Netflix’s big budget blockbuster Bright has created a massive divide between critics and viewers. It’s pretty much the opposite reaction to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. There are more reasons for these opposing viewpoints than I can name here, but one of the primary complaints I’ve seen from both sides is that we don’t see enough of the world. I can’t dispute the desire to see more of this unique universe David Ayer and Max Landis have constructed, but there’s much more we can discern from things that are in plain sight. Darryl Ward (Will Smith) and Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton) simply walk past things most of the audience never pays attention to, but the Dark Lord is in the details.
Let’s take a closer look and illuminate as many uncertainties as we can. Hopefully, I can convince a few readers that regardless of its flaws, this movie is one of the most socially and racially important movies of 2017. It’s certainly no Get Out, but I might surprise you here.
Before we get started, I have to warn you that there are a few minor spoilers below and as a lot of this information is unconfirmed, there will be more than a little speculation. With that out of the way, here are nine things Bright shows but doesn’t tell with a few extras thrown in:
1. Orcs are an allegory for African-Americans.
Kicking things off with what is the most obvious message this movie is pointing out. There is racial inequality in the real world, and so this movie does its best to demonstrate that in its imagery. While there are a few moments where we are hit over the head with this allegory, Bright shows us just how deep this goes.
In the intro, we see a series of images that depict the orcs’ relationship to the other races, particularly those in authority (more on that later). There is a sign for a bail bonds office that insists they speak the Orcish language in addition to a translations that demonstrate this. These places are known to be placed in low income, high crime areas where their key demographics reside. Historically speaking, this means neighborhoods where people of color reside. Orcs are expected to commit crimes, so this sign panders to them.
Secondly, there is the matter of a piece of graffiti that says “Curse the Police.” This is an obvious rewording of the famous lyrics of NWA’s “F*** tha Police” from their 1988 “Straight Outta Compton” album. Race relations between African-American youth and law enforcement were incredibly tense at the time this song was released. It was considered the voice of a generation at the time and is still largely quoted today as a form of defiance against a system that is oftentimes view as unfair toward certain demographics. With the depiction of an orc targeting police officers, it shows that that system targets orcs disproportionately to the point of rebelliousness from their species.
The most telling of the three is the “Be Yorcself” graffiti. The gesture the orcs are performing is what is known as the “black power fist.” The most famous instance of this gesture was in the medal ceremony of the 1968 Olympics 200 meter running event. Two African-American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos won the gold and bronze medals respectively. While standing on the podium and wearing certain items of clothing to depict certain black issues, the two men lowered their heads and raised their fists in pride. This was a news phenomenon the next day and is still considered an immensely historical moment. As this is considered an exclusively African-American gesture, I believe it’s safe to say it more than confirms the orc’s intended identity, even before the script begins to pummel us with this fact.
2. Hints about the nine races.
Edgerton’s Jakoby mentions an ancient orc warrior named Jirak having united the nine races (more on that later). We don’t see too much more than orcs, elves, and humans with a couple of mentions of dwarves thrown in here and there. According to the Bright wiki, the rest of the races are centaurs, brezzik, giants, goblins, panahu and ogres. That’s clearly more than nine, but in my expert high fantasy fan opinion, I would say goblins are likely not included in the army that opposed the Dark Lord.
After finding all of the information I could (not much), I’ve seen that brezzik are reptile people. Considering the silhouette on a caution sign and a piece of graffiti that involves the Dark Lord, I can only assume these are the brezzik. Considering none of these creatures are stated to be extinct or anything of that nature, it seems as if the rest of these races (probably better described as species) have evolutionary needs that cause them to live away from everyone else.
What these needs may be, I can only speculate: Giants and ogres are traditionally much larger than other humanoids, goblins are traditionally more prone to enjoying darkness (unless they remained loyal to the dark lord and aren’t allowed near the other races, which is my personal theory) and brezzik, from their crocodilian silhouette, may reside somewhere farther toward the coast near water.
In addition to those, we see at least two centaur police officers, hinting at their acceptance within the greater society. That only leaves the panahu, which I have never heard of before now. However, when Ward and Jakoby walk through the gentleman’s club, we see a woman whose eyes blink sideways. I have never heard of that trait in any of the other races, so I believe she is a panahu. Maybe we’ll find out more in the future.
3. Elves are very detached from everyone else.
There are a lot of comments in the movie about how rich the elves are and how they run the world. When you see the area they live in, which is heavily guarded against entry from the other races, you see how much cleaner and more advanced it is in comparison to everywhere else in Bright’s Los Angeles. Using hints from another small detail (more on this yet again), their location in relation to the real world even hints at their massive wealth. In addition, all of their clothes are post modern and fashionable and all of them drive expensive sports or luxury cars. Their wealth and influence put them far away from all of the other races. The only other races you even see in their district are orc servants.
