There is a raging controversy over Nate Parker’s writing, directing and starring in a film about Nat Turner. Let’s look at some little known facts underpinning this fiery debate.
The movie is called BIRTH OF A NATION. The first film bearing that name came out in 1915 and was the first full length motion picture widely seen. It chronicled the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, picturing them as conquering heroes. The president at the time, Woodrow Wilson, who held the doctorate in history and was formerly president of Princeton University, reportedly said that the film was “like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.” Rioting mobs killed many African Americans upon its release, and it became a potent recruiting tool for the Ku Klux Klan. As a result, it was banned for 50 years.
One hundred years later, in the wake of a sustained outcry over the recent slew of Hollywood films about slavery with white heroes, Hollywood gave NATE PARKER 18 million for writing, starring and directing a film about the NAT TURNER slave rebellion. NAT TURNER – NATE PARKER Could the two names be more similar? And it just so happens that NATE PARKER was accused of raping a white woman. Yes, he was acquitted. So was OJ. Ask him if that makes any difference in the court of public opinion.
Note, in the late sixties at the height of the Black Power movement, white writer William Styron wrote The Confessions of Nat Turner, a fictional account of the Nat Turner rebellion. Its theme? Nat Turner led his revolt because he fell in love with a white woman that, obviously, he could not have, and the only individual of the 60 that his band killed was the white woman that he loved.
Today, at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, Hollywood comes out with a film about NAT TURNER, starring, written and directed by a man, NATE PARKER, with a troubled past that echoes William Styron’s interpretation of Nat Turner. (To further underline the point NATE PARKER’S wife is white.) From now on whenever the historical figure, NAT TURNER, is mentioned, the visage and the legacy of NATE PARKER is bound to loom large.
African Americans, like all moviegoers, are not aware of the subtle imagery they are exposed to, and the stereotypical ways in which every group is portrayed. African Americans, the most maligned group in the nation, fare the worst in Hollywood productions. Movie actors are referred to as stars, as icons, as gods and goddesses of the silver screen. What is seen in the heavens is reflected on earth, and vice versa. Hollywood’s hierarchy mirrors America’s and the reverse is also true.
To significantly alter the roles of Black actors is no small thing. It is to also change the part that those whom they represent play in society and the power relationships therein. Yes, we complained to Hollywood about white heroes in movies about slavery, and so they gave us a genuine Black hero from the days of bondage. Nonetheless, the stereotype of the Black male predator still comes through. Remember the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.” The lesson? Hollywood will never liberate us. We are their most loyal slaves to their hypnotic, poisoning, subliminal messaging. No one will save us but us.