December 20, 2013
Dilemma: I Don't Need "The Butler" to direct me to "The Help" to get "Unchained" after living "12 Years A Slave"
Hollywood has really lost its appeal.
Unless there is a new Star Trek film on the horizon, I no longer look forward to knowing what's in the works in major commercial theaters.
I am too tired of Hollywood films that continue to depict a single element of the African-American experience while calling these films "historical", "powerful", "educational", and "enlightening."
Recently, a friend urged me to see "The Butler", and I wrote back explaining why I wasn't going to see the film.
I told him I was tired of seeing African-Americans depicted almost exclusively in subservient roles which did not present an image of people empowered to make material changes in their lives. I told him I am still waiting to see a film on the life of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, or Mary Ellen Pleasant, or Toussaint L'Ouverture.
Do you recognize these names? Why or why not?
I told him I acknowledged the true history of African-Americans in this country. I understand and know the struggles many endured under unfair and often absurd situations in which people were severely limited in their options and opportunities just because of color. No amount of "bootstrap determination" would have lifted them up because the society in which they lived did not want, welcome, permit, or accept their gifts and their talents.
The other side of the coin is that many people took extra-extraordinary steps to change the material conditions of their lives and the lives of others. Their struggles created a different possibility for those who would follow. These people need to show up on the big screen, or on the smaller screen of independent film makers.
Who was Biddy Mason?
Who was "Pap" Singleton?
Who was Mary Fields?
Why can't Hollywood find a way to tell the stories of these heroic men and women? Their stories---all true--are full of adventure, excitement, romance, drama--all of the things that can make a good story into a great film.
I respect the right of producers and directors to create films and stories of their choosing.
I also know that my history can't be told by Hollywood while Hollywood ignores real history while celebrating semi- fictional butlers and maids.
I'll be at home with a good book or an independent film until Hollywood changes. I expect that will be a long, long time.