Shirley parents guide

Shirley Parent Guide

It's difficult to maintain tension when the outcome is known, so this historical film feels more like a personal drama than a historical contest.

Overall B

Netflix: After becoming the first Black woman elected to congress, Shirley Chisholm begins a trailblazing campaign for President of the United States.

Release date March 22, 2024

Violence B-
Sexual Content A
Profanity D
Substance Use B-

Why is Shirley rated PG-13? The MPAA rated Shirley PG-13 for strong language including racial slurs, brief violence and some smoking.

Run Time: 117 minutes

Parent Movie Review

First-year-year Congressional representative Shirley Chisholm (Regina King) is excited to get to work on Capitol Hill. She’s the first African-American woman ever elected to the body, and she doesn’t intend for that to be her biggest achievement. But the wheels of politics grind exceedingly slow, and patience was never Shirley’s strong suit.

Before long, Shirley’s relentless, stubborn drive sees her on the presidential ballot in Florida. There’s a catch: she doesn’t have the resources or public profile to win a presidential election. The strain of the campaign (and Shirley’s insistence on doing things her way) is straining her already tense relationships with her manager, Stanley (Brian Stokes Mitchell), her advisor Mac (Lance Reddick), her husband Conrad (Michael Cherrie), and her sister Muriel (Reina King). Even though Shirely suspects her prospects are poor, she’s determined to try to make a difference in a system that seems to care little about people like her. No matter what it takes.

Family audiences have little to worry about from this historical biopic, apart from their children losing interest in the slow political story. There are three f-bombs dropped in rapid succession during a racially motivated attack (in which no one is injured) and a man is shot but not killed. This being the 70s, social drinking and frequent smoking are to be expected, but there’s no sexual content that I noticed. All in all, it’s a fairly clean film – just not one for young viewers who lack the historical context to understand the story.

Even with that context, the movie isn’t exactly gripping. It’s difficult to maintain tension on a story where everyone knows the ending – it’s not exactly a spoiler if I tell you that Shirley Chisholm did not, in fact, win the 1972 presidential election. So the film feels more like a personal drama as Shirley slowly pushes away and alienates almost everybody who’s still willing to help her. It’s not the kindest portrait in the world, but strong personalities tend to have a dark side. The bright side is her willingness to work herself into the ground to try to make change for the people who elected her.

Chisholm’s incredible real-world accomplishments aside, the film is a bit of a downer. Strong protagonist or not, the film seems unsure if it’s trying to be a portrait of quixotic devotion in a doomed quest, or some stirring tale about the virtue of hard work in American politics – to me, it certainly felt more like the former than the latter, and the two do not mix well. So, if you’d like to watch yet another well-meaning, hard-working individual get slowly crushed by big party politics, this is the film for you. If you get enough of that on the news, you might want to watch something else.

Directed by John Ridley. Starring Regina King, Terrence Howard, Lance Reddick. Running time: 117 minutes. Theatrical release March 22, 2024. Updated

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Rating & Content Info

Why is Shirley rated PG-13? Shirley is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for strong language including racial slurs, brief violence and some smoking.

Violence: A man is shot and injured. A woman is threatened with a knife.
Sexual Content: None.
Profanity: There are three sexual expletives and several scatological terms as well as racial slurs. There are infrequent uses of mild curses and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult characters are frequently seen drinking socially and smoking tobacco.

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Shirley Parents' Guide

You can learn more about Shirley Chisholm at the following links:

Wikipedia: The History Behind Netflix’s Shirley Chisholm Biopic

The Chisholm Legacy Project: Celebrating Shirley Chisholm: a Trailblazer, a Change maker, and Our Inspiration


Loved this movie? Try these books…

Shirley Chisholm tells her own story in Unbought and Unbossed and in The Good Fight. Her impact on American politics is assessed by Glenn L. Starks and F. Erik Brooks in A Seat at the Table: The Life and Times of Shirley Chisholm. Anastasia also examines her contributions in Shirley Chisholm.

According to Frank Mankiewicz, George McGovern’s campaign manager in 1972, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail by Hunter S. Thompson is the “most accurate and least factual” account of the election.

Home Video

Related home video titles:

Director John Ridley also worked on 12 Years a Slave. Other films about mid-century politics in America include Rustin, Selma, MLK/FBI, On the Basis of Sex, The Trial of the Chicago Seven, Loving, Seberg, Frost/Nixon, The Post, and Judas and the Black Messiah.