Saturday, October 8, 2016

PEOPLE KEEP ASKING IF WE CAN SEPARATE THE ART FROM THE ARTIST


BUT BIRTH OF A NATION  PROVES THAT IS NOT THE RIGHT QUESTION
-


"You want me to be a tragic backdrop
so you can appear to be illuminated,
so that people can say
"wow isn't he so terribly brave
to love a girl who is so obviously sad?"

You think I'll be the dark sky
so you can be the star?

I'll swallow you whole"


~Warsan Shire





'


A couple of weeks back, I wrote an entire piece on Gabrielle Union's wobbly defense of Nate Parker. But Parker has been putting his foot in his own mouth so often and so fast, I haven't had a chance to really arrange the 10 million thoughts I have on some black women, even some black feminists like Union, automatically defending black men that are indefensible.

However, the main reason I held back on saying anything about Union is because I though it irresponsible to write about the content of "Birth Of A Nation" a movie I hadn't even seen based on one sentence in Gabriel Union's defense of Nate Parker. Yet, I was able to write what I wrote a few weeks before the movie came out because I felt it was pretty easy to guess how Parker would use black women and the rape scene he inserted into his movie. When a man sees black woman as a stereotype instead of real, it's just not that hard.  And now that I've read a couple of reviews, it's pretty clear that I guessed right.

And I guessed right because most people can't really create art that is very far from who they are. 

It was this one sentence that Gabrielle Union wrote about her part in the movie that made me pretty sure that Parker wasn't capable of imagining a three dimensional black woman with agency, much less a rape victim.



Union said,
"I took this role because I related to the experience. I also wanted to give a voice to my character, who remains silent throughout the film."

It was this one sentence of Union's made me remember a piece of a poem by Warsan Shire, quoted above. 


It was this one sentence of Union's that made me remember the countless number of television shows and movies where a man's wife or girlfriend is raped, where it's made to appear that this man's possession is raped and ruined for him, that the male hero's pain is the only pain that matters.  When patriarchy gives birth to rape culture and the rules are told in a story format, these are the stories you get -- stories very similar to The Birth Of A Nation


from USA TODAY 
by someone who HAS seen the movie

How 'Birth of a Nation' mishandles its portrayal of rape



The Birth of a Nation depicts two rapes.

In the first, Nat’s wife Cherry Ann (Aja Naomi King) is cornered by a group of slave catchers. Just a few scenes later, a white guest of Nat’s master Samuel (Armie Hammer) “requests” Esther, a slave played byGabrielle Union.
Neither of these rapes is shown onscreen. Cherry is cornered by her attackers, but the scene cuts away before they touch her. We see her bruised and swollen face later, when Nat goes to visit her sickbed. In the case of Esther, the attack takes place inside a house while the camera stays outside it. The shot lingers on the face of Esther’s husband Hark (Colman Domingo) during her assault. His pain and trauma are the focal point of the scene — Esther is merely a set piece. When she emerges, hurt and crying, she does not speak. He speaks. He speaks in that scene and much more later, when, as a result of what happened to Esther, he joins Nat’s rebellion.
At Nation’s bombastic Sundance premiere, Parker described most films dealing with American slaveryas "desperately sanitized." He said there was an ongoing "resistance to dealing with this material."
http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2016/10/07/birth-of-a-nation-nate-parker-rape-gabrielle-union/91694398/

When I read that Union is silent in this movie, I went from 95% to 99% sure that Nate Parker was incapable of doing anything but what he did.  

In story form, Parker showed us once more that rape and rape accusations are seen as what one man does to another -- as if the women are just collateral damage in a social war between men. This happens in real life, too. Men do actually see the raping another man's woman as harming that man, as taking away the other man's manhood by proving he can't "take care of his woman." That's why men have gone to war and raped the women of the conquered country so consistently throughout history. 

One of the reasons white men consistently raped black women in the United States during slavery and afterward when black women worked primarily as domestics through 1950s(?) was a declaration of white men conquering black men. The lynching of black men by white men was often based on the rape of a white woman that didn't exist --and I'm not JUST saying the black male rapes of white females didn't happen a lot of time. I'm saying the white woman didn't even exist. I'm saying that who rapes, who gets raped, and who winds up in jail for rape is a game where toxic masculinity and racism mix.  

Rape Accusation: A GAME BEST PLAYED BETWEEN MEN


People keep asking if we can separate the art from the artist. That's the question you ask when you want people to go see the movie and television shows of Nate Parker, Matt Damon, Bill Cosby, and Johnny Depp despite crime or ethical violation X. But that's not the right question.

The right question is this: Can the artist create art that is separate from himself.

And I think the answer should be a clear, "No!" 80% of the time, especially if that person is an author, producer, or director.



Think about it. What percentage of white people have successfully created black characters in books, television, and movies? My guesstimate is less than 10 to 15%. White people, as part of the dominant culture, can successfully ignore everything about race, racial perspective, the fact that they have a racial perspective, black  people and black life until they decide to make a movie at 30, 35, or 45 years of age with a black person in it. 

Black and brown people don't have the option to be blind to white people and to the effects of race. In fact, black and brown people have to have a nuanced vision of white people and how they see themselves to even successfully complete school, college, or just get a job. 

