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12 Years a Slave Is Driving People Batty

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  • 12 Years a Slave Is Driving People Batty

    12 Years a Slave Is Driving People Batty



    So, look: 12 Years a Slave is a powerful and important movie but not a great one. It is basically the antebellum south version of Forrest Gump, a film that watches passive protagonist Solomon Northup stumble through the lowlights of slavery’s horror—Whippings! Rapes! Slave auctions tearing families apart! The “good” owner who still has slaves and therefore isn’t “good” at all! The bad owner who is a sadist!—before a beneficent white dude comes along to save him. It is, as Armond White noted, more akin to torture porn than great filmmaking.* Searing imagery alone does not a great film make.

    That a film can be both “powerful” and “not great” is causing some distress amongst its fans, a distress that is manifesting itself in odd ways. For instance, you wind up with David Simon stripping 12 Years a Slave of its status as art, reducing it to a political tool, and writing it is “not intelligently assailable by anyone.” Over at Pajiba, Dustin Rowles wrote the following about Michael Fassbender’s performance as the aforementioned bad owner:
    Michael Fassbender is so good in this, and so repulsive, and awful, and terrorizing, that I doubt very much that I will ever like Michael Fassbender in another role again. I will never be able to see him without thinking about what his character did in this film, and the snarl he adored while doing it. I want him dead, and I don’t even mean just the character. Right now, I want Fassbender dead.

    I can’t imagine Rowles literally would have murdered Fassbender for, you know, acting. But the reaction the film prompted in him is extremely unhealthy. And, frankly, it’s destructive to art. We, the critics, often tell thespians to stretch themselves. Don’t be the vanilla hero! Do something daring! Indeed, many critics suggested Brad Pitt would’ve been better off taking the Fassbender role instead of the saintly Canadian who saves our enslaved protagonist. But after reading Rowles’ reaction—after reading the proprietor of a popular and intelligent pop culture site say that he “doubts very much that [he] will ever like Michael Fassbender in another role again”—I can understand why actors are hesitant to take on challenging, morally complex roles.

    Then there was Enuma Okoro, who, in a piece entitled “Why I Wouldn’t See 12 Years a Slave With a White Person,” found that the movie affirmed a sneaking suspicion that she is little more than a token in the lives of her white “friends.” Wrote Okoro:
    Seeing the movie was hard. But the truth is I had developed my own race problem before the film was even released. And when I look back I see that it has largely come from the slow and painfully growing suspicion that I’m primarily a check-mark in the lives of so many well-meaning, educated white people. Black educated friend: check. African conversation partner: check. Black woman of safe but uncommitted romantic exploration: check. Black articulate friend I can introduce to my family: check. Black internationally reared cultural elite I can relate to without leaving my comfort zone: check. Black emotionally safe friend with whom I can make “black jokes” in the name of familiarity: check. The list could go on.

    That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever read. I honestly can’t help but pity Okoro, if that’s how she views her relationships. What a horrible way to go through life.
    "There are four lights!"

  • #2
    The bolded is a level of ignorance, or the blind arrogance of certitude, that is almost painful to see.
    "There are four lights!"

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Billy Jingo View Post
      The bolded is a level of ignorance, or the blind arrogance of certitude, that is almost painful to see.
      Explain further, please.
      Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
      Robert Southwell, S.J.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
        Explain further, please.
        Which part? The ignorance that comes with not having a close friend who is black that is well educated and moves primarily within white culture or the blind arrogance of certitude that comes with not understanding a person, any person, grappling with doubt? I could expand on both.
        "There are four lights!"

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Billy Jingo View Post
          Which part? The ignorance that comes with not having a close friend who is black that is well educated and moves primarily within white culture or the blind arrogance of certitude that comes with not understanding a person, any person, grappling with doubt? I could expand on both.
          I guess I don't understand any of your comments. It seems the author pitied the fact that the woman doesn't feel like her friends are real friends. That is sad for the person, as I tend to know who my friends are and who my acquaintances are. It sounds like that woman doesn't know who is who in her life.
          Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
          Robert Southwell, S.J.

          Comment


          • #6
            Just for fun, I looked up Sonny Bunch's review of of 12 Years A Slave. It's important and all, but it would be better if not for all that slavery stuff.

            It is hard to watch, a lesson in cruelty and in the degrading nature of slavery. 12 Years a Slave frequently feels like a catalogue of such lessons, and this is its biggest weakness. Northup’s struggle for survival seems like little more than window dressing, a narrative tool that allows the writer and director to delve into the horrors of slavery.
            Gee, you think? Bottom line, it leaves him cold.

            12 Years a Slave is more of an important film than a great one. It is a searing portrait of a dark time and of a terrible practice that nevertheless may leave some audience members feeling somewhat cold.
            Leaving you feeling cold is bad, see? Unlike the heart-warming crescendo of Django Unchained, his probable vote for best picture:

            After firing the proverbial first shot, true war breaks out. Django grabs a pair of guns and goes to town, gunning down a dozen or so Southerners as he tries to shoot his way out of Candyland. What’s remarkable about the shootout that follows isn’t necessarily the buckets of blood but the sound design. As the scene is shot in slo-mo, the whine of the bullets also slows. But, if you listen carefully, you realize you’re hearing not rifle shots but cannon fire. We may be seeing bullets but we’re hearing artillery—and seeing it too, if you think about it. Because those buckets of blood that splash up every time a bullet smashes into the corpse behind which Django has taken cover resemble not blood so much as land, churning, splashing up when a shell lands, leaving craters in their wake.

