Hollywood has again deigned to allocate space for a movie set during slavery to be disseminated for public consumption. It has debuted to mostly positive reviews and a massive PR machine is doing its best to make sure everyone takes in the movie for the “holidays”. Which is what they should do because its a business venture and the priority is to make money. Making money is all well and good, retelling accurate portrayals of history, in this country with each day becomes more crucially important.
Post-Racial America – NOT
This last year especially has shown the ugliness of racism rear its ugly head during one of the most contentious presidential elections in recorded history. We were able to bear witness to how, one demographic group willfully could and would ignore any information based on facts, and instead opt to create whatever facts would suit their beliefs and position.While on the one hand this country had managed to get to the point of electing, and re-electing a black man to hold the highest office in the land, the journey to get there has been hallmarked by a serious uptick in intolerance coupled with an astonishing show of ignorance and bigotry that has not been seen in this country for quite some time.
This would not be of much significance if it weren’t for the fact that this has manifested in attempts to change what is put into the textbooks that our children use in schools. It really wouldn’t matter much if there were not people like GOP Rep John Hubbard from Arkansas - who reiterated a theme that has been getting a lot of airtime in conservative circles of late – “slavery was good for black people”.
Letting Others Tell Our Story Has Consequences
Folks are up in arms about Quentin Tarantino’s(Django Unchained) comments regarding “Roots” which was just run in its entirety on BET. His comment was that “Roots” was not an authentic representation or telling of slavery. Basically he’s right. There was no way in this universe that the TV network back then could have aired an accurate telling of slavery – it would never have made it past the network censors. Additionally, one can argue that many are still not ready to hear the awful truth or brutality that was a common component of slavery. There was nothing pretty about slavery in this country. There are many “authentic” stories that are available to read if one so chooses. What is amazing is that people would get upset with Tarantino for making this statement. He made a movie. His purpose was not to provide an authentic retelling of slavery. His purpose was to make a movie to make MONEY – period. I don’t see too many people upset with the notion that he choose to make money by making an “entertaining” movie about the slave trade. Then again I don’t see too many getting upset with the portrayals of blacks in the entertainment business much anyway. That whole – well they are making money, they are making a living, they are providing for their families etc. with a nice dose of calling haterade just is way overworked.
I have seen this line of reasoning used to justify the upcoming “reality” series that is based on a “rapper” who has 10 baby mama’s and loads of kids which is being brought forth by Oxygen network – really ??
When you entrust a vital part of your history to be retold by those who have no vested interest in accuracy and who’s sole motive is to make money, what exactly do you expect? If a Nazi decided to do a movie about the Holocaust with an “entertaining” spin to it – there would be all kinds of hell to pay if it ever even got released or distributed in the first place. It is not a false equivalency, but an apt comparison of a period in history where an entire ethnic group was subjected to horrors which included extermination and that continues to impact the group to this day. The major difference being the need in the black community to find a way to make slavery entertaining instead of accurate.
Don’t Get Mad – Get Busy
I don’t see why anyone should get mad at Tarantino, especially the black community. When there are large numbers of us watching shows that depict black women acting in ways that perpetuate negative stereotypes, and WE spend money on “entertainment” that continues to perpetuate negative stereotypical behavior – why get mad? Getting mad at Spike Lee for publicly saying he would not go to see THIS movie accomplishes what exactly? All this energy expended in pointless action – how about asking Spike or some of the other directors when they are going to do a movie based on “Incident’s In the Life of a Slave Girl”. Where is the “petition” asking Oprah when she is going to back a movie production of the Tademy Family saga – Cane River and Red River. Both of which are REAL stories based on the lives of real individuals. For entertainment, get a director to do Some Sing, Some Cry, which is fiction but is based on the REALITY of the times it takes place in.
The money we spend on supporting negative imagery could just as easily be spent in supporting directors, producers, and programming that at the very least is not always based on the least common denominators in our community. The expectation of moral conscience being expressed by network executives and any other profit driven entities is completely ridiculous. Placing blame on them for airing these shows is misdirected – REALTALK – they only air what people WATCH. IF we were not watching this stuff and spending our money supporting advertisers who buy ad space on these shows – they would never see the light of day.
The time and effort spent going back and forth on this could be better spent in trying to get some of this stuff actually done. Which is what I plan to do by working on a compilation of African American Art and making it available via mobile devices.
Ya’ll have fun with the arguing and debating back and forth.