12 Years A Slave: I am sick of slave movies

Twelve Years A Slave is a hard movie to watch. I am sick and tired of slave and servant movies. This is the comfort level for Hollywood of the “Negro ” portrayal. “Driving Ms. Daisy,” “The Help,” “Jingo” and the like showcase Black actors. The great acting even wins Academy Awards, but when will we see a real movie about Black life in the 21st century. Time out. Whereas, we see American history, we also see the brutality, the demeaning, the insult and the inhumane treatment. It makes you weep.

Twelve Years A Slave is based on a real story. The main character, Solomon Northop was a “free” man who was an accomplished musician. White Men who the “negro” thought were his friends and peers tricked him. He was tricked into slavery in the nation’s capital, Washington and sold into slavery. The free man was tricked, and reminded he was not “equal” even though he had his “freeman papers.” He was reduced to a piece of property and sent to Louisiana.

Some of the scenes are brutal and show the inhumanity to man. Slaves were property, treated sometimes less than an animal. You see the free man processed into slavery. His manhood reduced. Slaves were workers, permanent laborers. Sometimes the main character, brilliantly played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, was asked to play his violin to calm the slaves and entertain the masters. The slaves were asked to dance on occasion. Solomon’s manhood was eroded, , taken away. There are scenes where the slaves cleaned them selves like animals in an open pen in a bucket of waters. They were sold and separated from their families with absolutely no regard. In one penetrating scene, the white woman says to the black woman who is in pain and constantly cries because she was sold separate from her children, that she would soon forget them.

I have been a student of history, studied slavery and its effects on American society. I think about the absolute waste of human capital. I have often wondered about one element, and that is the white male psychic. How could the white male establish and enforce the laws ranging from inhumanity to cruelty to obscene to hatred, yet be intimate with the women that he was suppose to despise. There is one scene that is absolutely heart breaking. The slave girl, who master is intimate with, is beaten unmercifully. She is the light of his eye and provides sexual pleasure and when confronted by his white wife, to sell her, he tells her, he will get rid of her before he rids himself of the slave. The slave girl dances and prances for him, has sex with him and picks 500 pounds of cotton a day. She is the best field hand.

She is a friend with an older slave woman who has found her way to the social status of being master’s mistress and having servants serve her tea at another plantation. She visits that plantation one day to get a piece of soap, so that she can wash her body of a stench that she says she can’t even stand of herself. Her master discovers her gone and thinks that she has run away and punishes her. He has her fellow male slave beat her with a whip, hanging from the tree, bear back. It is unmerciful. Cruel. The master and his wife enjoy watching. The Black male slave is not beating her hard enough and the white master takes matters into his own hands and whips her and whips her and whips her. This is the same man who has sex with her, loves her beautiful loins.

I don’t get it. These painful lessons provoke hatred. This is history for real, it happened and yes it’s over and we realize it is Hollywood’s version, but it is hard to watch and excruciating to understand that Blacks were less than human, we were property. Today a standard of difference still exists. You see it daily. Think Trayvon. And last but not least, here’s a catch to the movie. In the credits it reads that the animals were not subject to cruel treatment. Well, I will just be damn. We see the people beaten unmerciful but the credits read to animal cruelty.

Hollywood needs to get a grip and find some new tales about Black folk. I am not a drinking woman, but after this movie, if you are Black, you need a drink of hard liquor to calm your nerves.

As I watch these slaves’ movies, I wonder why they didn’t fight back. Could the slaves, the fresh African really have been so docile, I wonder. I think to today about the kids who are so violent. Did the whites really get to the minds of our ancestors so bad that they were totally reduced to a total submission? Or is this the Hollywood version of the way we were?


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  • We're talking about people who rescued dogs before humans during Katrina this movie shows how unmoved and heartless they still are.

  • In reply to Craig Jackson:

    Thank You

  • It's not as if they didn't fight back. Recall Nat Turner and others like him. They didn't have the firepower, though, to oppose the military of the English colonies and later the state militias and federal army.
    Of course, slavery didn't end until the defeat of the Confederacy in the Civil War, during which many Black-Americans---free-born and former slaves---displayed heroism in battle.

