How ‘Black Bird’ Deviates From the True Story to Explore ‘Male Gaze’ and ‘Toxic Masculinity’

·2-min read

In “Black Bird,” the Apple TV+ true-crime drama that airs its fourth of six episodes Friday, Taron Egerton’s Jimmy Keene tries to help the FBI figure out where alleged serial killer Larry Hall’s victims are buried before it’s too late.

It’s a storyline that packs tension and urgency into the 1990s tale of a one-time drug dealer turned inmate who goes to great lengths to be freed.

But its the journey of his mind and Keene’s male-driven mindset that transform the story.

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Show creator Dennis Lehane says the psychological subplot was a diversion from Keene’s 2010 biography but became necessary for its adaptation to the screen.

“The physical journal that Jimmy goes on in the TV show is pretty much identical,” Lehane said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The dance he had with Larry — it’s all the same. But where I deviated was, I needed to have some sort of psychological journey for him to go on. And that’s where I came up with the whole concept of, you know, using the show to look at the male gaze and toxic masculinity.”

Keene’s confident, flirtatious come-ons with an attractive and alluring female FBI agent played by Sepideh Moafi (pictured above) contrast and punctuate his desperation. He must also mold his outlook to ingratiate himself with Hall (Paul Walter Hauser), who boasts of having dreams about killing the women he longs to be with.

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“Where a man finds himself on that line,” Lehane said of male chauvinism and toxicity, “that was Jimmy’s journey — my Jimmy’s journey. That is not the real Jimmy Keene’s journey.”

Keene, who served as an executive producer on “Black Bird” in addition to being credited as a writer for his book, “Black Bird: One Man’s Freedom Hides in Another Man’s Darkness,” had no problems with Lehane’s portrayal — despite his turns in creative freedom.

“He was happy with it,” Lehane told The AP. “You know, I took liberties with it.”

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