Libertarian gush and tosh over the film “12 Years a Slave” is worse than juvenile; it’s anti-intellectual.
Anyone who asserts that the book is “one of the greatest autobiographies [he's] ever read,” as this libertarian educator does, can’t be serious, and if he is serious, should not be taken seriously. (And what does the choice of this lackluster “literature” say about the Ron Paul Curriculum? Maybe The Curriculum should confine itself to economics and leave the teaching of literature to those who know and love the canon of English literature.)
White Americans—liberals, conservatives and libertarians—appear constitutionally primed to convulse hysterically over all things racial. (Check out how Ann Coulter’s C-SPAN CPUKE audience goes wild when she insists the GOP is the party of blacks and Hispanics.)
Since “the 1852 publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” “the slave-narrative craze” has been going strong.
An ideologue is not necessarily an intellectual. The responsibility of a public intellectual, in this case, is to provide an intellectual appraisal of a cultural product. The ideologue who isn’t an intellectual will struggle with the task (not that his readers or students will know the difference).
Not suffering the foregoing deficit, Steve Sailer nails “12 Years a Slave,” about which I ventured that “I’m no more inclined to turn to [its star] Lupita Nyong perform reruns of ‘Roots,’ for entertainment, than I am to subject myself to Oprah Winfrey and her M.O.P.E. (Most Oppressed Person Ever) ‘Butler.’”
Writes Sailer: “12 Years a Slave is hailed by critics as a long-awaited breakthrough that finally dares to mention the subject of slavery after decades of the entertainment industry being controlled by the South. Yet as cinema encyclopedist Leonard Maltin notes”:
12 Years A Slave is a remake. What’s more, the original television film was directed by the celebrated Gordon Parks. Why no one seems to remember this is a mystery to me, yet all too typical of what I’ll call media amnesia. It first aired on PBS in 1984 as Solomon Northup’s Odyssey, reached a wider audience the following year when it was repeated as an installment of American Playhouse, and made its video debut under the title Half Slave, Half Free.
“You can watch the 1984 version online for $2.99.
The remake has more whippings, though.”
… it’s built upon a fourth-rate screenplay that might have embarrassed Horatio Alger. Screenwriter John Ridley’s imitation Victorian dialogue is depressingly bad, reminiscent of the sub-Shakespearean lines John Wayne had to deliver as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror.
The message behind the ongoing enshrinement of the rather amateurish 12 Years a Slave is that the cultural whippings of white folk for the sins of their great-great-great-great-grandfathers will continue until morale improves.
Steve McQueen (an art-house filmmaker who is a black Brit of West Indian background) directs 12 Years a Slave in a sort of minor league Passion of the Christ manner. (Incidentally, it’s obnoxious for anybody involved with movies today to call himself “Steve McQueen” instead of, say, “Steven McQueen.” In contrast, there were two 20th-century writers named Thomas Wolfe, but the second had the good manners to call himself “Tom” to minimize confusion.)
Some of the appeal to critics is that Northern whites are shown as saints of racial sensitivity in the film’s preposterous first 20 minutes. 12 Years a Slave opens in 1841 with Solomon Northup (stolidly played by the Anglo-Nigerian actor Chiwetel Ejiofor) being effusively admired by his white neighbors in Saratoga, New York. Northup is a model of prosperous bourgeois respectability, always doffing his top hat to his white peers while out riding with his wife and children in an elegant carriage. (Watch 0:24 to 0:35 in the trailer.)
How could he afford that?
Well, actually, he didn’t and couldn’t.
A glance at Northup’s ghostwritten 1853 memoir makes clear that in 1841, rather than being a pillar of this Yankee community, he was an unemployed fiddler dragged down by his own “shiftlessness”: …