12 Years a Slave: A Dismissal

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.

I wondered today to my wife, what was the point in making the film (what was its propaganda purpose)? She said there’s an ongoing debate in the US about whether black people should be “recompensed’” for what was done to their ancestors, so the film could add fuel to that. The other angle my wife suggested was that it was implicitly contesting the growing feeling of westerners that we are wage slaves, effectively saying, “You think you have it bad, look at THIS!” This seems plausible to me. It will be harder for people to suggest that they are slaves to capitalism in the context created by the movie.

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.

Thoughts anyone?

54 thoughts on “12 Years a Slave: A Dismissal

  1. Sadly, the funny thing about movies like these is that you know there are probably thousands and thousands of normal people who watched it that were touchingly ‘moved’ by it. I bet many emotions were boringly churned and the crappy drama you’re saying’s in there filled some holes in people’s lives. Reminds me of how poorly I can think of modern culture when I see people getting emotional and passionate about how ‘we won the gold at the Olympics’ or when someone rattles on about ‘black history month’ like it’s not something completely stupid and childish.

  2. I’ll watch it, tonight or tomorrow night, and comment here. I’m curious though, lycaeus, why you think black history month (and in what context), or even winning the gold at the olympics (and again, in what context?), is ‘childish’…?

  3. And, before I watch the film, “Who still defends the institution of slavery or advocates discrimination against black people in a country with a black president?”

    Well, quite a few people, considering how “far” we’re supposed to have come. And a half black president, who hardly even addresses black issues and was raised by his white mother, and didn’t exactly live “The Black American Experience” is hardly the ‘first black president’…

  4. —I’m curious though, lycaeus, why you think black history month (and in what context), or even winning the gold at the olympics (and again, in what context?), is ‘childish’…?

    Black history month is lame in my opinion because it’s encouraging people to prolong racism by continuing to make big distinctions between people of different races. If you want to stop racism, stop putting people into groups. How racist would it be to have a “Jewish July” a “Chinese Tuesday”, an “Indian November” and a “Caucasian March”? It’s just dumb, we’re all grown-ups here, we know that black people are real people and have brains and feelings too. I don’t need movies and a special black history month to explain that to me. It insults a lot of people’s intelligence.

    Olympic games are cool, but the Nationalistic Pride people express creeps me out more often than not. People band together like a big, strong tribe set against this other big strong tribe. It’s group identity, conformity, and hive-mindedness. And there are so many important issues on the planet that need to be solved. Yet they spend billions on some big sports competition and people think it’s just great, everything’s dandy for a moment, they feel a part of a special group and get warm and fuzzy feelings from it. The competition even helps to encourage wars because it strengthens that dividing line between countries.

  5. Group identity also acts as a replacement for individual identity. So the more group-identity is encouraged and supported, the less people become strong individuals, which is better for sure. And I think groups are usually more insane than individuals just by the nature of being in a group.

  6. Anon: “I loved the black actor in the shining…. So much warmth, danger and release . There was a conflict within himself that he overcame.”

    In the book, not only does Dick Gregory live, and have a far more prominent role, but he is also instrumental in helping Danny and his mother escape from the Overlook Hotel, and his father. The fact that he was unceremoniously executed (well, in the context of Hollywood, killing the one black actor in a film is actually part of the ceremony), for no good reason, always made me devalue the movie version of The Shining, and look cock-eyed at Kubrick.

    • I wouldn’t say he was killed for no reason but the opposite, that he was introduced solely in order to be killed; since there was no one else in the movie (besides the wife & kid) to kill, Stanley decided to throw Jack a nigger.

      It’s a mystery to me what anyone sees in that movie.

  7. lycaeus: “How racist would it be to have a “Jewish July” a “Chinese Tuesday”, an “Indian November” and a “Caucasian March”?” I don’t think it would be racist at all. In fact, in the West, most months are already Caucasian History months. But there are commemorative months for specific Caucasian groups. And May is already officially both Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month and Jewish American Heritage Month. South Asian Heritage Month is celebrated in May as well. April is Arab-American Heritage Month, Confederate History Month and National Autism Awareness Month, among other things. National Hispanic Heritage Month is from September 15th to October 15th, as is German American Heritage Month. American Indian Heritage Month is actually in November (perhaps your unconscious was trying to reveal something to you there). March is both National Women’s History Month and Irish-American Heritage Month. The LGBT community has two months, June (Pride Month) and October (History Month). Italian History Month is also in October, as is Filipino American History Month, Polish American Heritage Month, National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and etc. There are also far more commemorative days than there are months, mainly because there are more days to spread around.

    “People band together like a big, strong tribe set against this other big strong tribe. It’s group identity, conformity, and hive-mindedness.”

    This is true. I still don’t see how this is “childish”, but it’s probably a matter of semantics. I definitely disagree that either of these things are “completely stupid,” but I imagine you were stating opinion as fact and did not necessarily expect everyone to take it too seriously. Either way, there are many sports, and many sporting events, and while I may not engage in a watching or playing most of them I understand what they are. Same for commemoration months. I have absolutely no problem with them. Many people seem not to know about them at all. And why is it that the shortest of them all is the most reviled and contested? A small amount of research would reveal the wide variety of commemorative months, both here and in the UK. But it seems like you have argued the point against Black History Month before. I won’t speculate on any deeper reasons, but perhaps some of them are also informing your reaction to 12 years A Slave, and perhaps some of the assumptions you hold in this area are equally incorrect. I don’t think you have ‘racist’ intentions, and I’m not implying that, for the record.