Then there is the graffiti piece with the elf girl taking a selfie in front of a brutalized orc. This is a clear illustration of the social upper class seeing themselves as above lower class plight. Real world America is often criticized as being overly capitalistic and vain. We’ve all seen videos on Vine, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and (worst of all) Worldstar that are showing crises in progress which the camera holder would rather record than assist. A lot of times, these are explained away as the recorder collecting evidence to help the offended party, but the elf girl including herself in the picture clearly demonstrates a completely detached desire for likes, similar to another recent incident.
The most interesting of the evidence to this point is the graffiti that says, “In the beginning, God created all races equal, but elves are more equal.” First of all, it’s mind-blowing because it mentions God in a way that implies a Judeo-Christian or at least a singular deity religious dominance. One would think that in a world with magic and other sentient species, monotheism wouldn’t really be the way for most to go. I have another theory about this, but I may or may not get into it since this listing isn’t the place for it.
What is relevant however, is the quote. As a fan of classic literature, I immediately recognized this as a rewording of quote from George Orwell’s Animal Farm. As a story about the corruption of government power written as a direct criticism of Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union, it displayed the revolt of animals against their tyrannical human masters. After recognizing their freedom due to the leadership of a benevolent pig named Old Major, they put their faith in his kind. His successor, Snowball, writes the declaration that “All animals are created equal” on the most visible spot on the farm. After overthrowing, him, the tyrant pig Napoleon takes over and adds, “but some animals are more equal than others,” to the declaration. This is just one of the ways he consolidates power in order to continue enjoying the comforts afforded to a leader and his loyal followers. This is incredibly telling in the way elves behave and how they are treated by the other races.
4. Orcs are also very detached from everyone else.
In the way that elves have detached themselves from everyone else, it becomes evident very quickly that everyone else has detached themselves from the orcs. I can hear Apocalypse from the 1992 X-Men series’ voice right now: “I am as far beyond mutants as they are beyond you.” Remember that? No? Am I showing my age? Yes? Let’s just keep going.
In several of the graffiti images, Bright shows us that orcs have an extreme disdain for authority. The way they talk to police, the way they treat Jakoby and the repeated displays of police brutality against them show that they are at war with the justice system. Judging from the real world implications of entry number 1 on this list, they likely have a long history of low income, segregation, miseducation and racism (speciesism?). This isn’t to say they are always innocent and undeserving of police attention, but it is to say that they are likely disproportionately targeted for being who they are. There is even a moment where a police officer asks Jakoby if an orc in a file she is holding is his cousin. Clear cut racial profiling.
As with the “Curse the Police” graffiti, the orcs in violation of the “No Orcs” graffiti are openly rebelling against the rules of the other races. The “Orcs fight for you… Who fights for us?” graffiti shows an image that is very reminiscent of the Black Panther Party. This was a group who fought for African-Americans on several fronts in the 1960’s. They armed themselves and patrolled black neighborhoods to protect against police brutality and called for equal pay, the release of black prisoners and exemption from the draft since it was a sanction of “White America” they shouldn’t have been involved in. They were against fighting wars for a country that had never seemed to have an interest in fighting for them.
In the most extreme case of orc prejudice, the treatment of Jakoby by literally everyone except Tikka and Serling, there was one small detail I almost missed, because of how small it was. In the scene where our principal duo first arrive to work and Ward is in the locker room talking to the other cops who clearly hate his partner, you can see this little detail in the background. It’s a gun range target of an armed orc pinned against a locker with the name Jakoby written on it. This is just plain mean and kind of scary when you consider the fact that racially insensitive target posters have been blamed for more prejudiced police force in real life to the point that nearly all image based targets have been replaced with simple black silhouettes, which are still being blamed for the same thing! The people of this world really hate orcs, but it may be because certain groups of orcs are hindering progress with their behavior…
5. The Fogteeth orcs still worship the Dark Lord.
In a quick bit of art in the intro, there is a mural that says “Dark Lord Will Return” on the side of the orc community center. Next to the depiction of the frightening elf is a group of eight bulky, orc-like humanoids worshipping him. Upon a slightly closer look, you can see that each of the orcs have a single letter on their silhouettes that spells out Fogteeth. This group plays a moderately important role in the movie as a whole, considering they are everywhere and appear to be possibly the most prominent and influential group of orcs in the city.