And when I think of black characters badly formed and presented as the more ridiculous stereotypes, I'm not talking about something as far back as Amos and Andy  or SapphireI'm talking about movies that are a lot more recent like Sandra Bullock's The Blind Side and Kevin Costner's Black and White.  


If white supremacy soaked white people make movies where they minimize the damage white racism does and/or make themselves the heroes in relation to black people what makes you think the rapist-minded sexist male is going to do anything different when he depicts women?

And when you let a rape-minded 
(or white supremacy minded) artist 
reproduce his vision of black women (or black people)
as something less than three-dimensional people with agency, 
as possessions rather than persons 
that are just backdrop 
against which the black man (or white person) can shine 
then you let that artist's values 
be presented as normal and acceptable to the general public, 
some of whom are influenced by this art.

That's unacceptable.

How is it even possible that anybody could believe 
that something different could come from a man
that wants to claim 
that the new nuanced definitions of the word "consent"
and the technical definitions of "rape"
is/was so confusing 
that he did not understand 
now or at 19 years of age 
that 
(1) putting his penis into a person that doesn't not want it there OR
(2) putting his penis into a person who is likely to be very angry about you having put your penis inside them 
as soon as she is sober  
--much less inviting others to do so-- 
is a heinous act
no matter what word you put on it?
There is about as much point debating the meaning of the words "consent" and "rape" and when they came to be defined or redefined as there is debating how racist white people were NOT in the 1700 to 1800 when they were enslaving, torturing, and genocide-ing blacks and First Nations people just because the word "racism" wasn't fully minted until 1879 to 1932.

Racists know what they are no matter what word you put on it when. They weren't "confused." They were simply evil as h*ll. Rapists aren't confused either.


Unlike Gabrielle Union, I do not think ending rape or reducing rape is a matter of education. I think it's a matter of instilling empathy (if that's even possible) combined with a making sure there is long and life-destroying punishment for rape.

This tends to mean that I think Cory Batey (black) got the right punishment at 15 to 20 years while Brock Turner (white) and Austin Wilkerson (white) did not, 3 months and 0 months respectively. Some black men want to complain about how Cory Batey's sentence was not fair. But it was fair. Batey's sentence was the sentence that's right. So all I can say to them about the comparison of Cory Batey to Brock Turner is too bad for for the white community and hurray for the black community.  

Women's lives will matter when 90% men of men guilty of rape go to jail for rape for 15 to 20 years instead of more than 90% never even seeing the inside of a police station. And Black Lives will matter when very similar conditions occur. When cops guilty of murder go to jail for rape for 15 to 20 years instead of more than 90% never even seriously being questioned, cops claiming to be scared because they somebody with dark skin was chewing their gum too loudly will cease.  

At this point, no matter how many people go to see Parker's film and support him, I am glad that so many black people have stood up and said "No!" to Nate Parker. This wouldn't have happened a few years back. That's why Parker is shocked and behaving so badly. 

He expected sympathy for what he went through after having gotten away with bypassing a woman's consent for years(?) 

Parker did not count on the fact that black women have long recognized the phrases like...
"You put yourself in that position" 
and 


"We ran a train on _________" *  


as marking the rapist as a rapist. 

He did not count on these phrases marking a man 

as easily as 

the use of the word "n*gger" marks the racist as a racist. 




The thing that's different now is that black feminists have a stronger voice. We can protest loud enough to be heard by black male run social media by white-dominated main stream media.

Once more, the right question is this: Can the artist remove what he is from the art he creates? And I have explained my answer. It is pretty much a resounding "H*ll No!"


However,  Bill Cosby might be a quasi-exception in that he created Claire Huxtable, pretty much a feminist, despite being what he is. And, 
I may have to allow that an actor may not be a creator of art of much as the paint an artist like the producer/director uses. Still, there are a few actors that make my stomach churn so much that I can't stand to see them in anything. (I don't want them to have my money anyway. So, it all balances out.)


As previously discussed, white people have not been able to remove their distorted and bizarrely uninformed views of race (due to being racially isolated)** from what they create upwards of 85% of the time when making books, television, and movies about black people.  But, I've only just recently realized just how much black female colorism Bill Cosby has injected into the all of the United States and especially into the black community through the The Cosby Show and A Different World because he couldn't separate himself and his values from his art. 

And now we know that Nate Parker didn't being separate what he is from being the writer, the director, and the star of "Birth Of A Nation" either. His attitudes toward rape, his own rape trial, how lightly he appears to have taken Celestin's initial conviction for rape, and the manner in which Parker inserted rapes that didn't happen into what's supposed to be a historical movie show that the artist spreads his values through his art. 




* - most often code for gang rape that's not seen as a gang rape because rape culture says ho-s can't be raped

**- most articles on the re-segregation of America back to 1968 levels focus on POCs not being able to get into more affluent school districts thus getting a better education. But what you should do is look for articles that look at how sooo very many white children being racially isolated thru age 18 (at school and at home) makes predominantly white schools a breeding ground for fertilizing and continuing white ignorance on race and therefore white racism.

**********

THE GABRIELLE UNION POST WITHHELD
from September 2016 to be posted tomorrow