facebook twitter feed
Friday, 16 August 2013 18:17

'The Butler' is Black America’s Next Homework Assignment

Written by 
Rate this item
(1 Vote)

Several weeks ago, I saw comedian W. Kamau Bell, host of the FX show Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell and he did an entire set on black “homework” movies. He said every few years there’s a black movie that everybody is supposed to see because a bunch of influential black folks are in the movie or political and cultural leaders say it’s important that we support the film. Some black homework movies are actually good, like Fruitvale Station or 42, where you’re entertained and you actually learn something. Sometimes they’re like Red Tails where you realize that just because it’s an historic movie about black people, doesn’t mean the film is actually any good. Fortunately this week Lee Daniels’ The Butler comes out, a movie that is not only worthwhile black homework, but objectively is one of the best movies out of Hollywood in years.
Let me preface by saying I would never have gone to see The Butler based on the trailers for the film. Usually, when Hollywood markets a ‘black film' the trailers are geared towards attracting white audiences since the assumption is that black people will pay to see anything with Oprah in it. The trailers for The Butler make it look like another black ‘struggle’ film about some downtrodden black family that manages to survive by keeping their heads down and accepting racism by being apolitical and staying true to their values. Essentially a big screen version of “Good Times”.
Fortunately The Butler is much more than Momma’s crying and wayward sons. The Butler manages to do something that most 'black homework' movies fail to do, which is actually telling the story of black people. Most black movies are really just the story of how white people’s lives are affected by the black people they know. The Last King of Scotland was supposed to be about Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, but the movie focused on a young white doctor and his liberal guilt and jungle fever. As much as I liked 42, the movie spent as much time focused on the white managers, teammates and press covering Jackie Robinson, as it did on the baseball icon himself. The Butler focuses squarely on the family of Cecil Gaines, from the good times and the bad, painting a picture of middle class black life in Washington D.C. something that is rarely if ever seen on film.
Gaines' (who is played by Forest Whitaker) life story is based on a Washington Post interview with Eugene Allen, a black man that served as a butler to eight presidents, from Dwight Eisenhower to Ronald Reagan over the course of 34 years. While liberties were taken with Allen’s life, the historic interactions he has with presidents in the film are amazing, humorous and validating. The war planning, treaties and policy decision that he was witness to make this movie a kind of black Forrest Gump, where a common man with a sincere heart finds himself in the middle of dozens of history altering moments just by the nature of showing up to work every day for 34 years.
The movie doesn’t cheat the audience, all racists don’t get their comeuppance, everyone doesn’t live happily ever after and some victories in the film are small and only shared by a precious few. However the movie never wallows in struggle-porn either, extolling the values of survival over living during the American apartheid. This film shows the totality of African American life, happy families, house parties in the 70’s and moments that are laugh out loud funny.
The main reason the story of Cecil Gaines is so moving is because every single actor in the film is amazingly spot on. Within five minutes you forget you’re watching Oprah as she transforms into Cecil Gaines' loving and often troubled wife. David Olewayo, one of my favorite actors from the BBC spy show "MI-5" chews up every scene as Gaines' son, and delivers his own personal story arc that is inspiring and motivating as opposed to stereotypical narrative of the prodigal son. There are so many stars and guest appearances in this film that you can clearly tell that everyone involved knew that cinematic history was being made.
You shouldn’t just go out and see The Butler this weekend because Oprah is in it, or because a lot of smart and important black people say it’s “good” for us to see the film. You should see it, because the movie is well acted, painful, exciting, and historic and sometimes laugh out loud funny. See it because movies like this don’t get made often enough, and this is one homework assignment that you’ll be glad you took the time to finish.


  • Comment Link bhpvtus Wednesday, 01 March 2017 13:52 posted by bhpvtus

    Vaccination is awarded after shorter visits to such additions if the traveler will often be then e. Theobald CE Jr, Mats SH, Deliberate MJ, et al: Ophthalmic care seeking adolescents: handful get through attests and fewer get by us, Hobgoblins, 2009. http://viagra-withoutadoctorprescription.us/#89690 viagra without a doctor prescription. Acetazolamide has been made empirically based on its resembling of hypoxic divisible vasoconstriction in adults and the conventional peril of hypotension and suspended tachycardia with nifedipine. Eureka in the of age, mammals investigating tempests of preventing motherhood redness elaborated that smoking the appendage numerous intraocular pressure.

  • Comment Link Charlesfaimi Wednesday, 01 March 2017 02:08 posted by Charlesfaimi

    wh0cd610314 clomid effexor xr 150 mg toradol back pain

  • Comment Link jzph57 Tuesday, 28 February 2017 15:48 posted by jzph57

    Learn the several ways to row a squawk close to Medicare, http://viagra-withoutdoctorprescriptions.net/#68817 viagra without a doctor prescription depending on what your kick is about. You can submit feedback about your Medicare robustness down or instruction tranquillizer envisage unswervingly to Medicare using the online squawk form.

  • Comment Link egm34m Tuesday, 28 February 2017 15:48 posted by egm34m

    Learn the separate ways to file a grouse yon Medicare, http://www.withoutadoctorprescription.net/ viagra without a doctor prescription depending on what your grumble is about. You can submit feedback almost your Medicare health plan or instruction tranquillizer arrangement undeviatingly to Medicare using the online grievance form.

  • Comment Link Charlesbrula Monday, 27 February 2017 11:18 posted by Charlesbrula

    wh0cd386065 zestril trileptal vasodilan mirapex serevent

  • Comment Link jucv84 Sunday, 26 February 2017 07:35 posted by jucv84

    The Popular Patient's Certify of rights and responsibilities sets out the passkey rights and responsibilities of people receiving pains within the Maltese fitness feel interest arrangement and provides information to underpin the provision of safe http://viagrawithoutdoctorsprescription.us/#43975 viagra without a doctor prescription and tipsy mark meticulousness, and to authenticate a shared reasoning power of the rights and responsibilities of people receiving care. The Unaggressive’s Charter is structured around the following 8 principles:

  • Comment Link KennethDow Saturday, 25 February 2017 19:26 posted by KennethDow

    wh0cd363057 cialis rx

  • Comment Link armtfb Thursday, 23 February 2017 23:33 posted by armtfb

    How is Tadalafil different from the currently approved products recompense erectile dysfunction (ED)? Viagra is contrasting from other currently approved products http://viagranonprescription.com/ viagra without prescription for ED in that it stays in the body longer. At any rate, there were no studies that just compared the clinical efficacy and safeness of Cialis to other products

  • Comment Link mlpqfm Thursday, 23 February 2017 23:32 posted by mlpqfm

    How is Tadalafil different from the currently approved products for erectile dysfunction (ED)? Viagra is odd from other currently approved products http://viagranonprescription.com/ viagra without a doctor prescription for ED in that it stays in the association longer. In whatever way, there were no studies that right away compared the clinical efficacy and aegis of Cialis to other products

  • Comment Link kygy28 Thursday, 23 February 2017 20:48 posted by kygy28

    Hello, hows the family?, substitute viagra uk
    http://www.viagrawithoutadoctorsprescriptions.net/ viagra without a doctors prescription
    fake viagra bottle

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.