(Still Pending) Response to commenter Reuben Thomas, on Richard Brody's review of 12 Years a Slave
To me Brody does not get it. "Django unchained" is the film you want to see after seeing "12 years a slave". The last one simply came after. And I'm pretty sure of the historical existence of characters like the one depicted by Samuel L. Jackson in Tarantino's movie...
But it mystifies me more that Brody does not seem to be able to infer through his own imagination any of the realities actually suggested by both films. If we accept that it's actually impossible for even all of the slavery related films as a whole to narrate every single moment of real-life historical abuse, then we should offer our own minds to fill-in the blanks as homage to the effort and as proof of our own capacity for compassion. It's like Brody were saying that the current world is in such a state that without the explicit nature of these images we can no longer gather enough empathy against slavery.
I agree that empathy is lacking, but only because both films fail when they show the horrors of slavery as the result of the actions of madmen. The horrors of slavery were the result of the acts of psychologically sound businessmen and plantation entrepreneurs. People like you and me. People who truly believed in the inferiority of the black race and the need for slaves to sustain an economy and a way of life. Come on, even a war was fought around these "facts". I wish a film would come and actually show that
@reubenthomas Slavery was the result of madmen--or rather, people who were brutalized by their parents when they were young. When collectively childrearing is brutal enough, it leads to institutions where a populace re-afflicts the horrors inflicted upon them upon some simulacrum of their innocent, vulnerable childhood selves--what Germans in the 30s were getting themselves prepared to do. If you're the type to enjoy good parent Richard Brody's writings, you're way beyond being someone who could be indoctrinated into seeing any institutionalized human torture as okay. Doesn't matter if your head was drained of all prior teachings; unless somehow they excavated all the love you received out of you--you're beyond them.
I also have major doubts about slavery as about good economy, but little that most people want to flee considering how the particular nature of their childhoods is still afflicting them. The typical historian's method of evasion, is to see humans as essentially the same--as rational, homo economicus. Trust me, the societies that were abandoning the institution of slavery, did so fundamentally because through increased love from generation to generation, they'd become people who no longer felt the perverse need.
The Africans that were stolen out of Africa, what were their societies like? Did they possess institutions as abhorrent as slavery? If so, that was something they were going to have to work out of themselves, through the same means--increased empathy from mother to daughter, gradually over generations--as well.
Link: Richard Brody's review of 12 Years a Slave (New Yorker)