  8. The hive-mindedness people show during the olympics is childish because they take it seriously. It boosts their ego. They care more about the hockey game than the millions of people who are killed by human corruption that continues because the masses don’t care because they’re too distracted by things like the Olympics and gay pride parades. I didn’t mean the Olympics were stupid, just the black history month. I don’t like the way modern culture becomes so overly ritualized. Like 5 days a week you work these specific hours, weekends you get drunk on. When Christmas comes around you cut down a tree and buy lots of stuff… I like spontaneity more.

  9. Yeah, but these are commemorative months, they come around regularly, like the seasons, to keep awareness of certain issues alive, or to celebrate a community that requested it. It’s like growing crops. We don’t live in a spontaneous society. There is a lot more of greater consequence to rail against if you want to rail against something. And the Olympics is far more a celebration of dedication, to me, as much of a farce as the nationalistic elements may be. Yes, people care more about the hockey game than the millions killed, but how many lives have you and I saved this year? I know where you’re coming from, I feel that way myself, but that’s the key word. Myself. Other people have different priorities, and they’re not always simply childish. I don’t have to agree with them to acknowledge their validity. I wish we lived in a different reality as well, or at least that this one was not so frequently shitty. But we don’t.

  10. This guy mistaken Dick Hallorann for Dick Gregory, ha.

    I feel this thread has gotta lost in the meaningless distortions of conspiracies. And its going no where.

  11. Ha! Yeah, you’re right, I did. Dick Gregory is more important to me, so his name came to mind first, I guess. interestingly enough, both men fill the same role to me. I had never thought of that before. Thanks!

  12. Jason (this ended up being longer than intended, I decided to do a little point by point, and i wrote it while at work, so please forgive obvious typos, etc):

    I watched the film last night, and, of course, I have to completely disagree with your review, or dismissal. Slavery does still exist, and I’m not referring to wage slavery (the rights desire to equate their current living conditions to chattel slavery would be laughable if it wasn’t so brazenly ignorant and dangerous). There is actual slavery, still occurring, where no wages are paid at all, and it affects all races, but of course, it disproportionately affects those of African Descent. There is also a global prison economy, which is often almost just as brutal, if not occasionally more so, in many instances as was the historical institution of slavery. And further, as you may have seen, there are more black men in prison today than there were enslaved in 1850, the time period that 12 Years A Slave occurred. So who still supports slavery? Most of the US government, at least.

    This story actually occurred. Gravity and The Counselor exist only as fiction and allegory, as commentary. Solomon Northup was an actual human being, a musician who was actually lured by two white men into making money, tricked and subsequently enslaved for more than a decade (this also still occurs today in the drug trade, with undercovers luring and incarcerating dealers, and often normal civilians who smoke weed or use drugs on occasion, as well as in the rap music industry, albeit those chains are almost entirely mental, and the labor does not exact nearly as great a toll on the laborer, at least not one that is superficially apparent, as the effect is more designed for other, less seen and heard members of the rappers community, to feed them into the mass graves of the CIA’s ‘Drug War’).

    Back to facts. Northups so-called ‘master’ was actually worse than the ‘master’ depicted by Fassbender. He would whip slaves for fun, and this was not shown in the film. There were some other small inaccuracies, but from what I know of these inaccuracies, it seems like they detract very little from the account as a whole and were only employed as artistic license. For instance, the ‘sex’ scene with Northup and the female slave never happened. The character portrayed by Michael K. Williams was not murdered, but died of smallpox (which also scarred Northups face) and this was the reason that the plans for the rebellion on the ship were aborted. Some people are trying to detract from a moment in the film when Patsey begs Northup to kill her, saying that it was the ‘masters’ jealous wife who begged Northup to kill her. This is true, but even in the very paragraph they cite as proof of deception, or misunderstanding, Northup states that “Gladly would Patsey have appeased this unforgiving spirit, if it had been in her power…” Again, artistic license, not incompetence or deception. Many ‘slaves’ committed suicide. Sometimes they committed mass suicides. Sometimes they even revolted. None of that was shown, and I wish it was.

    In fact, my only real problems with the movie were these: It did not show the extent of the brutality these people lived under. It did not show the losing legal battle Northup fought upon regaining his freedom during an attempt to have his ‘masters’ and kidnappers bought to justice. It did not follow Patsey. But, these things are mostly due to the fact that we are dealing with a factual narrative, and some things are simply not known. Also, the book was actually ghostwritten by a white man, which makes the presence of certain comments and events which I found to be pretty problematic in the film make more sense.

    I don’t think this film was much of a propaganda piece at all. Not enough historical details were twisted to make it a propaganda piece. True history is rarely effective propaganda. Black people will most likely not get reparations for slavery, and there is hardly any actual debate about it in the US. There are logical requests that the promises once made be delivered upon and there is mostly silence and derision and scorn given in return. If anything ever comes of this at this point, it will most likely not be of any benefit any black people, but take the form of money funneled into various organizations, with unclear purposes and uses. But I’m just pessimistic about this.

    “The film oozed righteous indignation”

    What did you expect? Humble deference? It’s a young black British director making a movie about slavery without most of the usual constraints in place. If we can freely be righteously indignant about anything without being judged for it, slavery has to be high on the list of contenders, especially ‘unjust’ slavery, even though all slavery is unjust. There were actual injustices committed, and almost any being would acknowledge these things as injustices if they were perpetrated against them. Either way, you almost have no choice but to see it as such (at least as a knee-jerk first reaction), as you have been set on a course to disagree with liberal and humanitarian ideas since early youth, no?

    “Who is the movie meant to instruct with its ideology (it barely passes as entertainment)?”