  • Ms. Hartman, you make some very interesting assertions, particularly as one who has studied African American history. Just curious? Do you think the Jews ever get tired of seeing, or flat out state that they are tired of seeing holocaust movies? Or, do they use their past horrors as a platform to ensure others never forget, and to solidify their place as leaders in the movie industry, and all other domains in which they predominate? I understand what you mean, and why you feel the way you do. The brutality of slavery is hard to watch, stomach, recall, revisit, and every other emotion one can use to describe our history. But it is history nonetheless. Personally, I am tired of seeing booty shaking nonsense which typifies the portrayal of Blacks more prevalently than these films. My question is just something to consider. Blessings of peace to you.

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    In reply to Elana Anthony:

    Ms Anthony, it is apparent you have studied African American history. In regard to Jewish history, I'm not so sure... I don't believe Ms Hartman's assertions were 100% accurate, but nonetheless, there is something significant going on with these recent slave movies. Hollywood functions on a level that most Americans are not aware of. Even the booty shaking African Americans you see being publicized is a part of it. The positive side of our community that you think would be recognized is not. Ironically, its the booty shaking non-sense that is. This aspect has no regards toward truths or reality. This issue is a reflection of the control of the media, and the statements they would like to make.The recent slave movies were not created as a tool for black empowerment. At this time I do not fully understand the angle, but i do know it is negative in nature. How do I know? Because you do not expect help from people who do not like you.

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    In reply to Boomie Love:

    The history of the Jews and their place in society is one of the most deceitful topics in the history of man kind. The world at large should be aware of it. If this topic you find interesting please research further. If not just take it as food for thought. Thanks

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    It's clear from this article you just don't get it, You don't get the film and you certainly don't get this book. You make it seemed like the relationship between Master Ebbs and Patsy was consensual that they were lover, they were not at all.

    You talk about how a lot of the attitudes of the whites are still present today, well you completely disregard the behaviors and attitudes of blacks today. Northup was literally hanging from a tree all day and people went about their business and did nothing to help him. One girl snuck him water, no one but Master Ford cut him down. Master Ford in the book protected Northup Twice from his persecuter, and sold Northup for his own safety, literally his life was in danger. Master Ford was a victim of his circumstance and his station. Slavery was an industry and he was in debt, he was a struggling white man in his times just trying to do the right thing for his family. Then you have Samuel Bass the man who actually freed Northup from slavery, The only white man to challenge the status quo and the dehumanization of Slavery.

    You are very quick to demonized the whites in the film and rightfully so, some of them deserve it. But the Black Slave admitted to doing horrible things themselves to survive as well. And the complacency and Apathy in the black community towards their fellow man in need is very apparent today. I would suggest to you, to get off your high horse are rewatch that movie. You should leave that move sad, and more reflective not hateful, because it was hate that cause slavery and jim crow to persist. Grow up.

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  • I won't comment on the movie itself or the question of white behavior in the movie vs black behavior, but I will say that Hollywood keeps making slave movies because it still thinks that slavery (in the US) still exists and they in Hollywood -- and the media-- are modern conductors on the underground railroad. In other words, Hollywood and the media have very little real life experience with real life black people doing real life things.

    Slavery has existed since the beginning of civilization and even before. Skin color has little to do with it. Today, it is the Muslim who enslaves the black man in Africa, and if you only knew the horrors suffered there, you would think this movie tame.

    Today, there is the federal plantation, which seeks to keep not only black people and other minorities in velvet chains, but all of the population. The massa on the federal plantation has destroyed the black family and community over the last 50 years, and now massa has moved on to all of us. Ironic, that the massa figurehead is black man.

  • I am 18 years old, and I am from Michigan, not that it really matters, but learning about my African American history was not really a big part of the lesson plan, sure maybe one or two chapters at the most or about Harriet Tubman or Sojourner Truth but that was it. So I can't imagine what others my age or younger even know about slavery or America's past. This is an issue that we should forgive but not forget. In my opinion just like other comments have said that Black people in the 21st century aren't always betrayed as the Barack Obama success story the hood stereotype or "rachet" ghetto girl still exists and so does racism. We learn that in the Trayvon Martin v. Zimmerman trial.

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