Becoming Review: The American Dream Made Manifest
A touching look at Michelle Obama’s life, Becoming is a brief but brilliant respite from the horror of American racism
US president Donald Trump seems engaged in a bitter, angry, if mostly one-sided, competition with his predecessor. Indeed, Trump has emerged as the antithesis of Barack Obama—as anti-intellectual and impetuous as the latter is deliberate and professorial. Their marriages are equally different—Michelle Obama clearly her husband’s peer, while Melania Trump suffers her husband’s frequent crudities in silence.
During Obama’s eight years as president, Michelle found a way to inhabit the traditional role of First Lady—a helpmeet to her husband instead of just an equal partner. In her 2018 memoir, Becoming, Michelle is frank about subsuming her own ambitions to her husband’s, occupying herself with children and family so Barack could direct his charisma, energy and intelligence into a bid for the highest office in US politics. With their time in the White House over, perhaps it’s Michelle’s turn. Becoming has been turned into a Netflix documentary of the same name, following Michelle on a book tour, on various appearances before worshipful crowds.
It is a mediocre film—saccharine and soft focus—when its formidable subject deserves something more serious. Still, it is undeniably touching to see how Michelle’s life serves as an example to young black and minority women, and, even more so, to elderly black people—a brief but brilliant respite from the unremitting horror of American racism. Michelle Obama and her husband were the American dream made manifest. But a dream from which America was rudely awakened.