The Box Office Numbers Proves That America Isn’t Ready For “Birth Of A Nation”

Am I obsessed with Nate Parker?

With the number of blogs I’ve written critiquing the man, one would think so. But after a long talk with my husband, who supports Nate Parker and wants to see him do better by little brown boys who will one day want to shake up Hollywood as he did, I think I’m doing more rooting for him these days, than criticizing.

birthofnationposterI want to see him change the way little boys view rape culture. I want to see him tell a hell of a story about James Baldwin, or Audre Lord – two black LGBTQ heroes who deserves to have their stories told on the big screen.

But with the negative press his revolutionary film, “The Birth Of A Nation,” has garnered over the past few weeks, it’s almost impossible to see the clouds beyond the trees.

Like his very uncomfortable interview with Robin Roberts where Nate said that he refused to “apologize” for feeling remorse for his past rape allegations. Despite the fact that his accuser committed suicide because of it, he said that he refused to feel “remorse” for what happened. To be fair, he also said that he felt bad that the rape victim died.

As someone who wants to support black brothers doing big things in Hollywood, but who also doesn’t want to support rape culture or homophobia, I think it’s only fair for me to feel conflicted about whether or not to support the movie.

Regardless of my feelings, my husband made it plain to me that Nat Turner changed the world when he stood up to oppression that fateful night in 1831 when he slaughtered 55-65 white people in pure exhaustion of being a man’s human property. My husband asked me at what point was I going to put my feelings aside for the filmmaker, and at the minimum give a listening ear and open eyes to what fed up black people actually looks like to white people? To be honest, no one has really showed white people what it looks like since Nat’s  revenge.

That’s why I think “Birth” flopped on opening weekend at the box office. No one is prepared for a story like Nat Turner’s, no matter how much smack talk runs from the collective voices of Black Twitter.

When it comes to “Birth,” there are some things about Nat Turner’s story that Americans aren’t ready to face.

nat-turner
Nat Turner’s capture.

When Nat Turner was hanged following his our revolt, it is said that his skin was made into lamp shades, belts, purses, and accessories. The decedents of Nat Turner were just given his skull several days ago. After that, the Second Amendment transformed into the “every white person in America can have a gun, except black people” mess that it is today. Let’s not forget that the Second Amendment was born out of white fear of slave insurrections. On a micro scale, we see what that fear looks like for black licensed carriers who have had deadly police encounters (RIP Philando Castille).

The idea that black people could become fed up enough to slaughter is a tough pill for many audiences to swallow, both black and white. Like it or not, Nat Turner’s death gave birth to white fear on a scale that’s almost impossible for them to forgive or forget. The death of the 200 slaves that died during and following the revolt -and some had little to do with it – helped to breed black fear against other blacks, and that’s a legacy that’s also just as impossible to shake.

It’s hard for me to admit it, but Nat Turner’s story became a hood classic the moment Nat raised his machete. That doesn’t mean that it’s a story that doesn’t deserve to be told, because it does. But Nat’s story serves as a scary reminder of what it looks like when black people have really had enough of oppression, and the results won’t be pretty.

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3 thoughts on “The Box Office Numbers Proves That America Isn’t Ready For “Birth Of A Nation”

  1. I obviously don’t speak for the entire movie going public, but personally, I never go to see movies because they “tell a story that deserves to be told.” I go see movies that promise to entertain me. It seems to me that the box office numbers for this movie are indicative only of the fact that the movie did not make that promise evident to enough people.

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    1. Perhaps Fox didn’t do enough to help market re movie as entertaining as well. Very good point.

      But the movie comes with a piece of history that not a lot of people are ready to address.

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      1. I think when you make a movie (or write a book – I’m an author) you generally have to decide first on your goal for the project. Is it to entertain or is it to inform? Perhaps both can be done, but it’s difficult. This movie was never sold by anyone as, “Dude, this is a fun movie. You’re going to love it.”

        If you can give me a fun movie that I’m going to love, the subject matter is fairly irrelevant. In the same vein, there are few, if any, subjects that would make me go to a movie that doesn’t promise fun.

        So while I don’t know if your thesis that a lot of people aren’t ready to address this subject is correct or not, I really don’t think that the performance of this movie either supports or refutes the point.

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