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September 01, 2014, 10:11:28 AM
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Badmovies.org Forum  |  Movies  |  Good Movies  |  12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013) « previous next »
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Author Topic: 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013)  (Read 101 times)
indianasmith
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« on: August 31, 2014, 08:06:51 AM »

I had been simultaneously wanting to see this film and dreading it for some time.
It lived up to the best and worst expectations I had formed around it.
Powerful, intense, graphic, disturbing, inspirational, and at times utterly horrifying, 12 YEARS A SLAVE is a portrait of American slavery in all its ugliness.  As a historian, I was impressed by its accuracy in even the smaller details; as a Christian, I was horrified to see the ease with which Scripture was twisted to support slavery and crush all desire for freedom, and as a human being, I was appalled (but not surprised) to see the ease with which otherwise decent people accommodated to a system which placed their fellow men and women on the auction block to be purchased like cattle and abused in a manner which most people wouldn't even inflict on lower animals.
   Solomon Northup was a free black man from Saratoga, NY living with his wife and children in the year 1841.   Invited to play the violin for a traveling company of entertainers in Washington DC, he was kidnapped by slavers and sold to a plantation in Georgia.  His first master (well played by Benedict Cumberbatch) was a decent fellow, the kind of person who did his best to treat his slaves as human and make the best of an evil institution.  However, one of the two overseers is very jealous of the favor Solomon earns from his master, and eventually he and Solomon get into an altercation,  which results in Solomon being "sold down the river" to a new master, Edwin Epps, who is a real life Simon LeGree.  The slaves are forced to work long, brutal hours picking cotton, and then are summoned to the "big house" late at night to dance for their master's entertainment.  Epp's wife, Sarah, is an angry, bitter woman, insanely jealous of her husband's dalliance with the female slave Patsey, and ready to lash out at the unfortunate human chattel at any moment.  Patsey, played by Lupita N'Yongo, puts forward the most brilliant performance of the entire film, despising her master even as she is forced to endure his fickle mixture of physical lust and insane jealousy.  She is hardworking, picking more cotton than any male slave on the place, but even her hard work and physical charms cannot protect her from the jealous rage of her mistress or the sadistic temper of Epps.
  Filled with false hope, betrayal, despair, and ultimately redemption, I was totally bowled over.  The acting was brilliant, the story well executed, and the sets gorgeous.  Overall, I was most impressed with this film.
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« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2014, 09:57:11 AM »

I watched this with Tiana-it is a disturbing film-we like to think of America as the land of the free-but slavery-and the massacre of the Indian people rivals Nazi Germany.
It is a great film-I cried-actually f**kin cried-at parts of this film.. It is very sad.
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« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2014, 10:07:35 AM »

And I dont give a flying f**k about how good you treated your slaves-DAMMIT! You had slaves. You were going with the flow-so wrong.
People who dont fight the status quo are as guilty as the ones who implicate it.
Think "good" Germans in Nazi Germany.
Think Jim Jones.
Think Charlie Manson.
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\"Supernatural?...perhaps. Baloney?...Perhaps not!\" Bela Lugosi-the BLACK CAT (1934)


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indianasmith
Archeologist, Theologian, Elder Scrolls Addict, and a
Frightening Fanatic of Horrible Cinema
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A good bad movie is like popcorn for the soul!


« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2014, 02:25:48 PM »

The only thing that can be said in defense of those who owned slaves is that, up to that point in history,
EVERY society on earth had practiced or was practicing slavery in one form or another.  If you are raised
to think of something as normal and acceptable, that will be your preset position on that issue.  When
confronted with the true horrors of the institution, your options are to either reject it altogether, attempt
to rationalize it, or embrace the horror as part of the "natural order of things."  I do think that, in all like-
lihood, most Southerners adopted the middle course - making the best they could of a monstrous institution.
Those who had a cruel streak went the latter course, and the few who had the moral courage to stand up
and protest against the inhumanity of the institution did so.  Sadly, those few were usually either run out of
the South, or silenced . . . in some cases, permanently.

My ancestors were slaveowners.  They weren't planters - they owned one slave couple and the children that
couple bore.  I don't have any explicit information as to how they treated their slaves, except this - after
emancipation, the family slaves moved across the border into Louisiana.  But for as long as their former mistress
Elizabeth Smith lived, they came to visit every year at Thanksgiving and brought presents for her children and
grandchildren.  My grandfather, who was born in 1889 (Elizabeth's grandson), remembered them coming when he
was a small boy.

