12 Years a Slave — a biopic about a black fiddler in NY who somehow wound up a slave in Louisiana from 1841 until the law rescued him in 1853—is the nearly universally acclaimed front runner for the Best Picture Oscar. Yet it's built upon a fourth-rate screenplay that might have embarrassed Horatio Alger.
12 Years a Slave is hailed by critics as a long-awaited breakthrough that finally dares to mention the subject of slavery after decades of the entertainment industry being controlled by the South.
The message behind the ongoing enshrinement of the rather amateurish 12 Years a Slave is that the cultural whippings of white folk for the sins of their long dead ancestors will stubbornly continue on until morale improves. The formula: Stoke it, package it, market it.
Steve McQueen directs the film in a sort of minor league Passion of the Christ manner. Some of the appeal to critics is that Northern whites are shown as saints of racial sensitivity in the film's preposterous first 20 minutes.
12 Years a Slave opens in 1841 with Northup being effusively admired by his white neighbors in Saratoga, NY. Northup is a model of ridiculous bourgeois respectability, always doffing his top hat to his white peers while out riding with his family in an elegant carriage.
How could he afford that? Well, actually, he didn't and couldn't. A glance at Northup's ghostwritten 1853 memoir makes clear that in 1841, rather than being a pillar of this Yankee community, he was an unemployed fiddler dragged down by his own "shiftlessness."
In McQueen's often baffling movie, this respectable family man suddenly decides to run off to join the circus with two fast-talking white men without even leaving a note for his wife. Later, while dining in an elegant Washington, DC restaurant with his new friends, he suddenly takes ill and wakes up in chains.
Ironically, his poor family never reported or even guessed that he'd been kidnapped. They apparently assumed that vanishing was just the kind of thing he'd do.
When word of his kidnapping finally arrived home in 1853, top officials in both NY and Louisiana were dismayed by the trick played upon this freeborn citizen and worked together to quickly have him released.
Interestingly, it was widely believed that Northup had conspired with his white cronies to defraud slave owners of their purchase price by attempting to pull a con on them. Reminiscent of the 1971 comedy Skin Game, starring James Garner and Louis Gossett, Jr. as traveling grifters in 1858 where Garner repeatedly sells Gossett into slavery and then helps him escape.
Northup's hometown newspaper, the Saratoga Press, surmised that Northup had been an accomplice in a scam gone awry:
" it is more than suspected that Northup was an accomplice in the sale, calculating to slip away and share the spoils, but that the purchaser was too sharp for him, and instead of getting the cash, he got something else."
This theory that Northup was a man of dubious character rather than the tediously upright one depicted in the movie might explain another puzzling aspect of his tale: how little help he got from his fellow slaves. In general, the other slaves as display remarkably little human warmth toward Northup. They mostly act completely indifferent whenever he is around.
When Northup finally arrived home, an abolitionist politician hired David Wilson to be his ghostwriter. Wilson wrote Northup's story in his own style, and they hit it big in the slave-narrative craze that followed the 1852 publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Not many were sold, but more than enough to launch Northup on the abolitionist lecture circuit.
Predictably, Northup disappeared from history four years later. Those who knew him best seem to have assumed that he had become a "worthless vagabond," as his wife's obituary bluntly phrased it. Almost all of this is left out of the movie as being far too interesting for Oscar Bait.
I suppose Third-rate Victorian literature such as Wilson's version of Northup's memoir is tolerable today if the author understands his limitations. Most of the first-person narration is thankfully utilitarian. Only occasionally does Wilson have Northup reminisce in the grand Victorian manner: "Now had I approached within the shadow of the cloud, into the thick darkness whereof I was soon to disappear, thenceforward to be hidden from the eyes of all my kindred, and shut out from the sweet light of liberty, for many a weary year."
Indeed, on the rare occasions when Wilson quotes Northup's utterances, the slave speaks in a more plausible fashion, such as, "There is nobody I want to write to, 'cause I ain't got no friends living as I know of."
Unfortunately, Ridley's adaptation takes its inspiration for its made-up dialog from the worst prose in the book. Since it would be racist for Ridley to show slaves ending their sentences with prepositions, they instead orate pompous speeches toward each other, like Prime Minister Gladstone addressing Queen Victoria. As the hero, Ejiofor labors to bring life to these lines, with indifferent, if not comical success.
Hollywood has been waving its celluloid wand over history since its inception. Unfortunately, studio contrived "reality" usually wins the emotional battle over the truth --even for those with more than a tenuous understanding of the world around them. It's all part of the ongoing, and successful campaign keep all critical theory groups in their respective consensus trances; instilling grievance focused identities in blacks, and derivative guilt syndrome in whites. I suppose once all the altruistic white people who fall for sympathetic pleas of universal equality have been eliminated via natural selection, blacks will spontaneously adopt their innate, but perpetually oppressed Western sensibilities and go on to build flourishing, first world Utopias?
Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained is, among much else during its leisurely 165-minute running time, an adolescent male revenge fantasy about an omnipotent mass shooter wreaking carnage upon dozens of victims. I suspect the film would have appealed profoundly to the late Adam Lanza.
You might think that this wouldn't be the best time for a quasi-comic daydream/bloodbath about a deadeye gunman who always fires first and is immune to the thousands of bullets shot at him. But the recent unpleasantness in Sandy Hook has gone almost unmentioned in the critical hosannas greeting Django because, you see, the invulnerable hero is a black gunman shooting bad (i.e., Southern white) people.
It's not much more complicated than that.
For example, in the The New York Times, the scholarly and mild-mannered A. O. Scott declares Django:
"a troubling and important movie about slavery and racism."
