Sunday, September 8, 2013
Marvin X reviews The Butler
We would like to say The Butler jarred our collective memory, but Dr. Nathan Hare says we have no collective memory, thus we cannot suffer amnesia for amnesia presumes we lost something or forgot something, but Hare says we cannot lose something we never had! Thus the present generation simply has no knowledge of events prior to hip hop, no knowledge of segregation, no knowledge of the Civil Rights struggle, of the Black Panthers, indeed, the American educational system tried to wipe out all knowledge of the past, even when we see The Butler in the White House, we are never informed Africans built the White House, designed the White House! So we get half truths paraded as truth and youth then assume we were the perennial butlers and maids and nothing more, except suddenly, like Jack out of the box, we jumped into the White House and became president of the United States.
In a rapid pace narrative we see the Butler gives us hints of American barbarity and forced submission to the American slave system. The rape is there, the humiliation, the passivity in the making of a house nigger, and what greater creation of a house nigger can there be except the nigger in the White House; yet we see the extension of the house nigger, the butler, in the performance of the first Black president, although this movie stopped at his election wherein we were indeed elated that the butler had transformed his persona--yet we have seen again the more things change, the more they remain the same.
Again, what a wonderful narrative of the house nigger, a lesson for all of us to consider to what extent we shall play the role and dance the schizophrenic Tango of masks, of illusion and reality. In the Butler we see how the toxic environment of racism destroys men, women and children. The father is a perfect picture of servility and passivity. Of course this is appointed role of every person caught in the American slave system. Some perform the role dutifully, some resist as the son, others medicate as did the mother and son who died in Vietnam. Ironically, the young Black woman acknowledged the necessity of violence in her resistance. We watched The Butler with a married couple, of which the wife had said after Zimmerman was found not guilty of killing Trayvon Martin, she was ready to kill the first white person she saw!
In short, the Butler was great history and social-psychology. It challenges North American Africans to decide what role they shall play in the liberation of themselves, whether we shall submit or resist.
We think the director, Lee Daniels, did a great job with his method of contrasting scenes to illuminate our understanding of events, from scenes of submission at the White House to those of resistance in the Civil Rights movement. The make up of Forest Whitaker as The Butler transformed his persona into that classic tragic masks revealing the utter humiliation of his character and the devastation of his personality as a human being. Without words, his persona revealed his pain.
Oprah Winfrey as the mother should be applauded for revealing how we often medicate ourselves with alcohol and other drugs to escape the psychosocial trauma of life in a toxic environment.
Terrence Howard portrayed an excellent neighbor caught up in the mythology of pussy and dick.
Of course David Oyelowo as the radical son captured my heart. When we suggest radicals work on their families, try to liberate their families, the radical son's character is what we mean--yes, do the community work but don't neglect your family because as we saw in this drama, it's all about the family, either its destruction or construction, i.e., liberation. We saw the son ultimately won his father to the cause of Black liberation and Pan African liberation. Once families are united, the revolution is won!
--Marvin X, Editor, Black Bird Press News & Review