'Sorry to Bother You' Director Boots Riley Has a Reason to Hate Superheroes

Superman's just another cop. The cape doesn't change that.

In many ways, the dystopia of Sorry to Bother You feels like a dark world in dire need of a superhero to save it. As things go from bad to worse in this macabre universe, the capitalist-driven nihilism becomes overwhelming. Where’s Batman or Superman when you need them? But for director Boots Riley, superheroes are part of the problem and not the solution.

During an interview at a press event for Sorry to Bother You in June, Inverse spoke with Riley about the role that superheroes play in society. In just about every case, a superhero works in support of the establishment, the very societal structure that Sorry to Bother You deconstructs and satirizes. As such, Riley favors what we might consider a villain.

“My superhero would probably be considered a supervillain because superheroes work for the government to uphold the law,” Riley says. “They are cops. They are FBI. They are CIA.”

For anyone that’s seen Sorry to Bother You, Riley’s perspective is abundantly clear:

“Fuck the FBI, fuck the police, fuck the CIA.”

Sorry to Bother You is rife with civil unrest. Working conditions force thousands into the WorryFree movement, a lifetime contract of indentured servitude that’s literally just slavery with good branding. The film’s protagonist Cassius “Cash” Green works his way up the ranks of a telemarketing company in the midst of labor union protests. If the government and police have a role in Sorry to Bother You, it’s supporting the interests of the fabulously wealthy 1 percent.

The police and government merely uphold the status quo that’s oppressing the vast majority of people in this world. Most superheroes would do the exact same thing. “Fuck that,” Sorry to Bother You seems to say.

“I would create my own,” Boots Riley said when asked which specific villain he’d want to direct, “and this is coming from someone who was and is a comic book fan in the sense of growing up that way. I even went through a period of my life when I was like, ‘I’m gonna work out and be like Daredevil!’ — when I was, like, 12.”

But that was 35 years ago. These days, Boots Riley is all about breaking down the exact kind of establishment that fosters an obsession with superheroes, and he totally does that with Sorry to Bother You.

Sorry to Bother You is out on wide release July 13.

Additional reporting by Jake Kleinman.

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