            Men scream as lead rips through their flesh like a dog’s teeth through a slave’s belly, but there is no sadness here, no glorious lost cause. This is retribution for the South’s original sin, rendered harshly. The war has come to Candyland one year before it came to the rest of the Confederacy.
            Now that's a movie should handle slavery.
            Enjoy.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
              I guess I don't understand any of your comments. It seems the author pitied the fact that the woman doesn't feel like her friends are real friends. That is sad for the person, as I tend to know who my friends are and who my acquaintances are. It sounds like that woman doesn't know who is who in her life.
              Maybe she's expressing a fear that her friends are the sort who would pity her for expressing a fear.
              Enjoy.

              Comment


              • #8
                As I refrained from saying to my younger sister (not Celeste) the other evening when I suggested that she keep something under her hat: Overly sensitive people who react inappropriately or unpredictably train the people around them to restrict the flow of information.
                The year's at the spring
                And day's at the morn;
                Morning's at seven;
                The hill-side's dew-pearled;
                The lark's on the wing;
                The snail's on the thorn:
                God's in his heaven—
                All's right with the world!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Norm dePlume View Post
                  Maybe she's expressing a fear that her friends are the sort who would pity her for expressing a fear.
                  Well, maybe. She seemed to have not expressed a fear, but rather her own viewpoint as to who her "friends" were. It is a shame if she believes that. A bigger shame if its true.
                  Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
                  Robert Southwell, S.J.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Norm dePlume View Post
                    Maybe she's expressing a fear that her friends are the sort who would pity her for expressing a fear.
                    Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
                    Well, maybe. She seemed to have not expressed a fear, but rather her own viewpoint as to who her "friends" were. It is a shame if she believes that. A bigger shame if its true.
                    Maybe she is caught between two cultures and is finding that one of them lacks the shared history found in the other (call it the Trayvon Effect). This gives her a sense of vacuity in some relationships and is mistaking that perceived shallowness for patronization.

                    Maybe the Oreo Callers are starting to get to her.

                    Or maybe, just maybe, like most humans she has doubt.
                    "There are four lights!"

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
                      Well, maybe. She seemed to have not expressed a fear, but rather her own viewpoint as to who her "friends" were. It is a shame if she believes that. A bigger shame if its true.
                      Do you understand the difference between a suspicion and a belief?
                      Enjoy.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Billy Jingo View Post
                        Maybe she is caught between two cultures and is finding that one of them lacks the shared history found in the other (call it the Trayvon Effect).
                        Maybe. Which one of those cultures lacks the shared history? And why is it the Trayvon Effect? I totally don't understand that.

                        This gives her a sense of vacuity in some relationships and is mistaking that perceived shallowness for patronization.
                        I'll need a subject for the bolded clause. Actually, possibly an object or two as well. Who is mistaking? Whose perceived shallowness. And while we're at it, I'm not following at all the "perceived shallowness" comment. Is the shallowness related to the relationships or someone else's character. I'm not trying to be snarky or a smart ass. I truly am not understanding what you are writing here.
                        Maybe the Oreo Callers are starting to get to her.
                        Who are they (the Oreo callers)? Are they her white friends that tell black jokes? Or are they the blacks who believe she is acting too white?

                        Or maybe, just maybe, like most humans she has doubt.
                        Sure, which is why I said what I said.
                        Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
                        Robert Southwell, S.J.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Norm dePlume View Post
                          Do you understand the difference between a suspicion and a belief?
                          Yes, why do you ask? And is it at all possible for you to ever have a conversation about these things, or is everything subject to a defensive argument mode with you on this board?
                          Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
                          Robert Southwell, S.J.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Well, I'm pretty certain that I'm just a "check box" for some people who would very positively identify me as their friend. How you could go through life without being a part of superficial social relationships is beyond me. This happens to everyone:

                            You are too old/too young to be a confidant but too valuable to ignore;

                            Your spouse/kid/sibling/friend is the "real" friend, you are the add-on friend;

                            You are part of a circle of friends but part of the outer circle;

                            You are included in friendly relationships but with people who don't respect your political/religious/social views.

                            This is a pretty common human condition. Very few cultures see all friendships as equally close, equally egalitarian, or equally exclusive. What's also common is that young women over-invest in friendships and then over-react when their expectations aren't met. Some women never move past this.
                            "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Billy Jingo View Post
                              Then there was Enuma Okoro, who, in a piece entitled “Why I Wouldn’t See 12 Years a Slave With a White Person,” found that the movie affirmed a sneaking suspicion that she is little more than a token in the lives of her white “friends.”
                              My one Jewish friend would not see The Passion of the Christ with me for the same reason. He thinks I still hold him responsible for killing my Savior.

                              Yeah, we never talk about it directly but it's there. Right under the surface.
                              Science that cannot be questioned is propaganda.

                              Cameras in classrooms now.

                              Comment

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