If you want to stop reading here, please note that I have yet to see the movie and do not plan to. All statements are based on reviews and recaps.
1. The movie is historically inaccurate.
This movie is filled with historical inaccuracies. For example, Nat Turner’s white female slave mistress/owner was depicted as the one who taught Turner how to read. However, this can not be validated by the Turner family or scholars (Breen, 2016). This brings into discussion, the topic of white female saviors in movies. In my opinion, there is a constant narrative that white women are the saviors of black men and oppose their male counterparts on black people’s behalf. With abolitionist, this narrative may be true. However, it is more than likely not true for Turner. This narrative of Turner’s owners teaching him how to read as a benevolent act is dismissive and invalidated the movie because it is based on something theorized but never confirmed by the family or scholars (Breen, 2016). And to be blunt, it was unnecessary.
Another historical inaccuracy is the rape of Cherry Turner is something that the Turner family or scholars could not validate as well. It is something that was added to as a plot tool to show why the Rebellion happened. It is dismissive to the true reasons, which were a set of visions Turner had before his rebellion (Lewis, 2016). As well, it is dismissive to black women who contributed to slave abolitionism and rebellions.
While this is still in debate, there is no proof that Nat Turner acknowledged Cherry Turner as his wife. Oftentimes, slave owners would pair slaves to breed in a loveless relationship to create more slaves. Turner never mentioned Cherry in his notes. The interpersonal relationship between Cherry and Nat is never confirmed by Nat or anyone else (Breen, 2016).
Finally, NAT TURNER DID NOT SPARE ANYONE. Turner and his crew killed everybody and everything white (Finer & Garraty, 2016.). This included the men, women, and the children. They even went to war with the black people who were defending the whites (Gates, 2013.)
2. Movies like this are triggering.
I simply can’t watch slave movies. Honestly, they are seen as horror films in my opinion. Some of you may see this as hypocritical if you friend me or follow me on Facebook because I just did a few post about how awesome listening to the audio book of Beloved was for me. Well the reason why I am not a hypocrite is because Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Ntzoke Shange are able to express the suffering of black men, women and children by allowing the audience to get into the characters’ psyche. They allow the reader to understand the narratives of their grand mother, grand father, mom, dad, brother, sister, daughter, son, and elders without dismissing them as human beings that are experiencing such harsh suffering and trials in their lives. They allowed us to see beyond what happened to those persons and showed us how they survived and how we can survive.
Birth of a Nation seems to be something similar to the slave porn that has been coming on the silver screen and on television as of late. You can not make me watch that nonsense. I understand that it is important to show that, but it is more important to how the slaves survived. It is more important to show how their children were influenced by slavery and continued on. It is important to directly show how it affects us today, not hint at it. Stop hinting at it.
We (royally) can not just keep showing these awful force feedings, lynchings, beatings, boxing, binding and other slave horrors for the racist to masturbate to or for us to get angry about for 10 minutes until some famous black celebrity says it do something to catch our interest. These films glorify slavery and it is not helping in my opinion. Where are the other stories?
3. There are not enough forwarding narratives in the media as of yet.
I didn’t see 12 Years a Slave, Underground, or The Roots remake because we don’t have enough material about other important and shaping events within our history. There are not many narratives in television or in movies about Tulsa, the time period between the Emancipation Proclamation and Reconstruction, Reconstruction, how blacks encountered Jim Crow, Marcus Garvey, The War on Drugs, the Cold War and search for Red organizations as it related to Civil Rights groups, and other narratives. These stories are scarce in media ,but are important to experiences Black people have now. Outside of movies that are about slavery, music, comedy, and Sci-Fi or fiction, important and crucial black narratives are just not there for us.
Even with the remake of Roots, we dismissed the entire fact that there is a sequel that continues the story of Kunta Kinte’s descendants. Yet, A+E has not come out with anything about remaking the sequel, Roots: The Next Generation. It is important to show because it shows the link between what happened with Kunte Kinte and his descendants. While not as successful as Roots in my opinion, it is something important. In fact, I propose that we make a documentary describing how the specific slavery of Haley’s ancestor affected his other family members (being he is now 20+ years deceased).
4. There are not enough female narratives are out there.
The female narrative in Birth of Nation was to show the victimization of what could be described as a soul-less plot tool. It didn’t give any in-depth character analysis or told the truth. This is why black female narratives are so important. This is why we need to support black female producers and writers as much as we support their black male counter parts. Because even when black females do black male narratives they are able to tell a deeper story than their male counterparts.
As well, there is so little support in regards to stories where we discuss black female narratives that expand beyond slavery and within it. For example, Taraji P. Henson just headed the film Hidden Figures alongside Octavia Spencer and Janelle Nonsense. However, they had to campaign that film because it did not gain as much momentum as Birth of a Nation did outside if the scandal.
Unlike Roots and Birth of a Nation, black female narratives like Cane River by Lalita Tademy will not hit the big screen unless backed by big organizations that will ask for rewrite and rewrites until the Tademy family will not want anything to do with it. This book is so important to me because it showed how black women and black men survived the cruelty of slavery, the ending of slavery, colorism, and the early incarnations of Jim Crow. It showed what their ancestors thought during horrific events and how to survive such horrific events.
Cherry Turner seemed to only serve as a plot tool to further the protagonist actions in the film. That bothers me because there is no narrative of Cherry Turner outside of this film. And as stated earlier, this violation is not the truth about why Turner rebelled. And in fact, it dismisses all the women who were supportive of slave rebellions. But this is a common theme in black male narratives.
The idea of black men were the only ones is just disrespectful. It is a pattern of those who do not recognize their privilege. Black men have privilege. While it may not be the same privilege as our white counterparts, it still exist. The fact that we are so quick to dismiss black women so much that we are willing to make a violent attack against a black women the push to get to the climax of a story is sickening and proves the black male privilege that exist in our society.
I am happy the story is out there and it made an extra 7 million dollars despite its 10 million dollar budget. But the film is problematic in more than one way. There is other media out there telling the true story of Nat Turner. I suggest that you watch and read those sources where ever you can find them.
I have nothing to write about the rape case Parker was acquitted of except that you have to be careful of who you fuck and a person saying yes under the influence is not consent if not agreed to beforehand. Sex is complicated and oftentimes many women and men are placed in situations in which they feel violated and they have that right to feel that way. Despite the history of white people using rape, whether the act or the accusation, as a tool of political and economic control, it is wrong to dismiss the rape victim and her experience.
However, like many are saying, I want to know why is this being brought up now? Why is Parker, who was acquitted, not getting the celebrity treatment other white actors and producers get when they are found GUILTY of the bullshit they have done? If everyone was going to call Parker to task, then everyone should have a long time ago, because the justice system already called him and he answered.
Be clear the reasons I have for not wanting to watch this movie are not based in a media circus.
Breen, P. 2016.10 things Birth of a Nation got right about Nat Turner. Retrieved from http://blog.oup.com/2016/10/birth-nation-nat-turner/
Foner, E & Garraty, J. 1991. The Reader’s Companion to American History. Retrieved from http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/slavery-iv-slave-rebellions
Gates, H. 2013. Did African-American Slaves Rebel?. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/did-african-american-slaves-rebel/
Lewis, R. 2016.A Bio-Religious TIMELINE for Nathaniel Turner (1800-1831). Retrieved from http://www.nathanielturner.com/nttimeline.htm