    The record of Historical dramatizations? people who still support current drug sentencing laws? people who still support Stop and Frisk? people who still support sentencing disparities? People who still support funneling underprivileged juveniles into prison for profit, rather than sweeping reform? It’s a film based on a book written about a person who existed and experienced the contents of the pages within that book. It is also a compelling narrative, if you are not viewing it through a biased lens. I don’t think it’s supposed to be simply “Entertainment”. It’s a project that is obviously, to me, created out of passion and conviction. It also left you with no sense of solace. Solomon Northup died a relative unknown. We do not know where he was buried, or even how or when he died. None of the men who violated him were brought to justice. Patsey presumably found no peace. Many more slaves were whipped and lynched and worked to death. There was nothing for me to feel good about at the end of that film. Patsey crumbling to the ground in despair, defeated, as Solomon left her was devastating.

    “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).”

    Brad Pitt portrayed a character who existed. His dialogue is taken almost word for word from the book. His production company also produced the film. There’s your propaganda. Brad Pitt is a Good Dude, and he really wants us to know it. He might also see value in the story being told, in fact he must, since it would likely not have been made at all without his backing, both financial and otherwise. From the perspective of the character of Northup, Pitts character must have seemed like a bona fide Godsend, an angelic presence in the garb of a demon (all white people must have appeared at least somewhat demonic to any ‘slave’ with even the slightest bit of awareness), placed perfectly in front of him to free him from the shackles he is succumbing to, mentally and physically.

    In fact, I found the story to be also largely about personal transformation, identity, and walking the tight rope between acceptance and rejection of external pressures. Some of this may not have been obvious to someone who is not black and has not lived the Black Experience or does not have many black friends who have. For instance, from the start, his hair was shown as conked, straightened and combed, or “fried, dyed and laid to the side” without the dye, presumably. This shows his rejection of his own identity as a Black Man and his eagerness to assimilate into white culture. This wasn’t explored in the film, but his mother was 3/4 white, born free, while his father was born a slave and only freed because his ‘master’ left provisions to that effect in his will. The pressures he felt internally must have been enormous. The film, however, was not about his upbringing, but his enslavement. A lot would have to be left unsaid, and much of what was left unsaid concerns perceptions that are simply not available to most people who didn’t grow up Black, particularly in the West.

    “I was ready to enjoy a rousing character drama about slavery”

    Well, I’m not sure you’re supposed to enjoy films about slavery any more than you’re supposed to enjoy rape scenes, or movies about the Holocaust, or documentaries covering war, or issuing dire environmental warnings. I never have, anyway. I also had a similar reaction to The Counselor. Funny, how these things are distributed.

    “…but I didn’t find a living soul in the movie: just sock puppets for the film’s humanitarian message.”

    I did, and I’m not sure we saw the same things occurring at all. Cumberbatch was compelling as a conflicted character. So was his overseer who intervened, but only just so much… Northup was almost constantly in the act of concealing himself, so he had to be something of a blank, but he still aroused my emotions, especially alone, or when when he joined the chorus at the funeral towards the end…again, it was about identity, and walking a fine line between succumbing to societal pressures and realizing your own. Are we individuals? Are we part of a group? To what extent? Are we valid? These are questions we all face.

    “Personally I found the film offensive, though I have trouble explaining exactly why (I’d like to know how black people feel about it).”

    At first this really surprised me (both before and after I saw the film), but then I recalled our time on the forums. I recalled the time a Native American shaman was quoted on his ideas on the propensity of various races, red, yellow, white, black. Black people were, predictably, primarily good for physical activity. I was extremely disappointed, both in his silly ideas, and in the implicit endorsement of his ideas, especially coming from people I was beginning to and being asked to trust. I reacted by posting the natural consequences of those ideas, natural as they had already transpired, in the form of photographs of ‘slaves’ and free black men and women, burned, hung, mutilated, dehumanized, with the whites who were present standing around, sometimes looking dazed, but mostly looking disturbingly happy to be there. I overreacted and typed a long rant expressing myself. In essence, the last vestige of the alternative perceptions community was exposed to me as more of the same, and I felt that Native American ideas were being so fetishized that they would be validated regardless of what they were, which is also problematic in ‘racial’ terms. Ask a Native. Basically, I felt betrayed, thus my reaction. It was actually a very liberating occurrence, ultimately, but at the time I just felt alone. I was forced to confront the ugly face of suspect racial politics in one of the last places I felt comfortable expressing much of anything. And then the reactions came. You were offended. You felt assaulted. When you had to confront the horrifying images you felt it viscerally, as a blow to the gut. I tried to inform you that I have to walk around with that as a core component of my identity, but that didn’t seem to make any difference. In fact, my assertion was questioned. Well, it’s still a core component of my identity, the same way your parents are, and the house you grew up in and the things you saw are. I was exposed to these images at a very young age. I was raised partly in the deep, deep south, in a place outside of a place called Picayune, and exposed to racism very, very early in life. And it has never stopped. I was called a nigger by a construction worker just the other day, in fact. No sympathy, it didn’t bother me personally, just socially, and he couldn’t even hold my gaze as I tried to figure out exactly what was happening, so whatever. Anyway, I watched the film with my girlfriend, who is Hungarian, and she was perpetually appalled at what was unfolding on the screen, and kept saying “Oh my God” every time someone did what people did back then. I found that interesting, because none of it shocked me. It was horrible to watch, yes, but shocking? Unbelievable that it occurred? Not at all. Accurate? Yes. Overdue? Yes. You said you were curious about what black people thought about the film. I can’t pretend to speak for all black people, but here’s what I think about it:

    Nothing shocking.

    I guess any film that accurately and unflinchingly presents the slavery experience from the perspective of someone who experienced it is bound to rustle the White Guilt jimmies, but I’m still always kind of surprised that people even put stock in feeling guilt for something that they did not do, and that this is seen as a viable phenomenon. I don’t feel guilty for any crime any black person has ever committed. It is also always trotted out as a valid concern any time black people say anything about slavery, as if the real story is White Guilt, and how white people respond to things that happen to black people. In regards to this film, this is happening on a number of websites and media outlets right now, as is expected. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism?

