“Peppermint” – Racially Charged Fear-Mongering For the Suburban Middle Class

Let’s get right to it. Peppermint is an incredibly irresponsible piece of racist fear-mongering. Irresponsible might even be too soft of a description; the timing of this film is a bit too perfect to be an accident. There’s something inherently malicious about the release of a movie that features two-dimensional, irredeemable, unsympathetic latinx characters as villains who go around murdering happy suburban white families during the time of the Trump administration and its methods of scapegoating latinx immigrants.

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Peppermint stars Jennifer Garner as Riley North, a typical white suburban wife and mother who’s husband and young daughter are mercilessly gunned down by a (the?) Mexican drug cartel. When her family’s killers are allowed to walk free and justice fails to be served, Riley takes matters into her own hands, becoming a highly skilled vigilante hell bent on revenge. The straightforward plot serves as an excuse to justify a couple of problematic things. First off, the film plays off the greatest fears of every ignorant American: You or your family falling victim to the evil of “illegal” immigrants and their violent ways. Second, the loss of Riley’s family justifies her taking action, leading the audience to witness this righteous white woman go around shooting up latinxs for an hour and a half.

It’s pretty despicable. Latinxs, despite being the largest ethnic minority in the United States, are still widely underrepresented in film and television. When they are shown onscreen, they fall into common stereotypes, such as maids, immigrants with heavy accents (despite the majority of the actors in these roles being able to speak perfect English), and, as is the case in Peppermint, thugs, drug dealers and gangbangers. Every single latinx character in Peppermint is a heavily tattooed, drug dealing, murdering gangbanger, aka the ideal image of what white Trump supporters envision every latinx to look and act like.

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In a time when latinx immigrants have been painted as nothing but murderers, drug dealers, and rapists by the current president and his administration, Peppermint exists to stoke those irrational and racist fears. People who have fallen victim to the lies and rhetoric of the Trump administration will, I’m sure, gladly cheer as Jennifer Garner takes down dozens of “illegal aliens”, blowing them away in hokey piñata stores and destroying their drug stashes. Peppermint is the perfect vigilante revenge fantasy for every white, racist suburban woman. It’s their worst nightmare come to life, coupled with the catharsis of being able to take down the brown people responsible for their fear and suffering.

There’s nothing redeeming about this film. It doesn’t even bother to try and cover its ass by doing the bare minimum and tossing in a latinx character that’s “one of the good ones” and helps Riley on her rampage. Speaking of Riley, the film could at least have attempted to make it a character study about a woman who lost everything and became something different (at the start of the film she tells her daughter that violence is never the answer, otherwise you’re no better than the bad guys). Instead, Riley seemingly just snaps after the loss of her family, instantly turning into a merciless killer who literally strings up her victims, execution style. There is a five year gap in between the deaths of her husband and daughter and the start of her vengeful killing spree, but the film very much glosses over it. It’s another negative mark on the film; showing us Riley’s transformation into who she is now could’ve been interesting. Instead, the story simply speed walks along, supplying plenty of action with very little substance.

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As stated before, the timing of a movie like this can’t possibly be an accident, and even if it was, it’s no excuse. Peppermint would be offensive no matter what year it came out. Trump continuously highlights crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, despite those crimes being few and far between as opposed to a true issue like gun violence and mass shootings (hey, that’s kind of like what Nazi Germany did. Oh wait no, that’s exactly what they did) and uses that emotional manipulation to defend the inhumane immigration policies currently on display. That’s exactly what Peppermint is. It’s emotional manipulation designed for people to have their racial fears and hatred validated. It’s borderline propaganda, and it is inexcusable. I cannot, in good conscious, recommend that anyone go see and support this movie.

0 / 5 Stars

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