I like to think they did it because my ancestors were exemplary masters.  But I have no way of knowing - my
grandfather died before I was born.
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« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2014, 05:04:38 PM »


I do think that, in all like-lihood, most Southerners adopted the middle course - making the best they could of a monstrous institution.


Slavery was on its way out years before the Civil War, and the southern plantation owners knew it.  The slave trade itself was already illegal, and there have been historical studies that have shown that slavery itself followed the demise of trading by about 50 years, plus or minus. The US was no different in this regard to every other European country (and some others) that had outlawed the trade prior to outlawing slavery itself.

So, in the decade or so prior to the Civil War, "most" Southern slave owners were probably indeed trying to make the best they could of  monstrous situation.  The world at large had already shown them the immorality of slavery, and they could see the handwriting on the wall.

What was at stake was their livelihood, their very economy. And, it was not so simple as calling it "greed" on their part (though that is no doubt part of it).  The British benefited quite heavily, and strongly supported, Southern textile production even though the Brits had moral and legal opposition to slavery.  Brits even supported the South in the war "unofficially and under the table" (and sometimes illegally) to maintain the flow of cotton and other Southern products.  So, world markets were a factor.

At the very best, it was a very complicated issue and one that was then, and can be said now with historical hindsight, very screwed up...as one could easily imagine has to be the case when institutionalized immorality is rendered "normal."

My concern with any discussion or analysis like this is to ask, "Ok, what can we learn from this?"  You mentioned the ease with which people slid into, and accepted, "owning" another human being.  That is only made "easy" when that other human is defined as "the other."  It's an easy step from "the other" to "not even human."

And that, sadly, we have all around us every, single day.  There is "the other" in almost every political discussion. Take a peek at any 10 politically based blog sites you care to pick and read the articles and comments.  Hate is peddled as a commodity, and it is "justified" in the minds of those that push it on the mere basis of the fact that the hate is directed at "the other" ... someone "not like me" in some way, shape or form.  It could be race.  It could be politics.  It could be religion.  It could be something so seemingly innocuous as to seem immaterial.

Will we ever see institutionalized slavery again?  I doubt it.  I certainly hope and pray not.  But slavery is just one possible outcome of institutionalized division driven by constantly defining "the other."  Ronnie mentioned another in the example of the Final Solution.  There are others.

Peace out, gents.

(Haven't seen the movie, by the way...) 
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indianasmith
Archeologist, Theologian, Elder Scrolls Addict, and a
Frightening Fanatic of Horrible Cinema
****

Karma: 1389
Posts: 8110


A good bad movie is like popcorn for the soul!


« Reply #5 on: Today at 12:32:45 AM »

What I have seen in my studies of the era is that the more the tide of history turned against slavery, the more loud and fanatical the Southern intellectuals spoke out in favor of it.  Most slaveowners of the founding era agreed with Washington and Jefferson that the institution was a "necessary evil" - they wished it had never been brought to America and longed to be rid of it, but could see no practical way to get rid of it.  By the 1840's and 50's, however, intellectuals like George Fitzhugh of Virginian (author of "The Sociology of the South", a book-length defense of slavery) said that slavery was a positive good, a blessing to master and slave alike, and that "all the societal ills of the Yankee states stem from their erroneous belief that 'all men are created equal.' "  It is astonishing to me to this day to see the willingness with which Southerners threw America's founding principles under the bus in order to defend slavery.
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"Carpe diem!" - Seize the day!  "Carpe per diem!" - Seize the daily living allowance! "Carpe carp!" - Seize the fish!
"Carpe Ngo Diem!" - Seize the South Vietnamese Dictator!
ulthar
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Karma: 321
Posts: 3805


I AM serious, and stop calling me Shirley


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« Reply #6 on: Today at 08:08:23 AM »


It is astonishing to me to this day to see the willingness with which Southerners threw America's founding principles under the bus in order to defend slavery.


