Friday, 11 January 2013

History and Hollywood

So there's been a lot of discussion the last few months about Spielberg's Lincoln.  We've been so busy that the only movie I have had time to see in the last two months is Skyfall, which I highly recommend.  I had planned on withholding any comments on Spielberg's latest until I had seen the movie and read the commentary, but I felt like I had to say something after watching an interview with Lincoln screenwriter Tony Kushner on the Bill Moyers show the other night in which Kushner said Lincoln had no black friends.  My jaw dropped at that comment because, as many of you know, Lincoln was friends with (and influenced in his abolitionist views by) Frederick Douglass.  Did any one else see this episode of the Moyers show?  Were you shocked as well?

I also plan on seeing Django Unchained in the coming weeks and have been equally shocked (which QT would no doubt like) by Quentin Tarantino's disparaging remarks of the miniseries Roots (1977) regarding its inaccurate portrayal of slavery.  Though I'm less concerned with the repeated use of the "N" word in the film (QT uses it liberally in all of his films, though, of courses, its used much more in Django), I'm primarily concerned, from the clips I've seen, with the revenge/retribution motif that runs through the film.  Though some will no doubt feel satisfied by QT's revenge motif, the idea completely undercuts the real story of African Americans in this country, which is that most have learned to love this nation despite slavery and the way in which the American government and her people continue to victimize African Americans in the present.  There is much to be said about AA's and the victim motif--I'm happy to have a longer conversation about this--but my main contention is that QT's film, while meant as a piece of entertainment--though he has claimed it is much more--hinders rather than helps the discussion of race in America.

My two cents.

-Andy Tooley

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