Saturday, March 2, 2013

I Didn't Know Lincoln Was Jesus, and Other Things I Learned at the Movies

I may not bring 400 hundred years of slavery and  oppression to Lincoln--I'm not that old. But I do bring two films worth of acid reflux to this latest attempt by le Spielberg to deal with the Negro question. So, in addition to *SPOILING THE PLOT* of Lincoln, I fear this post may also spoil the cheering over the national reunification the film wants to praise and call forth again.

My first disappointment with Spielberg's colored people was in The Color Purple. To keep this part brief, suffice it to say that I don't mind films differing from books. I do mind when they veer from the womanist politics of the novel by having the one female character who is independent of the story's violent men turn 180 degrees for no reason to cry out "Papa, I'se married!" That's not a difference; that's a violation of the whole spirit of the enterprise.

More recently, in the days of Amistad, Speilberg said (on Oprah, with Debbie Allen near him for backup) that he wanted to create a story so that his adopted black children could be proud of their country. I kept thinking that there is another option: help create a country your adopted black children can be proud of. In any case, this desire to exculpate the nation led him to the absolutely false courtroom climax in which John Quincy Adams wins the freedom of the Amistad mutineers through an impassioned Abolitionist speech when, in fact, JQA argued that, as they revolted at sea and were not yet the property of a slaveholder in the Americas, they should be free to return home. JQA was an unlikely hero for a story of the triumph of colorblindness anyway, he who withheld his sympathy from Desdemona in a review of Othello, because he believed that nature would always punish such outrages as sex across the color line.

So I come to Lincoln not primed to be pleased.