Last night I watched 12 Years a Slave, or tried to. The film oozed righteous indignation and was less a movie than a polemic, a seemingly gratuitous, unnecessary one. Who still defends the institution of slavery or advocates discrimination against black people in a country with a black president? Who is the movie meant to instruct with its ideology (it barely passes as entertainment)? The film was so earnest it even turned Brad Pitt into a pious actor (I wouldn’t have thought it possible if I hadn’t seen it). I was ready to enjoy a rousing character drama about slavery, but I didn’t find a living soul in the movie: just sock puppets for the film’s humanitarian message.
Gravity and 12 Years a Slave are seen as great and noble movies, while The Counselor is reviled as shallow, inept, nihilistic. I am so out of sync with the culture I live in that I may as well be from another planet. Sometimes I think I am. The more politically “aware” the world becomes, the stupider people get, and I begin to wonder, seriously, why I want to contribute to the discussion at all.
Personally I found the film offensive, though I have trouble explaining exactly why (I’d like to know how black people feel about it). I think it has to do with how (IMO) it played on white guilt in order to make the viewer feel extra-virtuous for supporting it, the film. It had a bullying quality to it. Viewers will always support a movie that makes them feel virtuous (what good movie ever made anyone feel virtuous?); playing on our guilt is a good way to intensify that desire.