You know I have deeply been impressed by the movie 12 years of slave. So deep that I asked a dear friend of mine, Tracee, about it. Tracee is an African-American living in Oklahoma, USA. My question was “How did the viewers react in the USA to the movie? How was their reception? Her reply was so extensive I got to understand some scenes in the movie better. With her approval, I copied and pasted it here.
This is what she wrote:
I was deeply affected by 12 Years a Slave. As intense and powerful a film as this is, I think Americans live in a sense of denial/apathy about our founding years as a country UNTIL a film like this comes about. Two scenes I found very powerful:
1) The use of religion as a means to control the slaves into believing that this was their destiny within God’s plan and to be thankful for their miserable lives (which is B.S.).
2) The attempted hanging, where the main character balances on his toes, for hours, and everyone else goes about their day~ another man’s pain is business as usual (more B.S.).
In my opinion these two powerful scenes frame our reception to the film, and to the legacy of American slavery in general. The film was successful at the box office (which tells me it’s on our mind) but didn’t spark the conversation and healing. I hope it does in the future.
While legally American blacks are emancipated, I feel as a people and a country we are far from free. Much spiritual healing is needed and we are still ashamed of ourselves because of this history. Many, as with many whites, brush off films like 12 Years as ‘living in the past’ or not entertaining. I didn’t find the film entertaining but definitely necessary if only to spark conversation. We are still a young country, which for many years depended on free labor to support our economy. The legacy continues to divide us on skin color and class, to be such a diverse nation. It’s the elephant in the room, an ugly one.
12 Years reminds me of my own genealogy, reading the words of one my great grandfathers, detailing how he was owned by another man…It hurts me in my soul. I choose not to be angry about it which doesn’t change anything; but productive and positive in pursuing personal freedom in all areas of my life. It is a jolting, painful reminder to live free at all costs, even though many of my fellow Americans (as in the film) don’t think things are all that bad. It’s not all bad, but the bible is still being used to feed personal greed and in many ways it is business as usual while our fellow-man balances on his ‘tippy-toes’. The reality of it makes me sad.
I am encouraged, however, by people like Brad Pitt’s character, who simply put are ‘different’. For whatever reason, they haven’t been marred by passivity or comfort and are willing to be agents of change. This is the type of person I want to be.
Of course, this is where I plug my undying love for Andy Whitfield, the Spartacus story and my Sparty peeps. I always drift towards these stories because they resonate with me personally. They show me that our stories aren’t different but the same story being told over and over; with various characters, times and locations, in the pursuit of living free.
An explanation for the last paragraph: Tracee is one of my Spartacus friends. We met through an online forum about the series Spartacus Blood & Sands. Fascinated by the slaves’ quest for freedom, we discussed a lot about the series and the history. Now she has become one of my Sparty sisters.
They show me that our stories aren’t different, but the same story being told over and over; with various characters, times and locations, in the pursuit of living free.
Her statement reminds me of another great movie I saw in 2012 Cloud Atlas. And it also reminds me of the life of my ancestors when Indonesia was a Dutch colony and called Dutch East Indies. Indonesians were the third grade citizens in their own country except the nobilities. Just like Tracee it hurts me to think about it but I am not angry because that was what really happened. If I was angry, I would not live here in The Netherlands. So I totally agree with her, the pursuit of living free is from all ages and for all races, don’t you?
Image is taken from Social Science Soapbox