Wikipedia reports this film had a $20 million dollar budget and grossed over $187 million dollars. I chose not to rush out and watch this movie during the initial release in 2013, because I felt it was both a waste of my time and money. It made no sense for me to run to the theater to watch another, as my mother would say, “Old-time slavery movie.” Nor did it make sense for me to buy or rent the DVD when I am already paying for HBO and I knew it would only be a matter of time before I could watch it on HBO. To no surprise, it came to HBO and again, I was in no great hurry to watch it, yet, I knew that I eventually would, if for no other reason than to be able to write a post about it.
I was up late last night, preparing another post and decided to take a break. During my break, I finally watched “12 Years a Slave.” I turned the TV on at about 1:30 AM and began watching what turned out to be a 2:14 minute movie, which I felt was too long.
I was correct in my initial thoughts about the movie-sight unseen. It is nothing more than a portrayal of the viciousness and inhumanity of American slavery, which anyone who knows anything about America knows it had the worst form of slavery in recorded history.
This movie has a slight twist in that it starts with Solomon Northup as a free man living up-south (I use this term to denote that racially, there is no difference between the attitudes of the North and South)in Sarasota, New York with his wife and two children. He then trusts two White men and agrees to travel with them to Washington, DC where he will play his violin for profit. While having a celebratory dinner with these two White men, they gave him a drug that rendered him unconscious. When he awakens, he finds himself shackled hand and feet in a DC slave pen.
At this point, I found myself wondering what redeeming values this film had for me as an enlightened Black African American man. About half way through the film, I concluded there was nothing of value that this film had to offer me. I did not have a need to see Black African American females raped by White men and reminding me that Black African American males were and still are powerless to protect Black African American women or children from the vicious and malicious assaults of some White men was unnecessary. I definitely did not need to see the sadistic beating that “Patsy” received from her enraged jealous White enslaver.
On the other hand, what was different about this movie was how the White plantation Mistress was depicted having issues with her husband’s affection towards “Patsy” and her realizing that she was less desirable to her husband than the Black African American female. I seriously doubt that White America really picked up on the subliminal messaging emanating from the role of the White Mistress.
For instance, some White men in general and some White American men in particular have always had an insatiable obsession for all women of African ancestry. So much so, that they reportedly coined the term, “The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.” Because of his maniacal obsession towards his female slave, the White enslaver fell insanely in love with his slave to the point of his having a major panic attack at the thought of her running away.
“12 Years a Slave” also pointed out how envious, weak and cowardly some White men are as evidenced by the plantation carpenter’s insecurities with Solomon’s skills. When Solomon got the best of this carpenter while the carpenter was attempting to beat him, the carpenter unabashedly displayed his cowardice. As a reprisal for Solomon being physically stronger, the White carpenter came back with two White friends and attempted to lynch Solomon by hanging him.
Some critics have rated this movie as the “Best slavery movie ever made.” I wonder what the race and nationality of the critics who rated this movie because I fail to see anything good about being a slave or watching a slave movie. Growing up Black African American in America, I have been in quasi-slavery all of my life, and I never experienced anything close to having the “Best slavery experience of my life.”
For me, the dominant theme throughout this movie was the White people’s inferiority complex as well as their inferior skills in comparison to both Black African American males and females. In order to compensate for their deficits, some White males and females use brutality and religion as a means of controlling and dominating Black African Americans, which this movie had a lot of each.
Watching this movie left me with a recurring question; why are there an increasing number of movies depicting Black African Americans as slaves or in subservient roles lately? As we know, some White American men still have a preoccupation with “the good ole days.” The annual Civil War Reenactments that they engage in as well as the hundreds of thousands of dollars that they donate for the defense of a White American (Zimmerman, Darren Wilson , etc) charged with a crime against a Black African American verifies this. In the eyes of many White Americans, they still see Black African Americans as being inferior and subservient to them and movies like “12 Years a Slave” reinforces their faulty belief system.
Oh what a blessing it is that my people don’t read or think says the Pastors, Pimps and Politicians.