There are no doubt some got fanatical about it as you say.  But the hugest majority, from what I can tell, saw that slavery was on its way out.  They may have been vocal to the contrary, but I'm pretty sure the realists and the businessmen among them saw the path things were on.  They did not know the time frame, and without the war maybe it would have taken another 20 years.  We'll never know. 

But let's consider for just a moment this willingness to throw out the founding principles.  Now, make no mistake, I am not "justifying" slavery with what I am about to write; I'm merely stating it as an observation, and one that I believe is important to take from history and apply to contemporary times.

What the Southern plantation owners saw was their entire way of life being upturned.  They had built a form of "industry" and had supplied markets not only in the North but also in Europe.  The plantations were not operating in a vacuum...for the most part run by, not evil men, but businessmen.  None of them STARTED slavery; they inherited into a system that was "normal" to them and was, in point of fact, the very basis of the economy in which they were raised.

With the changing tide on 'acceptance' of their system, I think they got VERY defensive.  Would we do so?  Don't people all around us, globally, do the same?  They saw coming the complete and utter destruction of their way of life, their economy.  It was not so much "slavery" they were rabidly defending because they wanted to own other humans; rather, it was (a) all they knew as an economic system and (b) foolishly, they saw no other option.

(B) was the real problem.  They refused to adapt.  Again, we see that all around us now.  There are large, and very, very heated conflicts going on in coastal waters over "commercial fishing" in the US.  Some claim those conflicts are being caused by a refusal of such fishermen to adapt to changing economic trends. Who knows?

Also, we see a very similar model occurring in agriculture...itinerant migrant workers work so many farms in the US today, and the counter argument to that is "well, if we don't hire them, the price of PRODUCT_X will have to go up."  What's the difference?  The concept of "ownership?"

Economic oppression and keeping people poor has been labeled a form of slavery.  Yeah, migrant workers are not bought and sold on the auction block, so we could say we have stepped in the right direction.  But we have not stepped FAR in the right direction.  The same economic pressures that exist now that keep a lot of poor people poor were the drivers for secession.

With the war, the plantation owners got their worst nightmare.  Not only was their economic system completely uprooted, their very way of life (right or wrong...) completely destroyed, but the Post-War period utterly annihilated their culture and any hope of returning to economic strength.  I think that is about as far from the concept of "liberty" Jefferson envisioned one can get.

You mention the Founding Principles as something they rejected.  To a degree, perhaps that is true, especially in terms of "slave" vs "personal liberty."  But also the Found Principles included a certain fear or even outright loathing on the part of Jefferson (and others) for "Central Rule" and even the possibility for a man to LOSE EVERYTHING at the whim of centralized government. It astonishes me how any student of history can look at the secessionists and completely dismiss the connections with the Founding Principles.  There was no language in the Constitution regarding secession and the 10th Amendment is clear.  It is equally amazing how the Founding Principles can be sold at the alter of moral relativism and the kinds of abuses in the Declaration are dismissed if they align with some outside, subjectively determined justification.

In other words...it just ain't that simple.

Should they have lost their SLAVES?  Sure.  No argument.  But not only were the slave owners themselves punished, but the South has been damaged for generations.  I presently live near a part of town that was originally founded by freed slaves.  Those neighborhoods are today extremely poor, and that particular story is repeated throughout the South.  Even now, 150 years later, people are still paying the price of "Reconstruction."

As for the quote you mentioned, I cannot agree with it as stated (meaning, of course slavery is not good for the slave!).  However, I do wonder if the long term benefit would not have been greater had the slaves had a bit of a "softer landing" upon being freed.  They were freed into a region that was economically destroyed and as such, there could be no hope THEY would be, en masse, successful.  There are notable exceptions, of course...especially among very skilled craftsmen, but on the whole, the war and its aftermath did not do a whole lot to improve the lives of the people the government claimed to be trying to help.

The only real point I am trying to make, however, is that this topic (like that for ANY war) is deeply complicated and nowhere near as sound-bite reductionist as so many believe. 

We can hurl all the hatred we want at the slave owners and traders for the way they treated other humans, and justifiably so.  But at the end of the day, that emotion does not do jack squat for helping us objectively learn from history and look at those lessons to teach us about what is going on now.
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Professor Hathaway:  I noticed you stopped stuttering.
Bodie:      I've been giving myself shock treatments.
Professor Hathaway: Up the voltage.

--Real Genius
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