I can’t say what race the artist of this mural is, or any of the graffiti for that matter, but I suspect the art comes from the orcs themselves due to them being so rebellious in nature and the real world history of graffiti being considered a rebellious act. Therefore, I believe the orcs created this mural in actual honor of the Dark Lord, illustrating their hopes for his return. This is further evidenced by a robed figure that shares the stage with the orc performer at the Fogteeth party our heroes stumble through. It’s a strange image of a being with similar crownlike protrusions to the elf in the mural itself. This could definitely be a coincidence, but that’s never fun.
I feel very confident in this theory when I think about a later scene in the movie *SPOILER ALERT* where the Fogteeth capture Ward and Jakoby. Their leader is never quite clear as to why he wants the wand. Everyone else in the movie who demands the magical mcguffin, explicitly state why. The corrupt police want to sell it (or use it), Poison of the Altamira gang wants to restore his legs, the Magic Task Force wants to get it off the streets and the Inferni want to use it as one of three needed to bring back the Dark Lord. However, the Dorghu, the Fogteeth leader who is willing to beat and kill police officers for it, never says why. Perhaps it’s because he’s working for the Inferni and wants to give it to them. At least that’s what it seems like to me. It even explains why they would immediately kneel and let our heroes go after seeing Tikka resurrect Jakoby. They just watched an elf use magic to bring someone back to life, proving the potential truth of the Inferni prophecy. Their master can be brought back.
6. Elves are secretly hoarding magic.
This is one of the big ones, the one with the least amount of evidence and the most impact on this established world. It’s stated almost constantly that elves are rich and run the world. Their snobbish demeanor and superiority complexes even come into play in the final confrontation of the movie in the form of a gross underestimation. This would lead people to believe elves somehow have an advantage over everyone else. They never state what this advantage is, even though most high fantasy fans would assume it’s their traditional longevity and ancient knowledge. Those things could be factors, but there are two throwaway lines and two images that show evidence of something else.
While lusting over the wand, the corrupt cop Pollard mentions how it can make one’s dreams come true and specifically mentions wanting millions or billions of dollars (he also mentions penis size, but never mind that!). Then, while being interrogated by the Magic Task Force members Kandomere and Montehugh, the Shield of Light member Serling mentions the fact that most brights (magic users) are elves. He even hints at the possibility that that’s why elves run the world. Kandomere argues that there are human brights, but Serling scoffs and insists that human brights are one in a million. That is the basis for this entry. Elves do in fact have an advantage over the other races and that is their affinity for magic. They are clearly less numerous than humans and orcs, but they run the world because they are better magic users and use that power to manipulate things to be in their favor. How else could one explain their wealth and power? Even the Inferni and the Dark Lord are elves!
Then come the images. One of is of an elf playing with a human and an orc as if they are toys that states “they hold you up to keep us down.” It implies the powerful race are using humans to help keep the orcs down, which was commonplace during slavery and now in socioeconomic classism. The middle class is general used as a buffer between the lower class and the upper class.
The second image is graffiti in Elf Town, clearly an act of defiant vandalism. As an orc worker ponders how to clean it up, we can see that it is of the word “selfish” with the “elf” part of the word in a different color, which points a specific finger. The more interesting detail is the fact that the “I” in the word looks like a glowing magic wand. Looks like another clear accusation that the elves are holding magic and using it to benefit themselves. David Ayer has been known to drop hints like this in the past, so why wouldn’t he here?
When we see elves they are generally being manipulative. Leilah pits her follower against her runaway and uses threats against innocents to get her way while questioning witnesses and Kandomere is very quickly accepting of the story that will create the best outcome for him in the end. They are both looking for angles the entire time.
7. Jirak created the Shield of Light.
A few of these images felt pointless for a while until two things happened. Thing one was Jakoby mentioning an unblooded orc like himself uniting the nine races two thousand years prior to defeat the Dark Lord. That’s when the “Jirak Lives” graffiti started to make sense. After looking at it again I noticed something that was very much on display:The symbol on Jirak’s shield.
It’s the symbol for the organization that is mentioned a few times throughout the movie. Their symbols and recruitment propaganda is here and there in the background. Judging from little pieces of dialogue from Tikka and Serling, as well as writing on the wall of the Abrams House, their mission is to defeat the Dark Lord upon his return. From the medical supplies and mana pools in the Abrams House, it seems that they are in the business of hiding and protecting brights.
From the quick story we get from Jakoby, we can tell that the world of Bright only exists as it is because of this special orc and his followers. The broken chain on his sword is symbolic of his freedom in rebelling against the Dark Lord and his teeth show that he is “blooded” in this image. Considering the symbol on his shield is the same as the Shield of Light, it stands to reason that either he or his disciples founded the secret, unsanctioned organization.
