Monday, August 19, 2013

                                   Lee Daniels' The Butler Speaks To, For, And 
                 About Many  of Us (Our Experiences)                                             

I, like many others, saw the movie "The Butler" over the weekend.  Having grown up during the turbulent 1960s in Mississippi, many of the scenes in the movie resonated personally with me.  I cried from the first scene throughout almost the entire movie. Notwithstanding that the movie evoked raw emotions in me, I wholeheartedly embrace the movie and applaud the coalition of people who had the resources and foresight to come together to make the movie. 

"The Butler" may be, in the words of one reviewer, more a fable than a  biopic, but I and many others who lived through the period depicted and experienced some of the things depicted in the movie know that the  "fable" is historically based.  In fact, it is sufficiently historically based to be illuminating and to lead to more research and soul searching for those whose minds and hearts are not closed.  As one who was a maid in Mississippi homes during the 1960s, I know it was not only White House butlers and maids who were told to wear the mask and to make themselves invisible while serving and moving about "the house."

It thus was a bit disconcerting, but not surprising, for some bloggers to view the movie as "a heavy-handed, history lesson, strangely distant, and often forced and self-conscious" and as "a lecture and lesson to whites about race relations."  The groups with whom I saw and discussed the movie do not share those views.  It seems to me that, the issue with the above-referenced bloggers is that Mr. Daniels and the writers stepped out of a role that coloreds,  Negroes, Afro-Americans, African Americans and Blacks traditionally have played: make others, especially whites, feel comfortable.  The director, writer, and producers are to be applauded for stepping out of that role, even if it was not their goal. History has taught us, as did the movie in some way, that we as humans do not take action until we feel discomfort.  

If the aforementioned bloggers had been truly immersed in America's sordid history, they would not have felt they were being lectured to or that the movie was a heavy handed history lesson.

Mr. Daniels and your collaborators, my thanks to you.

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