Veteran actor Joe Morton is the latest to weigh in on the preponderance of slave and domestic films coming out of Hollywood, claiming they do nothing but enflame Black people and further polarize race relations.
Morton, who is currently playing the villainous and powerful “Eli Pope” on the hit ABC series Scandal, opines that the entirety of the Black experience is not considered valuable in Hollywood. He also believes that if Black youth constantly see themselves portrayed as victims, they will begin to only see themselves as such.
Read more from Morton’s essay, “When Will Black Historical Films Focus On Triumph, Rather Than Plight?“:
12 Years A Slave is a film that is beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, and told in a compelling manner. However, there are some questions, in my opinion, as to its importance. Paramount among those questions is, What does this scenario illustrate that we didn’t know or haven’t seen before? And why does such a film garner such popularity? And the list of questions goes on: Why are equal rights the greatest, and seemingly the only, commercial product for so-called black film coming out of Hollywood? Does this imply that mea-culpa-slavery-films are an artistic perennial for a predominately white audience? Why are there few films about African American heroes, produced by Hollywood, as opposed to African American victims? Why has there never been a film about Nat Love or William Pickett (African American cowboys), Bass Reeves (the first African American lawman in the west who, if Reeves were fictional, would be a combination of Sherlock Holmes, Superman, and the Lone Ranger) or The Exodusters (African American pioneers who ventured west)? These are stories about people who took charge of their own destinies and were only victims of their individual circumstances, like their white counterparts. These are characters that are heroic, not victims.
It is very difficult for me, as an American of African descent, to view a film like 12 Years a Slave, as brilliant as it might be perceived, without being angered about the amount of violence perpetrated upon black flesh and black womanhood, without feeling that the self-worth of modern day African Americans is being diminished, without feeling that this kind of film enflames an omnipresent and smoldering mistrust of whites by blacks.