When Straight Outta Compton debuted last year, Hollywood was buzzing over the movie about the rise of NWA that went on to become a blockbuster. But among all the chatter were whispers wondering why Michel’le Toussaint was nowhere to be found in the narrative, even though she was a huge part of their history.
By the time Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Michel’le debuted on Lifetime, we were more than ready to see her part of the story. And we brewed a big cup of tea to sip while we watched.
Michel’le wasted no time addressing her absence from Straight Outta Compton. While she didn’t outright say Dr. Dre was wrong for excluding her from the movie, she made it clear that Surviving Compton was going to be her story (*sip*).
As such, Michel’le herself was very present throughout the movie as she narrated the story in person. It added a really nice touch that other Lifetime biopics haven’t really used. We were getting the story right from Michel’le‘s own mouth.
With love, drama, and suspense filling in all of the ups and downs, Michel’le‘s story had the makings of a classic Lifetime movie. The network couldn’t have made up a better script. Sadly, Michel’le actually had to live this out.
The casting was a bit hit or miss, but not bad overall. Of course, Lifetime wasn’t working with the same budget as Straght Outta Compton. They picked exactly the right guy to play Suge, though. And it was cool to see Tupac as part of Surviving Compton. And can we just say that Rhyon Nicole Brown had Michel’le‘s speaking voice down! Jamie Kennedy as Jerry Heller was a little odd, but he’s come a long way from playing B-Rad. Good for him!
Parts of Surviving Compton were painful to watch. In particular, anything having to do with her love life was heartbreaking. That said, there were moments of awkward comedy within her situation. You wouldn’t believe what she did with a pair of strange panties she found in the couch. It was so savage, we actually gagged…and then cackled. It was peak petty.
Growing up, it seems that Michel’le was taught not only to tolerate domestic violence, but also that it was up to her as the victim to fix things. The women in her life told her that if a man hit her, it was her responsibility to calm him down so he didn’t hit her again. In other words, do whatever you have to do to keep the man.
Keep that in mind while you think about the choices Michel’le made with her men. From the beginning it seemed like she was a simple, sweet girl who got caught up with the wrong guys for entirely too long.
Just like with every couple, things were great for Dre and Michel’le in the beginning (despite a terrible first encounter). Dre was charming and gentle with her, but things began to take a turn around the time that she found out he had five kids. Yikes.
Then came the drinking and the money and the fame. With the fame came women, which caused even more tension in the relationship as she found out about his affairs. However, things didn’t go all the way left until one night when he came home and woke her up by repeatedly punching her in the face. And then she comforted him when he started to cry despite the fact that she was bleeding all over her bed. None of this would make sense to a lot of women now, but she’d been conditioned from an early age to accept this abuse and hide her bruises.
It wasn’t the last time he’d put his hands on her. According to Surviving Compton, he only briefly stopped beating her while she was pregnant with their son.
At this point, Dre and Michel’le were reminding us of a gangsta rap Ike and Tina. The relationship was extremely volatile and he’d go off on her for the slightest offense (real or imagined) to his fragile ego. But you can color us surprised that the other members of NWA and their manager Jerry Heller weren’t complicit in the abuse. They often stood up to Dre about it, but that didn’t keep him from manhandling her.
Things got so bad between her and Dre that she began to self medicate with prescription pills and alcohol. It went from being something she did occasionally to numb the pain of her abuse to a constant crutch.
You almost felt powerless to help her because watching this reminds us so much of other women that find themselves psychologically stuck in abusive relationships. You know what it’s like to see a man draining the life and spirit from a woman you care about. No matter what you do, no matter how bad she knows things are, she just won’t leave. And the thing that Michel’le pointed out was the victims sometimes don’t know why they stay with their abusers. They can’t think of any reason they would have stuck around.
At her lowest point with Dre, Suge stepped in to help Michel’le get clean by sending her to rehab. By the time, she came out she was over Dre and his mess. We still can’t believe Dre hit on her after he had already married another woman. It showed that he still believed he could have Michel’le, and he was offended at the idea of her not allowing him to keep her as a mistress. Talk about ego!
Instead, Michel’le found herself falling for Suge after shaking off her initial impression of him. She said that when she first met Suge, she “felt a surge of pure evil” from his immediate circumference (*sip*).
And just in case anyone was wondering why she hooked up with Suge despite her intuition about him, she laid out all of the pros and cons of being with him over Dre. Let her tell it, all Dre was offering was a good time in bed. Suge, however, was giving her kindness and opportunity. According to Michel’le, their connection had nothing to do with getting revenge on Dre, and she wasn’t attracted to him because of his money.
But just like with Dre, Suge‘s kindness eventually ran out. And he replaced it with a death grip on her existence and intimidation from behind bars. Suge had such a powerful hold on Michel’le that he managed to strong arm her into a false marriage and becoming the figurehead of Death Row Records while he was in lockup.
Somehow, when all of his shenanigans were uncovered, Michel’le found the courage to stand up to the boogeyman of hip-hop. Then the movie was just over. Surviving Compton ended on Michel’le finding her own power, but it was a very abrupt ending. In a way, it feels like the movie ended in the middle of the story. That aside, this was still a pretty solid biopic.
We give Surviving Compton 4 teacups out of 5!