Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Was Selma A Setup?

From Django and The Butler, to 12 Years A Slave... to Selma. From forced slavery, to voluntary slavery, to “free” citizen with marginal rights, and finally: “free” citizen with civil rights. From past disgrace and defeat, to present-day pride and victory. Viewed collectively, these stories speak of achievement, and triumph: a true nation of equality. Or do they? Something is wrong with this picture.

For years – ever since Spike Lee released “X” - I'd often wondered when they were going to come out with MLK. It seemed like a big-screen no-brainer. I had no idea back then how calculated & coordinated Hollywood was with their releases, regarding both subject matter & time line. Much more could be discussed on the topic... but back then, my question was simply: when's Dr. King's?

Most of us get so caught up in the entertainment, that the actual purpose & intent – even effects – of entertainment, slips right by our eyes undetected, like a vandal in camouflage. This too is not by accident, but by design. Each film that these money-massing studios churn out is put out to convey, relay, and implant specific ideas, messages, and images. Influence, suggestion, and propaganda. That is the point.

All things connect. And where film is concerned, the desired effect can be hard to project or predict, but no less debilitating psychologically. Always consider which films receive the highest ratings, the strongest recommendations, the most awards, the largest budgets – the most pervasive advertising. This includes social media: free marketing disguised as open opinion. These “blockbusters” tie-in with one another to tell a greater story, and convey a wider message. In this case, the message deals with all peoples of melanin, especially those in America.

It is a tightly-formulated attempt to present their history as follows: captivity > oppression > freedom. With Selma, the idea is that “we've arrived”; progress has been made, and times have changed. Django, The Butler, 12 Years – all that's in the past – which is why Selma would not have been released before the public was deluged with a slew of slave stories. But have things really changed where it counts?

That's not to say these films contain no shade of truth to them, but their portrayal of past events is very slanted in a single direction. Compare the prominence such films receive, to those that portray people of melanin in a truly honest and commendable role, without having to play sidekick or backseat driver, and understand that there are those that make a concerted effort to influence our perceptions of people, for less than noble reasons.

Of course, these films don't just affect how people of melanin view themselves, but how the rest of the population thinks of them as well. This comes with many social implications that play out daily, on small and large scales. With Selma, one of the intended implications is when a person of color does wrong – especially a young male – it must be him. No honest appraisal of society, or the condition of his family. Thanks to the civil rights movement, he's been given as much opportunity as the next person. This kind of reasoning is used to justify legal crimes. 

Despite the rampant examples of social injustice that still plague people of melanin, most of the public will see what's on TV or at the show and think “there must just be something wrong with Black people”, and such thinking is soon revealed by actions. They won't see the causes of these events; just the events. Yet the same forces that implemented the policies and restrictions that actively opposed the people then, actively oppose the people now. And instead of waiting for the wolf to remove its fangs, perhaps we would do better to take greater care of ourselves... meaning each other.

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