The Birth of a Nation opened last weekend to OK numbers and less than favourable reviews. If you haven’t heard, black women are to blame for the mediocre opening of a mediocre movie. To recap, this is the film written by, directed by and starring alleged rapist Nate Parker. Some self-identified black feminists (including me) wrote about their conflicted feelings about the film and their individual decisions about supporting The Birth of a Nation. Over the past few days, these women with opinions (how dare we) have been accused of singlehandedly taking down the movie. This piece posted on Medium was the catalyst for the onslaught of blame. It’s called Birth of a Nation’s Box Office Flop and The Unrepentant Pettiness of Black Feminists. It’s even written by a black woman. I can’t with this entire BS rant. I had to stop halfway through before I broke actual things on my desk I can’t afford to replace. Here’s a gem:
Birth of A Nation has flopped in the box office and we have black feminism, which is just fancy cyber vernacular for “I hate black men because I always choose the wrong types of black men to entertain” and their male minions to thank.
Oh, the old ‘feminists hate men because they were rejected by them’ trope. How refreshing. Is your left eye twitching with rage, yet? Just mine? Maybe this tweet by well-known black journalist Roland Martin will put you over the edge:
This is where I, like I do often when the words in my brain have been replaced with expletives and angry face emojis, quote Roxane Gay:
“[This] is so absurd and facile it would be laughable if it wasn’t so f-cking pathetic. Who even knew about Nate Parker’s wife? Who the hell cares? No one with any goddamned sense.”
I didn’t know Nate Parker’s wife was white until the 60 Minutes interview a couple weeks ago. This hasn’t come up in a single conversation I’ve had with black women about the issue in the months I’ve been writing about this movie. This is a bullsh-t and offensive reason to justify why *some* women pulled their support of the film. Focusing on Nate Parker’s white wife instead of his rape case and the arrogant and unrepentant behaviour he’s displayed over this entire press tour is ridiculous. The Nate Parker BOAN press tour should be preserved forever and catalogued under ‘this is how NOT to promote a movie.’ But no, it couldn’t have been the alleged rapist with no redeeming qualities’ fault his movie underperformed a bit at the box office. Of course, it’s not his fault for creating a movie Sarah called, “an average actor/director vanity project” in her review.
Nope. It was the black women.
Bridget Todd wrote a hilariously sarcastic piece, which also ran on Medium, in which she points out that it’s absurd that black feminists plotted to take down this film and succeeded.
“When I heard the news that Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation was a giant flop with both critics and the box office, I laughed heartily to myself while I lovingly stroked my copy of This Bridge Called My Back that I keep next to my jar of male tears… we Black women are drunk off of the power that comes with controlling every aspect of society.”
Think of how ludicrous it sounds to accuse black women of having enough influence and power to conspire to bring down a film with Oscar buzz and big studio backing when we aren’t even seen as influential enough to be represented proportionately on screen? If black feminists wielding keyboards had that much power I can assure you that orange piece of sh-t predator would have already been banished to Palm Springs or wherever it is rich f-cks go to retire from life, the Obamas would be serving 10 more terms, and Iggy Azaelea wouldn’t be a thing. Actually, we might have taken care of that last one.
I do think the conversation about Nate Parker’s rape case was a factor in the film’s faltering support but why aren’t we blaming the mainstream media outlets or reviews written by white writers which mentioned Parker’s past or gave the film a poor review? Why are we blaming anyone other than the filmmaker?
In Roxane Gay’s essay about this topic called The Burden of Black Art which I quoted earlier, she talks about the pressure that is placed on black audiences if black films don’t succeed. She mentions how f-cked up it is that black women are being chastised for not blindly supporting this film out of some sort of unspoken duty to our race.
“Other movies about black lives, past and present, WILL be made. And this brings us to the burden of black art, which is expected to be consumed mindlessly and uncritically so that it might succeed so that more black art can be made… We need the chance to be flawed and to create flawed black art without the fate of all black art and black artists hanging in the balance.”
Usually, I do feel the burden of supporting a film solely because it is created by black artists out of fear its failure will mean more black art won’t be made. It’s one of the reasons I was so conflicted about The Birth of a Nation months ago. But shouldn’t I be able to decide if a film isn’t worthy of my time and attention without being called a traitor to my race? If staying home or going to see Queen of Katwe instead of Nate Parker’s mediocre mess of a movie makes me a petty black feminist, I’m OK with that.