Why Birth of a Nation is a Dangerous Film

In a bizarre turn of events The Birth of a Nation has unintentionally played itself. To understand what I'm saying you need to know the plot and the production history of the film. The premise is based around an 1831 slave revolt led by Nat Turner, a slave preacher whom plantation owners of the area used to keep their slaves in a state of submission. After seeing too much atrocity done to his people, Turner rounded up a group of slaves to kill as many white people as possible. The film was conceived by the director/writer/producer/star Nate Parker as a way to have white people "come to repentance" as he puts it, thought it seems more like a catharsis and possibly narcissistic project for Parker than a message of equality.

The similarities between the film and the events that inspired it are uncanny; both were poorly conceived catharsis projects brought to life by their creators without much thought put into the consequences of their actions. Next to somebody like Martin Luther King, Turner not only looks like a kid wearing his dad's clothes, but also trying to take over his office job and failing miserably. Heck, Jackie Robinson did more for the Civil Rights movement than this guy did. In the end Nat Turner's rebellion was an abject disaster, not only resulting in thousands of innocent slaves being needlessly murdered in retaliation, but setting the Abolitionist movement back quite a few years, with Turner's violence and hatred against whites demonizing black people even further in the popular consciousness.

I believe that Birth of a Nation will have similar results on black and white relation in America. In this film whites are portrayed as hateful, unredeemable bigots, something that many blacks, and whites, in America already see white people as. This is the kind of film that causes people of other colors to hate whites, the kind of film that encourages crap like that Facebook video where a bunch of black kids tortured that kid because he was white. In my opinion, 2014's Selma was a better equality film than this because it showed blacks and whites working together for the ultimate good. If we really want the racial tensions to calm in this country we need more movies that portray the harmony we ultimately seek, not films that already confirm how angry blacks already feel and instill unneeded guilt in whites. We need to be what we want to see.

Nat Turner's story is one of only hatred and vengeance; instead of putting out the fire, Nate Parker has not only fanned the flames of American racial tension, but emptied a five-gallon tank of gasoline on them. In making a movie about how one man enforced the racial divide in this country for selfish reasons, Parker has unwittingly done the same. I hope he's satisfied.

Note: I searched myself for a long time after I watched this film. I wanted to make very sure that the discomfort I felt wasn't just because the film challenged my perceptions (which it did) and after much contemplation, I really do believe that the opinions stated in this entry are not born of any other agenda than what I've said.

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