    Either way, considering historical precedent, I suppose there’s nothing shocking there either.

    • Good to hear a different perspective, Mikael. I really didn’t like the film (what I saw of it, I skipped through the second half) and nothing you write so far changes my mind. It makes no difference to me if it really happened, that’s not what I go to the movies to see. While I can admire a film that keeps to the facts, rare as that is, it doesn’t make it a good or compelling film simply because it does so. Nor do noble intentions or a commendable message make for a good film. As Pauline Kael wrote, politicians get voted in for intentions, art has to be judged by the result.

      Are movies capable of representing reality under any circumstances? Doesn’t the use of actors, camera angles, editing, and music all contribute immeasurably to fictionalizing (i.e., distorting) the facts?

      I have never seen a film that was righteously indignant that was any good. Even Schindler’s List didn’t adopt that tone, and that was Spielberg. I found 12 Years to use all the standard Hollywood tricks of the manipulation trade, only more subtly (and not always subtly, the use of music, for example, telegraphed the film’s “importance”).

      If a film isn’t entertaining, then why should I care how honorable it is? I don’t watch a movie to get educated (I would watch a documentary for that), and I resent the assumption that I need to be educated. History is full of injustices – why should I be sold to the idea that this one is somehow more important or relevant than any other? Of course what it’s describing is terrible, but so is what happened to Native kids in resident schools here in Canada, and few people even know about that, never mind make Hollywood movies about it. The Counselor showed, albeit in a baroque and, yes, entertaining fashion, something that’s happening right now just across the US border, but nobody seemed interested. But when it’s something that happened hundreds of years ago, something we can pretty much all agree to feel bad about (while feeling good that it’s not happening anymore – as most people believe, despite your list of on-going discriminations, which I wouldn’t dream of arguing with), somehow that’s commended as being a necessary setter-straight-of-the-record.

      My point is that, if you have to talk about how historically accurate or socially relevant a film is to champion it, then whatever it is, it ain’t a movie I want to see.

      Well, I’m not sure you’re supposed to enjoy films about slavery any more than you’re supposed to enjoy rape scenes, or movies about the Holocaust,

      How do you mean “supposed to”? Supposed by who or what? If you mean by the filmmakers then I don’t agree that we aren’t “supposed to” enjoy rape scenes in a movie (depending on the movie, of course, but I’d say that in most cases, whether or not the filmmakers would admit it, even to themselves, we are). Didn’t Spielberg want us to be entertained by Schindler’s List, or Spike Lee by Malcolm X? Why should violence or atrocity be less entertaining or more shocking or disturbing when it’s representing things that really happened? We know they aren’t happening there on the screen – that it is all equally faked, so what’s the big difference? In fact, I could make a case for it being more fake when it’s a historical recreation, because there’s something real to compare it to; when an artist is creating symbolic representations of violence, on the other hand, and putting his own “demons” out there for people to see, that’s a lot more risky and it’s at least potentially accurate to his or her experience.

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with drawing on real history or current events as raw material for a work of fiction; what I do think is fucked up is when that’s used to suggest that a work of fiction is more valid or “real” because of it. The flip side of this fallacy is that somehow movies can replicate reality, which is where I’d say movies really can fuck us up.

      It is also a compelling narrative, if you are not viewing it through a biased lens.

      Who would that be, then, who wasn’t viewing through a biased lens? You?

      Do you mean that my lens is biased because I was raised by liberals and reacted against it, but yours isn’t because you were raised as a black man in the US and saw racism’s ugly reality? Surely you don’t mean that, do you?

      I’m enjoying the chance to air these thoughts. Thanks!

      • Sorry for sounding vague and impromptobut there was a piece in mad men at the end of an episode Martin Luther King was assassinated and rathervthere be morbid or concerning music with the credits it was a subtle light hearted melody knowing that the viewer was watching something depicting great sorrow and regret or knowing that knowing theyare respecting a moment of American history. The soundtrack seemed to shift in consciousness a dark burdened history and guided the reflective movements of the actors into anew world, territory giving time a break itself..letting history salvage itself without us being there for it anymore.

  13. ” wouldn’t say he was killed for no reason but the opposite, that he was introduced solely in order to be killed; since there was no one else in the movie (besides the wife & kid) to kill, Stanley decided to throw Jack a nigger.”

    I missed that comment. Questionable wording aside, I agree that this is exactly what seems to have occurred. But Dick was introduced in the book for at least two deeper reasons, one that still has complicated racial politics, as do all of Stephen Kings black characters (at least as the ones I read).

    “It’s a mystery to me what anyone sees in that movie.”

    Ha! I still like it more than a lot of other horror films, but it took me a long time like it at all. I read the book before I saw the film, even though I was too young for both, and the book is way more effective. I know everyone says that, but you can’t fit the dread the book built up into a film, at least not one that I’ve seen yet.

  14. I’ll read that write up, but from what I scanned it just seemed like more of the same, criticizing as cinema historical events because they were depicted in a film. I wonder if the negative critics read the book? Or any memoir of any slave? I’ve been in a meeting, so could not post this, but I wrote it earlier and will post it anyway:

    “Who would that be, then, who wasn’t viewing through a biased lens? You?”

    I suppose I should have said “negatively biased” but I assumed that would be obvious. My bad. But I do know, from experience, that you have a tendency to react negatively to anything that breaches this subject, and this is the second time you have called a depiction of these events offensive.

