(Disclaimer: Let me start off by saying that this is not a review. I have my own particular beliefs about reviews, which can be summed up by saying that I find all art and entertainment to be too subjective and personal for me to lend any credence in them. Additionally, I hate when film experts (loosely defined as people that went to film school or made a few films or just people that decided that because they like movies and decided to write about them that they should be experts) trash a movie I like and endorse a movie that doesn’t move me. So this is not a review. This is a reflection.)
A consistent sentiment I’ve read about this movie is why Hollywood continues to make movies that depict the brutality and imagery of slavery. I partly understand the frustrations of some people about slavery themed movies. It makes sense to argue that with all the advancements that African-Americans have made, more focus should be on positive stories. However, I disagree with the idea that films about slavery are negative. Before you can know where you are going, you have to know where you came from. While some may consider that statement cliché, the truth of it resonates in knowing that the past provides context to much of what we see in the world around us. For many of us, it’s a short leap between today’s cases of blatant racism and modern-day lynchings and the history of how people of color have been treated in society; however, there are large groups of people today that don’t make that connection. Even for those of us who recognize the connections, sometimes we get so comfortable in our positions, that we sometimes forget, amidst our frustrations, how significant our achievements are as the offspring of former enslaved people.
As uncomfortable as it was to watch this film – which made it not exactly the ideal Friday night flick – I believe that it was an important film. I believe it needed to be made and needs to be seen. As a former high school and middle school teacher, I have watched the subject of slavery, and other societal atrocities, steadily reduced to footnotes in many history books. The result has been that many African-American students today are walking around without a sense of history of what their ancestors went through, the world that they lived in, and what the legacy of slavery was and is. I still remember a student who once summarized his understanding of the Civil Rights Movement and the Civil War by stating that Martin Luther King freed the slaves (and yes, he was being completely serious). As crazy as it may sound, that kind of story was the sum of this student’s knowledge about slavery. Non-African-American students are disadvantaged due to this whitewashed version of history fed to them. They too are unaware of slavery’s atrocities. They have no clue how horrid slavery was or its impact on today’s society.
Have you seen 12 Years a Slave? What were your thoughts?
Do you agree with the some of the criticism?
Should Hollywood continue to make movies about Slavery?
Why doesn't society get "tired" of movies that repeat themes from White America?