8. The Dark Lord has the world afraid of magic.
There are so many references to the Dark Lord! He is the world’s antagonist and everyone fears him, yet what do we know about him? The answer is not much. We know that he was a vastly powerful elf who led an army of orcs (and possibly goblins) in some campaign of conquest two thousand years before the start of “Bright.” He was so vastly powerful that he’s left the world terrified of magic.
I suspect the magic debate is a lot like the real world’s gun or pitbull debates in the sense that many believe it is inherently dangerous regardless of who wields it. With the exception of the Shield of Light, there is a lot of evidence of the world’s distrust of magic. The largest example is the existence of Magic Task Force, a government agency dedicated to the finding and shutting down of brights and magical items.
Smaller examples are in the signs we see in the back ground such as the straight forward “In Magic We Die” graffiti. Even more subtle is a sign that is partially in the background of the police locker room and again more clearly in the background of the briefing room. The poster shows a young elf boy with the caption that says “A bright future may not be what you want for him. Magic Kills.” This is an illustration of how deeply ingrained the fear of magic has become in this society which has been the way of the world for two thousand years. This leads to the last thing the movie shows.
9. Bright takes place in a divergent timeline.
I’ve heard a lot of complaints about how the world of Bright doesn’t makes sense because the world wouldn’t have progressed the way it has with the races and magic. Due to things we see in the movie, I have no choice but to disagree. When we think about a lot of fantasy fiction stories, they take place in the same world of ours. R.A. Salvatore’s Chronicles of Ynis Aielle, Terry Brook’s Shannara series, H.G. Well’s The Time Machine and many more take place in far distant post, post-apocalyptic futures of our Earth. Conversely, other works like The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and all of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works take place in alternate histories of our Earth. Even all major comic book superheroes dwell in alternate versions of the very same world!
This is important to remember when considering the fact that it is entirely plausible for the world of Bright to have evolved to be such a strange mirror image of ours. Why wouldn’t technology have developed the same way in the two thousand years since magic was a common occurrence? Especially since the world is so afraid to use it after the Dark Lord’s reign.
Just look at real world religions. The vast majority have some form of supernatural figure or figures that left the world a few thousand years ago and people believe in those. This is further evidenced by the aforementioned “God created all races equal” graffiti. Religion has progressed identically as well. The biggest difference (other than magic of course) is the presence of the other races. This has caused a difference in the development of race relations, since species is involved. This is illustrated by Ward’s happy interracial marriage that is approved of by the gangstas next door and the song that is played during the intro, seeing as how the rapper Logic is biracial himself and rapping about overcoming oppression and adversity.
The police division Ward and Jakoby are part of is Westlake, which is a real place that has contained both a lot of racial diversity and gang activity. It parallel’s real world Westlake, which has changed a lot over the past couple of decades and is recently seeing an increase in median income.
Even more telling of the parallels is the elf district which a sign in the intro says is “405 South.” This is where the real world area of Irvine, with a median income of $91,999 per year is located. I’m sure the elves are much richer than this, considering their cars, clothes and buildings, but the proximity to the city and higher income of the area fit very nicely.
To close out this list, there are a few pieces of imagery that stood out, but don’t necessarily mean much when compared to the rest of the movie.
1. *SPOILER ALERT* The wand turns red when Ward is holding it. I’m not sure what this means, but it’s clearly different from its appearance in the rest of the movie. I’m not sure if this is because he is a newly discovered bright or a human.
2. There is a freakin’ dragon flying by in the background of one of the establishing shots in the movie. There are literally no explanations or even mentions of dragons, but it’s an awesome sight.
3. The one thing that is mentioned elsewhere is the movie is fairy extermination service.
4. This ghostly figure that is hanging what appears to be a human, an orc, an elf and a brezzik. I’m not sure if this is the Dark Lord because of how different it looks from all of his other depictions. Still trying to figure out what this means.
5. Orcs use more antlers in their decorating than Gaston! Pretty much everywhere you see an orc setting up shop, you see antlers: The Fogteeth party, Dorghu’s lair, street vendor stands, the gentleman’s club, etc. This leads me to believe orcs are big fans of venison, especially since Jakoby mentions how he doesn’t eat cow flesh in one of the first conversations of the movie.
I hope I’ve encouraged you to look more closely. I loved this movie and I can’t wait to see the already green lit sequel. Hopefully, it confirms a lot of what I’ve said here. If you think I’m wrong or you’ve noticed something I didn’t mention here, please let me know in the comments below.