    “I really didn’t like the film (what I saw of it, I skipped through the second half)”

    Well, your article should probably be titled “12 Years a Slave: A Dismissal (of the first half)”. I watched the whole movie in its entirety, honestly expecting to see your perspective and not finding it. Perhaps if I’d just watched half of it and skipped through the remainder in disgust… 🙂

    “It makes no difference to me if it really happened, that’s not what I go to the movies to see. While I can admire a film that keeps to the facts, rare as that is, it doesn’t make it a good or compelling film simply because it does so.”

    Same, and I wasn’t arguing that because it is a true and largely accurate that story it should be honored as a good film. That was in reference to you being offended by the events in it, and the attempt to draw a parallel between wage slavery and chattel slavery. You can be offended by true events, you have that freedom, but you seemed to be offended that anyone would want to depict such tasteless true events, or that they would only be manipulating you by doing so. I did not see this malevolent manipulation at all. A black man directed the film, a known humanitarian with black adopted children funded it, another black man starred in it and another one lived it. Maybe it’s just the voice of black people?

    “As Pauline Kael wrote, politicians get voted in for intentions, art has to be judged by the result.”

    Many have, and they saw its merit. I agree with them, but that’s still not entirely what this discussion is about. It’s about your reaction to the film.

    “Are movies capable of representing reality under any circumstances?”

    No, but they can produce realistic depictions within the confines of the medium.

    “Doesn’t the use of actors, camera angles, editing, and music all contribute immeasurably to fictionalizing (i.e., distorting) the facts?”

    Inherently, yes.

    “I have never seen a film that was righteously indignant that was any good. Even Schindler’s List didn’t adopt that tone, and that was Spielberg. I found 12 Years to use all the standard Hollywood tricks of the manipulation trade, only more subtly (and not always subtly, the use of music, for example, telegraphed the film’s “importance”).”

    Well, thats interesting to me, as Schindler’s List went far harder than 12 Years A Slave, in my opinion. Perhaps the black and white softened the blow? Not for me. Kids hiding in shit to escape gas chambers is still kids hiding in shit to escape gas chambers. Schindler’s List and 12 years a slave are essentially the same story. An injustice happens, someone takes notice, does something about it and a small number of affected people are released from their bondage. Schindler’s List even had a drunken nazi randomly shooting concentration camp victims out of boredom.

    “If a film isn’t entertaining, then why should I care how honorable it is? I don’t watch a movie to get educated (I would watch a documentary for that), and I resent the assumption that I need to be educated. History is full of injustices – why should I be sold to the idea that this one is somehow more important or relevant than any other? Of course what it’s describing is terrible, but so is what happened to Native kids in resident schools here in Canada, and few people even know about that, never mind make Hollywood movies about it. The Counselor showed, albeit in a baroque and, yes, entertaining fashion, something that’s happening right now just across the US border, but nobody seemed interested. But when it’s something that happened hundreds of years ago, something we can pretty much all agree to feel bad about (while feeling good that it’s not happening anymore – as most people believe, despite your list of on-going discriminations, which I wouldn’t dream of arguing with), somehow that’s commended as being a necessary setter-straight-of-the-record.”

    You sound like an American republican here, if you’re unaware of that. In other words, you sound like you have a lot of issues regarding slavery, black people and the role of white people in that past in general. Thats just a gut feeling. Slavery was not “hundreds of years ago”. It was barely one hundred years ago. And Civil Rights was just 50 years ago. You’re deflecting a lot, bringing in natives, mexicans, jews, etc, all of which you decidedly seem to have a far larger affinity for than you do for black people in general. This is true, I’m sure you’ll admit it. You’ve admitted as much to me in the past. Your reactions to all of these things makes me think you find black people, and black history in general, distasteful. In fact, many black people and Natives and Mexicans stand in solidarity with each other on many of these issues, because a lot of the same exact things happened to all cultures. And I do see these as cultural issues, as I prefer that to the alternative of characterizing everything in racial terms.

    “How do you mean “supposed to”? Supposed by who or what? If you mean by the filmmakers then I don’t agree that we aren’t “supposed to” enjoy rape scenes in a movie (depending on the movie, of course, but I’d say that in most cases, whether or not the filmmakers would admit it, even to themselves, we are). Didn’t Spielberg want us to be entertained by Schindler’s List, or Spike Lee by Malcolm X? Why should violence or atrocity be less entertaining or more shocking or disturbing when it’s representing things that really happened?”

    The scenes are usually not presented with major chords and smiling faces. We are supposed to be “entertained” but in the sense that is different from receiving enjoyment. In other words, the second definition of ‘entertain’ applies in those scenes or films, more often than not, and this is signified by the change in tone. Filmmakers want us to know that these scenes are serious. In this sense, 12 Years A Slave was a huge success, as the ideas presented are being entertained even by people who did not enjoy the film.

    “In fact, I could make a case for it being more fake when it’s a historical recreation, because there’s something real to compare it to; when an artist is creating symbolic representations of violence, on the other hand, and putting his own “demons” out there for people to see, that’s a lot more risky and it’s at least potentially accurate to his or her experience.”

    That’d be a pretty shaky case. Both are real, both are representations of experience, both use music, angles, lighting, etc. And both are equally fake, in that none of the events being depicted are actually occurring while being depicted or viewed. One does have the fact of historical precedence, but I’m not arguing that this makes a better film. But Django Unchained vs 12 Years a Slave? 12 Years A slave has more of a stamp of authenticity, because a person who experienced the actual events wrote the majority of the words heard and related true events.

    “Do you mean that my lens is biased because I was raised by liberals and reacted against it, but yours isn’t because you were raised as a black man in the US and saw racism’s ugly reality? Surely you don’t mean that, do you?”

