The toxicity of male behavior these days is stinking up the joint that we call our nation. From R. Kelly and Michael Jackson to the Hollywood revelations of the #MeToo movement and even the accusations against our current president and his hush money lifestyle. It hurts to learn that supposedly admirable icons like Bill Cosby failed us utterly, but even worse, that they are protected by those who benefit from not calling out such behavior for so long.
But when it truly hits home, when the enablers are small-town neighbors in a tight-knit community and the perpetrators are their teen-age football hero sons, it cuts to the very core of our country’s values. That is what takes place in the devastating doc Roll Red Roll. That title is a catchphrase for the high-school football team in Steubenville, N.Y., whose supporters share a cult-like enthusiasm that often is common in sports. What they ended up rolling over in the summer of 2012 was that, despite a long trail of social media evidence, at least two players took advantage of an underage girl who passed out after drinking in front of several young male witnesses. The local police tried to get to the bottom of what occurred but without much success.
But leave it to a local crime blogger, Alexandria Goddard, who made it her mission to get to the truth of what happened, a she combed through the social media trail left in the wake of the act and posted the most damning comments online. She was treated as a traitor and would be sued for defamation of character. But then a female investigative reporter for the Cleveland New Dealer got wind of the sexual assault allegations and soon it became an international disgrace.
I wish director Nancy Schwartzman had more than 80 minutes to reveal how people justify having something that is described as a “rape culture” take root in their community. But it is enough to remind us how easy it is to fall into the trap of “boys will be boys” excuses when you don’t want to admit the truth.