According to Tarantino lore, the former video-store clerk is a dyslexic with a 160 IQ. It's hard not to be amused by how easily this semi-literate junior high school-dropout dupes 21st-century intellectuals.
The reason Tarantino has had the time to watch so many bad movies is because he doesn't like the written word. Most people of Tarantino's intelligence discover that reading is a higher bandwidth way of finding out about the world than watching straight-to-video dreck. But the auteur's learning disability has left him defensively proud that he's ill informed about everything other than movies.
Slavery is a potentially fascinating topic, but to have something interesting to say about it would require Tarantino to read a book. And that was never going to happen. After all, white men were the only men to abolish slavery but who cares about that little tidbit of truth?
Tarantino may not know how to spell, but he knows how you are supposed to think: solely in terms of Who? Whom? The only thing that matters anymore is whose side you are on.
Just as Tarantino is being praised today for empowering blacks by having them slaughter whites, he was praised for empowering Jews by having them slaughter Nazis in Inglourious Basterds and empowering women by having them slaughter men in Kill Bill.
As you may have noticed, Tarantino isn't black, Jewish, or female. Nor has he shown much genuine interest in those designated victim groups. Instead, Tarantino's favorites have always been middle-aged movie tough guys.
A cynic might suggest that what Tarantino really likes is the slaughtering. He's happy to make the details of who slaughters whom conform to the current prejudices, just as long as he gets to keep up the gore level. All Tarantino has had to do to critic-proof himself is identify the zeitgeist's sacred cows (so far, women, Jews, and blacks, but not gays) and have them massacre their foes. (Someday we may be treated to a Tarantino ABC Afterschool Special about the plague of bullying in which a CGI version of Charles Bronson show up at school to take out the homophobic trash.) The premise of Tarantino's latest film is that "young Django," a slave played by 45-year-old Jamie Foxx, teams up with the loquacious Christoph Waltz, 56 (once again dripping with Gemütlichkeit before he suddenly guns everybody down) to kick white butt. In 2009's Inglourious Basterds, Waltz played a Nazi bad guy, while in Django he's a Viennese anti-slavery good guy, but he's always the same character, Tarantino's talkative alter ego.
Indeed, Basterds' Jewish revenge plot was essentially a front to allow Tarantino to indulge his fascination with National Socialist (Nazi) cinema. What would it have been like, Quentin wondered, if he had been Goebbels to Harvey Weinstein's Hitler? In Django, a similarly vast amount of the dialogue is turned over to Waltz. Unfortunately, Tarantino's Teutonophilia can't get much traction in Django. He has a vague notion that in 1858 Richard Wagner was contemplating The Ring cycle—thus Django's wife is named Broomhilda—but has no idea what Waltz ought to do with that. (The excessively articulate Waltz would be better suited to playing Wagner,but the composer never killed anybody and lived before the invention of movies, so don't look to Quentin for biopic ideas.) All these distractions leave poor Foxx with little to do except shoot white people.
In 2013, is the black gun violence Tarantino espouses really such a fascinating new phenomenon? For generations now, American media have been encouraging blacks to take violent retribution. We're coming up on close to a half-century of whites in the media egging on black badassery.
How's Tarantino's macho minstrel show working out for black males, anyway? According to a 1967 government report sponsored by the Surgeon General, the black homicide rate began to rise in 1962 after a long decline. Mostly, though, whites just move out of the way and blacks kill each other. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that for the 30 years from 1976-2005, there were 276,000 African-American homicide victims, 94% of them murdered by other blacks. They also hold the title in interracial rape with an average of 37,000 black on white assaults per year while the white on black is listed as "less than 10," which we all know means zero.
But who cares about a quarter of a million murdered black people and interracial rape? What matters is white-on-white moral status striving. And in that eternal war, even Quentin Tarantino is a welcome recruit. Enjoy.
Saddling the next generation of whites with guilt.
It seems the cultural Marxists never tire of fanning the dying embers of the "Civil Rights" movement because it can always be relied upon to burst into flame, warming the hearts of a credulous American public. Whenever the Left encounters massive public skepticism regarding the benefits of whatever the liberal cause du jour may be, they can always depend on striking a sympathetic chord with mainstream conservatives and leftists alike by dusting off yet another reminiscence about the bad old days of segregation to remind us of how righteous liberals are.
Unpleasant memories like the Bolshevik Revolution, Mao's Cultural Revolution, Pol Pot's Cambodia, the Vendee, and the gulags fade into nothingness when those evergreen images of police dogs and fire hoses flicker on the screen. The civil rights movement is the radical egalitarian movement too good to be forsaken. Its memory must be kept front and center, and on life support forever.
The Help is the movie industry's latest contribution to this endless enterprise. It gives moviegoers a heaping helping of all of the bromides and stereotypes we've come to expect from a Hollywood production depicting the benighted South before the triumph of liberalism – stoic, long-suffering Blacks imbued with both homespun wisdom and impeccable moral rectitude. They never lose their tempers or lapse into profanity. They are the match to any and all circumstances they encounter, especially all impediments clumsily or maliciously thrown in their path by racist whites.
White Americans have now incorporated self-hatred, induced by the entertainment industry to such an extent that they can be predictably relied upon to cheer at depictions of their own downfall and degradation.
The most realistic portrayal of the film is the non-WASP, blue state 'progressive' who rewards an ambitious Southerner for publicly selling out her own kind. Skeeter can now take her rightful place in the pantheon of civil rights movement heroes by moving to New York City to pursue her feminist dream career as a writer, and shaking the simpleton dust of flyover country off her shoes once and for all. All of this is woven into a background pastiche of civil rights movements events like the Medgar Evers murder to show us just how brave and heroic both Skeeter and her coterie of Black maids are, and to remind us about why Hollywood bothered to make this movie in the first place.