    Addressed above, but still, yes, I might have a different insight to offer regarding a film depicting slavery than you do, and your opinion might have less to do with reality than mine. That does not mean my opinion is not biased, as I mentioned, I should have used “negatively” as a signifier. I do believe that your orientation against liberalism, prompted by complex unconscious urges, renders many of your opinions on liberalism suspect. It is not your own experience that prompts the opinions, it is your reactions to the ideas of a person who was sympathetic to the people undergoing certain situations, and your reaction is colored by your relationship to that person, in this case, there is a strong opposition that may not be entirely rooted in logic. That’s fine, but then perhaps there can’t be any real discussion between third-hand impressions and first-hand experience. If I just heard about Mexico, but never went there, and never tried to learn Spanish, and didn’t particularly care for Mexican culture or history, my opinion on Mexican culture and history is simply not as valid as a person who has done those things, much less is it as valid as the opinions of an actual Mexican. All perceptions are colored, but by what?

    And yes, the story perhaps resonated with me more because I am a black man, raised in a racist society, and raised with an intimate knowledge of the history of both slavery and the colonization of the Americas. I would remind you that, on my fathers side, my grandmother lived for a time on a reservation, and that my grandfather was half Swedish. On my mothers side there is racial mixing as well, but it is the result of rape, so it is not as readily acknowledged or even documented.

    When I say I’m beginning to suspect that you’re not particularly empathetic towards black people, I’m not doing so to raise your ire, or upset you, or drag your name in the mud, or any of that. It’s just a gut feeling based on your reactions, and the reasons you cite and things you’ve said. I’ve heard them all before, albeit far more strongly voiced, but almost exclusively from a particular crowd. I feel like you might think we’re more alien than we actually are, and this might confuse things a bit.

    • That was in reference to you being offended by the events in it,

      Inaccurate, never said I was offended by the events depicted, only by the bullying tone of the film.

      You can be offended by true events, you have that freedom

      Wasn’t that the point of the movie?

      I did not see this malevolent manipulation at all. A black man directed the film, a known humanitarian with black adopted children funded it, another black man starred in it and another one lived it. Maybe it’s just the voice of black people?

      For serious? You are citing Brad Pitt as a humanitarian because that’s his public profile, and the fact that he adopted black kids as proof of, I dunno, something? For real? Our worldviews are worlds apart.

      Schindler’s List even had a drunken nazi randomly shooting concentration camp victims out of boredom.

      I wasn’t citing it as a great film, only an entertaining one. I was referring to the tone of 12 Years; I found it laborious and joyless.

      You sound like an American republican here

      Maybe I have a career in punditry ahead of me?

      In other words, you sound like you have a lot of issues regarding slavery, black people and the role of white people in that past in general. Thats just a gut feeling.

      Which is it – a gut feeling, or a logical deduction based on comparing my words to those of ARs? Those are two quite different things.

      that’s still not entirely what this discussion is about. It’s about your reaction to the film.

      Oh? Why is it about my reaction and not yours? Why is it that this dicussion has moved rapidly into psycho-analyzing me and basically accusing me of racism, or at least of lacking empathy for black people because I didn’t like this movie? See, this is exactly WHY I didn’t like this movie: because it is predicated on an assumption that, if I don’t respond reverently to its depiction of these brutalities, then something is wrong with me. This is what I experienced as a kind of bullying, and the line you are taking (defending the film by attacking me, albeit mildly) seems to confirm that feeling.

      It was barely one hundred years ago. And Civil Rights was just 50 years ago.

      OK, guilty. It was a thoughtless remark.

      You’re deflecting a lot, bringing in natives, mexicans, jews, etc, all of which you decidedly seem to have a far larger affinity for than you do for black people in general. This is true, I’m sure you’ll admit it.

      I’ll allow it’s a possibility. I’ve known a lot more natives, mexicans, and jews than blacks. Whether that’s a cause or an effect I don’t know. We don’t choose our affinities.

      You’ve admitted as much to me in the past.

      A black man never forgets? ;=) You seem to be relating more to your past experience of me than to me as I am in the present – at least that’s how it’s starting to feel.

      In fact, many black people and Natives and Mexicans stand in solidarity with each other on many of these issues, because a lot of the same exact things happened to all cultures.

      Hey dude, it happened to white people too. I honestly don’t know where I stand on the whole “persecution of race” issue, as in, is it inherently worse than the persecution of individuals? I don’t KNOW that black people or Jews or Natives were worse treated than white people, if you take the whole of history into account. But I do know that I am supposed to think that, and to be extra sensitive to those “minorities” because of it; and yes, I resent having my thoughts and words policed.

      Filmmakers want us to know that these scenes are serious.

      This makes no sense to me, at all. A film can have horrific scenes in it that are hard to watch but it doesn’t make the film less enjoyable as an experience. But this seems like a bit of a red herring so I’ll leave it.

      That’d be a pretty shaky case. Both are real, both are representations of experience, both use music, angles, lighting, etc. And both are equally fake, in that none of the events being depicted are actually occurring while being depicted or viewed.

      You seem to have completely missed, or maybe just disregarded, the nuance of my argument here.

      But Django Unchained vs 12 Years a Slave?

      I thought Django was pretty appalling too, at least by the end, and in a very different way. It seemed designed to encourage black men to rise up and kill whites. It was a rabble rouser.

      your opinion might have less to do with reality than mine.

      Insofar as you are a (mostly) black man and I am not, I can accept that dismissal. What it has to do with whether 12 Years was a good film or not, or who’s better equipped to judge, as far as I can tell, relates to my unconscious (or maybe conscious, in your view?) racism (or lack of empathy for blacks), which makes me react negatively to the film. That and having a father who was staunchly anti-racist but didn’t have a single black friend, AFAIK.

