I don’t give a damn about the Star Wars movie. It’s odd considering I love all things science fiction. While I liked the original Star Wars films, the new ones haven’t really peaked my interest. Even knowing my girl crush Lupita Nyong’o will be in the latest film, isn’t enough to propel me to the nearest theater. However, I came across a great read that features the lovely actress. In the article “Lupita Nyong’o: ‘Under the makeup, Star Wars is just human wants and desires,'” Nyong’o talks about growing up privileged, her personal connection to the character of Patsey from “12 Years a Slave,” and her new off-Broadway play.
Nyong’o sure knows how to take gorgeous pictures. I wish her well in the Star Wars franchise.
“The month of April has been designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in the United States. The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. By working together and pooling our resources during the month of April, we can highlight sexual violence as a major public health, human rights and social justice issue and reinforce the need for prevention efforts.” —http://www.nsvrc.org/saam/what-is-saam
In order to successfully prevent sexual violence in our communities, we have to acknowledge that we live in a Rape Culture. It’s noted that “in feminism, rape culture is a concept that links rape and sexual violence to the culture of a society, and in which prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate, and even condone rape.” For example, when Rick Ross made a casual reference to date rape in his song “U.O.E.N.O” (Put molly all in her champagne/ She ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that/ She ain’t even know it.)He was rightfully clowned and called out for using this lyric.
Of course, it isn’t just rappers/entertainers who normalize rape in our culture. It also isn’t a new phenomenon. It can be argued that rape culture has its roots in slavery. In order to justify the rapes/sexual assaults on black women’s bodies (to keep the slave trade business intact), black women were horribly stereotyped:
“The portrayal of black women as lascivious by nature is an enduring stereotype. The descriptive words associated with this stereotype are singular in their focus: seductive, alluring, worldly, beguiling, tempting, and lewd. Historically, white women, as a category, were portrayed as models of self-respect, self-control, and modesty – even sexual purity, but black women were often portrayed as innately promiscuous, even predatory. This depiction of black women is signified by the name Jezebel.1 ” http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/jezebel.htm
The young slave woman who has come to symbolize the normalization of abuse on black women’s bodies is Saartjie Baartman. Baartman is often known by the racist term “Hottentot Venus:”
“Sara ‘Saartjie’ Baartman was born in 1789* at the Gamtoos river in what is now known as the Eastern Cape. She belonged to the cattle-herding Gonaquasub group of the Khoikhoi. Sara grew up on a colonial farm where her family most probably worked as servants. Her mother died when she was aged two and her father, who was a cattle driver, died when she reached adolescence. Sara married a Khoikhoiman who was a drummer and they had one child together who died shortly after birth. Due to colonial expansion, the Dutch came into conflict with the Khoikhoi. As a result people were gradually absorbed into the labour system. When she was sixteen years old Sara’s fiancé was murdered by Dutch colonists. Soon after, she was sold into slavery to a trader named Pieter Willem Cezar, who took her to Cape Town where she became a domestic servant to his brother. It was during this time that she was given the name ‘Saartjie’, a Dutch diminutive for Sara.” —http://www.sahistory.org.za/people/sara-saartjie-baartman
I had the misfortune of watching the film “Black Venus.” It’s supposed to be based on the life of Baartman. I felt the film was really a white man’s story, not Baartman’s. She barely has any lines in the film. I also felt ill at ease that the black actress in the film was really being mistreated. However, I did think the film gave some insight into the horrifying ways Baartman was treated on a daily basis. It is a thin line of trying to show the reality of her life, but not being exploitative about it. The director failed. Hopefully, someday the fullness of Saartjie Baartman‘s life will be told.
While I also had some of the same issues with “12 Years a Slave,” I thought the film did at least show the hatefulness of white supremacy and the beginnings of rape culture:
“Although the kidnapped freedman Northup is the main character, the film also does an excellent job of exposing the gendered sexual violence at the very foundation of enslavement. Patsy isn’t the only victim of rape culture, either. In their brief scenes Mistress Harriet Shaw (Alfre Woodard) and Eliza (Adepero Oduye)—both objects of the affection of their masters—intimate a complex interplay between sexual coersion and agency in a corrupt system that gives them zero options. “The Accused,”* the 1988 Jodie Foster film, dramatized victim-blaming in gang rape. “12 Years a Slave” crystalizes in images and in sound what it is to be owned and exploited.”http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/10/i_saw_12_years_a.html
Recently, a friend told me that true liberation can not come about until black women are allowed to give voice to the sexual violence they have experienced in their lives. I agree. Anti-rape activists need to acknowledge that this country was built/continues to be built off the abuse/ sexual assaults on black girls/women, in order to truly dismantle rape culture.
Double Meh. I understand the Oscars likes when folks play out of character/villains even. Denzel Washington has played some wonderful characters over his 20 year career (including Malcolm X), and yet he won an Oscar for the role of a corrupt cop.
I don’t begrudge these folks wins. As actresses/actors, I’m sure it’s an honor to win an Oscar, no matter what. It represents the highest level of achievement in their field. I just hope the future will bring diverse wins for black folks. 75 years from now, I don’t want a little black girl being happy that a black woman won for portraying a slave. But I ain’t holding my breath.
Speaking of the fascinating Lupita Nyong’o, she gave an amazing performance in “12 Years a Slave.” I can see why she is getting major Oscar buzz. It took me a minute to see this film..I was very excited when I first heard about it. But as usual, I got busy and had to put it on the back burner. I also had mixed emotions about seeing the film after reading a scathing review about it (Armond White’s “Dud of the Week: 12 Years a Slave”). I think he just recently heckled the director…lol.
I understand where he was coming from
The portrayal of slavery in films can be a very thin line. Of course, you want the violence/brutality shown, as it was the reality of being a slave under white supremacy. But, when does it goes from showing truth to just becoming exploitative/ torture porn? Black women’s bodies are always degraded in the media. We are constantly mocked, abused, beaten, and battered. I understand that it was important to show what happened to black women during slavery via the character Patsy (played by Nyong’o).
Actually, what I loved about the film was that is showed white women were just as culpable/cruel slave masters. I loved those parts of the film, as many white feminists like to create revisionary history of an imagery sisterhood between black women and white women during slavery (rolls eyes). So, much props for the director showing that. BUT, I did feel uncomfortable that the main black female character was only portrayed as beaten victim. I am still waiting patiently for the film that shows the rebellion of black women slaves (e.g. Harriet Tubman). And for God’s sake, please don’t let that goofball/black woman-hater Russell Simmonsdirect it. Blah….
Otherwise, I recommend this film just on the fact it did try to show day-to-day life of being a slave. I liked that it showed the monotony of slavery. You woke up, picked cotton, probably got abused in some kind of way, got feed scraps, and went to bed. You woke up and did it all over again the next day. For the rest of your life. Damn. Black folks must never forget this, and always give honor to our ancestors who suffered for us to be here.
I hope folks had a safe and happy holidays 🙂 I got the opportunity to read a novel (Terry McMillan’s“Who Asked You?”), caught a couple of movies (“Hunger Games” and “12 Years a Slave.” I will write my thoughts about these films another day), and socialized with friends. I had a fun time, but now it’s time to get back into the swing of thangs. I wish everyone a fabulous new year 🙂
When I Googled Steve McQueen, the director of the new film “12 Years a Slave,” this image popped up:
I was confused, didn’t this man die years ago? I tweaked my search words and this image popped up:
Whew! I was worried there for minute 🙂 In any case, the film looks good. Any respectful drama about slavery, is always going to look better than that horrid Django mess. A film that was an insult to the slave experience.