Review & Analysis | Becoming


The release of Netflix’s documentary about Michelle Obama comes out the same year Hulu released one on Hillary Clinton. And just like audiences compare their respective platforms, we cannot help but compare the two women they are centered on. Whereas Obama is the most beloved woman in politics, Clinton is arguably the most despised; however, controversy does make for good TV. 

The lack of conflict is what ultimately prevents Becoming from “becoming” a stellar documentary. There is no hook beyond Obama being an incredible human being. Yes, Obama is as charismatic and inspiring as she’s always been, and it is always good to see more of her, but there is a distinct lack of purpose with this latest endeavor.

Largely, this is due to the fact that this documentary takes place on Obama’s 2018 book tour, showcasing the impact she has on people. Sadly, there is not much new information we learn about Obama or the administration she was a part of. We do learn more about what her upbringing was like, and it is a journey to aspire to, but at the end of the hour and a half, your perception of Obama is unlikely to have changed significantly.

Still, there is some insight as to how Obama has changed over the years, with particular emphasis put on how conservative media treated her and her husband during the campaign. While we often hear about how the liberal media treats Trump, it is useful to remember how the first couple were compared to terrorists during their campaigns.

There is also a certain sense of hope that comes with the nostalgia of the Obama years. A spark that reignites some optimism that our country is just going through a rough patch. So, while Becoming might not provide any new insight, it does bring back some old morals that we are sadly missing.

Grade: C+


The Obamas Question the Size of the Difference They Made

While she acknowledges that living by her mantra “When they go low, we go high,” proves to be difficult sometimes, Michelle Obama still does her best to live by what she preaches. With the election of Trump, it’s easy to doubt whether that phrase impact. Going further, with Trump dismantling many of Obama’s policies, including his biggest achievement, the Affordable Care Act, one must wonder whether the family’s time in office really changed anything.

The election of Trump was a direct response to the Obamas. The change they brought was so unpopular with a certain section of the country, that they put someone in charge that would undo all the work they had done. At different points in this documentary, the impression is made that Michelle and her family struggle with how much their legacy matters.

At one point, eldest daughter Malia meets with her mother at one of her events. She says the speech she made and the response from the audience served as a reminder that those eight years weren’t for nothing, which makes it apparent this is something they’ve doubted before.

Michelle Obama is Done with Politics

While she has probably said it over one hundred times, the Democratic Party still wants the former First Lady to run for office. She is so popular, it feels like she could win any election she entered. 

But, this documentary makes it clear that Obama loathes politics and what it has put her through. She constantly refers to post-White House life as a new chapter she is grateful for, away from the scrutiny that comes with the highest office in the land. She feels she has more of her own life back and will never risk it for that of a political role again.

The Obamas Don’t Owe Us Anything

Much has been said about how the Obamas have been relatively quiet during Trump’s presidency. Even as Trump threatens to destroy democracy, both Barack and Michelle have rarely directly criticized the current president. 

To some, this makes people angry, as they wish the pair would speak out more and fight for change like they did when they were campaigning and in the White House. Others, in the progressive lane, have said that the Obamas didn’t do enough for people when they were in power. As such, they cast off the Obamas as behind the times and corporate stooges.

This documentary makes it abundantly clear that the Obamas did everything they could in the eight years they were in office. They were rewarded with Republican controlled Congresses and the election of the man who championed the birther movement against the first black president. 

Michelle describes the trauma she feels when thinking of all the people that didn’t vote to help them achieve their goal. The time for them to lead the fight is over. If anything, we let them down, as opposed to the other way around.

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