      As a matter of fact, while I was watching it, I was with someone whom I could tell was disliking the film from the first frame on (which doubtless influenced me), and I kept thinking about asking, “What’s wrong with this film besides the subject matter?” I started asking the question to myself, as in, why am I bored by this? It’s true that I’m not terribly interested in films about black people, but nor do I consider that a moral or even an aesthetic weakness. We all have preferences, and I’ve enjoyed quite a few Spike Lee films (some of my best friends… you know the drill); but one thing I’ve noticed in myself, and I’ll bet it’s true of other whites, is that when I DO get into a black story or filmmaker or whatever, I feel good about myself: “See, I’m not racist!” Whites want to suck up to blacks; I’m sure you’ve experienced it, that inverse racism which is still somehow dehumanizing.

      My overall response to your charges here would be, take a look in the mirror sometimes, coz the pot maybe calling the kettle racist.

      I do believe that your orientation against liberalism, prompted by complex unconscious urges, renders many of your opinions on liberalism suspect.

      Believe away. I find your opinions suspect too, including this one. Again, that you’ve taken this dialogue from discussing the merits or lack of them of a particular film to psycho-analyzing me and my unconscious prejudices, ironically, it sort of confirms my feeling about this movie, and my feeling about why people (including YOU) like it.

      This isn’t to say you haven’t made a valid point, or one that I’m not willing to look at (my lack of empathy for black experience); only that it seems like an underhand way to win an argument. It’s also very predictable, if you think about it.

      Bottom line on this is that, as a white man (probably not the only one) who may lack empathy for the black experience, 12 Years a Slave failed to get past those defenses, and in fact, ironically and even tragically, only made them stronger for its heavy-handed attempts to do so.

  15. @pseudonym3000
    Not sure what your motivations are, or why you use the tone you do with me. I don’t even know who you are. I’m familiar with this critics view of the film, and his unprofessional heckling of the director during an awards dinner after he penned a far more scathing stance on the film than he does in the introduction of this interview. I don’t know what you do, but I don’t have the time to listen to people backpedal (didn’t finish the interview yet, busy cooking dinner). But this guy also uses terms like “race hustler” and thinks 12 Years A Slave is “torture porn”…He also called Precious ‘racist’ which really doesn’t make any sense to me.. I find it difficult to relate to him. Thanks anyway?

  16. “Whites want to suck up to blacks;” … “that inverse racism which is still somehow dehumanizing.”

    That’s how I feel about black history month but was having trouble finding the right words.

  17. “Wasn’t that the point of the movie? (being offended by true events)”

    I don’t know, I’m not white, I wasn’t offended, as I mentioned earlier. That sort of thing happened. I was there to bear witness, to see it play out.

    “For serious? You are citing Brad Pitt as a humanitarian because that’s his public profile, and the fact that he adopted black kids as proof of, I dunno, something? For real? Our worldviews are worlds apart.”

    Yeah. He donates money, has charitable foundations, has contributed millions of dollars to humanitarian causes, adopted children, etc. He’s way more of a humanitarian than me, anyway. I guess we do see these things very differently.

    “I wasn’t citing it as a great film, only an entertaining one. I was referring to the tone of 12 Years; I found it laborious and joyless.”

    I also found it joyless, but I don’t generally go into those kinds of films looking for joy.

    “Maybe I have a career in punditry ahead of me.”

    Sorry, maybe unfair.

    “Which is it – a gut feeling, or a logical deduction based on comparing my words to those of ARs? Those are two quite different things.”

    It’s a gut feeling backed up by experience and a little deduction.

    “Oh? Why is it about my reaction and not yours? Why is it that this dicussion has moved rapidly into psycho-analyzing me and basically accusing me of racism, or at least of lacking empathy for black people because I didn’t like this movie? See, this is exactly WHY I didn’t like this movie: because it is predicated on an assumption that, if I don’t respond reverently to its depiction of these brutalities, then something is wrong with me. This is what I experienced as a kind of bullying, and the line you are taking (defending the film by attacking me, albeit mildly) seems to confirm that feeling.”

    Well, you wrote the article and expressed your reactions, and some doubts as to why you might be having those reactions and you wondered what black people thought of the film. I told you, and here we are.

    “I’ll allow it’s a possibility. I’ve known a lot more natives, mexicans, and jews than blacks. Whether that’s a cause or an effect I don’t know. We don’t choose our affinities.”

    We can. But either way, that’s all I was really saying.

    “A black man never forgets? ;=) You seem to be relating more to your past experience of me than to me as I am in the present – at least that’s how it’s starting to feel.”

    You once said something to the effect of “I cannot fathom what goes on in black peoples minds.” Again, to the effect of. I forget things just like white people. That struck me as incredibly odd, and indicated that you saw black people as somehow fundamentally different. That does inform my opinion of you, to some degree.

    “Hey dude, it happened to white people too.”

    You don’t say? White folk are human too? But seriously, this was in direct reference to the examples you cited.

    “I honestly don’t know where I stand on the whole “persecution of race” issue, as in, is it inherently worse than the persecution of individuals? I don’t KNOW that black people or Jews or Natives were worse treated than white people, if you take the whole of history into account. But I do know that I am supposed to think that, and to be extra sensitive to those “minorities” because of it; and yes, I resent having my thoughts and words policed.”

    Well, those so-called ‘minority’ groups have been historically treated far worse BECAUSE of their race, so there’s that. Also, far more dehumanized on a large scale due to their race alone, so there’s that as well. I don’t think persecution of race and persecution of individual are in the same category. That’s precisely what makes persecution by race so annoying.

