall. Writer and director Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You revolves around this fact – to get ahead you must follow the bosses’ rules and prove how you can make them a profit.
The story of Sorry to Bother You is based on a young Black man from Oakland who picks up a job as a telemarketer in a call center. The hero, Cassius, is a failure at his new job until he discovers the secret to success – to speak with a “white voice.” The film uses strange effects to point out the strangeness of capitalism. Cassius’ “white voice” is overdubbed, making him sound ridiculous. And of course he is a big success. In reality, we live in a system that is just as ridiculous and corrupt.
The beauty of Sorry to Bother You is that it shows that “getting ahead” means buying into a system based on exploitation and violence. As Cassius gets better and better with his white voice, he starts to make even more money. But when he discovers that he and his co-workers have the power to fight the system collectively, he is forced to make a choice. He can either give in to this system alone or unite with others to change it. This is a choice we all face.