    “This makes no sense to me, at all. A film can have horrific scenes in it that are hard to watch but it doesn’t make the film less enjoyable as an experience. But this seems like a bit of a red herring so I’ll leave it.”

    The word used was enjoy. I don’t think most people enjoy rape scenes or slavery films, etc. They are, however, entertained by them.

    [give attention or consideration to (an idea, suggestion, or feeling).
    “Washington entertained little hope of an early improvement in relations”
    synonyms: consider, give consideration to, contemplate, think about, give thought to]

    That was my context. These films/scenes are part of entertainment, but entertainment does not always mean enjoyment. It’s pretty pointless to dwell on it though, you’re right

    “You seem to have completely missed, or maybe just disregarded, the nuance of my argument here.”

    Sorry, disregarded might be the better word. Both forms are valid, is what I was trying to say, none more than the other, really.
    “I thought Django was pretty appalling too, at least by the end, and in a very different way. It seemed designed to encourage black men to rise up and kill whites. It was a rabble rouser.”

    That was the general complaint of the republicans, and thus the ‘alternative’ perceptions community as well. Black people do not need any fictitious encouragement to seek revenge against white people, misguided as such a thing might be, the police alone are working overtime to ensure enmity exists between the races. To me the idea is ridiculous. Tarantino is obsessed with revenge because his idols were obsessed with revenge. He made a revenge film. Was Kill Bill designed to make white women want to kill Asians? Old white men? Was Pulp Fiction designed to make gangsters want to kill gangsters? The hysteria the right exhibits over race, in this country in particular, is amusing.

    “Insofar as you are a (mostly) black man and I am not, I can accept that dismissal.”

    Well, it wasn’t a dismissal in the first place. More of an invitation.

    “What it has to do with whether 12 Years was a good film or not, or who’s better equipped to judge, as far as I can tell, relates to my unconscious (or maybe conscious, in your view?) racism (or lack of empathy for blacks), which makes me react negatively to the film.”

    Yeah, pretty much, but I’m not calling you racist. I tried to take precautions, but it doesn’t matter. I am saying you do not seem to have much empathy for black people.

    “That and having a father who was staunchly anti-racist but didn’t have a single black friend, AFAIK.”

    There’s a lot of that. Better than the alternative, in my opinion. In fact, it’s better that he did not go out of his way to seek out and prop up one or two token black friends, and instead just had his beliefs and carried on in his sphere. I don’t see a problem with that.

    “As a matter of fact, while I was watching it, I was with someone whom I could tell was disliking the film from the first frame on (which doubtless influenced me)”

    If I remember correctly, the first frame just had two black people in it. I don’t see what’s not to like. The lighting was well done, the scene was well framed… In any other case this would likely scream bias, no? Of what sort, I don’t know. It’s just how it seems. I could really be wrong there.

    “and I kept thinking about asking, “What’s wrong with this film besides the subject matter?” I started asking the question to myself, as in, why am I bored by this? It’s true that I’m not terribly interested in films about black people, but nor do I consider that a moral or even an aesthetic weakness. We all have preferences, and I’ve enjoyed quite a few Spike Lee films (some of my best friends… you know the drill); but one thing I’ve noticed in myself, and I’ll bet it’s true of other whites, is that when I DO get into a black story or filmmaker or whatever, I feel good about myself: “See, I’m not racist!” Whites want to suck up to blacks; I’m sure you’ve experienced it, that inverse racism which is still somehow dehumanizing.”

    And perhaps there is where you could have used a bit more reflection. My girlfriend, oddly enough, kept telling the overseer types and slave traders “Oh, fuck off, go back to Wales!” She spent a lot of time in the UK, in England, Yorkshire, the north, Ireland, etc. Perhaps you sensed that this film would not let you off easy, like the ones you enjoyed in the past.

    “We all have preferences, and I’ve enjoyed quite a few Spike Lee films (some of my best friends… you know the drill); but one thing I’ve noticed in myself, and I’ll bet it’s true of other whites, is that when I DO get into a black story or filmmaker or whatever, I feel good about myself: “See, I’m not racist!” Whites want to suck up to blacks; I’m sure you’ve experienced it, that inverse racism which is still somehow dehumanizing.”

    Yup. But I’ve experienced all kinds of racism. I don’t like that either, and it’s usually hilariously awkward. But you’re wrong about those kinds of whites wanting to suck up to blacks. At least, that’s not the primary motivation, imho. Self-aggrandizement is the prize, as always.

    “My overall response to your charges here would be, take a look in the mirror sometimes, coz the pot maybe calling the kettle racist.”

    Really though? And why? That seems lazy, and it’s a really tired retort. I’m sorry, but every right wing person I speak to, every racist and neo nazi I’ve argued with, they all say the same thing. It seems like a fairly standard, hypnotized response. “No, YOU’RE the racist! OBAMA!!” And I didn’t accuse you of being racist in the first place. I suggested, and you largely seem to agree, at least that it’s a distinct possibility, that you do not have much empathy for black people in general.

    “Believe away. I find your opinions suspect too, including this one. Again, that you’ve taken this dialogue from discussing the merits or lack of them of a particular film to psycho-analyzing me and my unconscious prejudices, ironically, it sort of confirms my feeling about this movie, and my feeling about why people (including YOU) like it.”

    What else is a critique of a film if not an exposure of the critic? It can confirm your suspicions about the movie, and I kind of expect it to. But this has nothing to do with why I liked the movie.

    “This isn’t to say you haven’t made a valid point, or one that I’m not willing to look at (my lack of empathy for black experience); only that it seems like an underhand way to win an argument. It’s also very predictable, if you think about it.”

    Well, I wasn’t trying to win the argument, just cut to the chase, as I saw it, allow for genuine conversation if possible. I feel like 12 Years A Slave served a similar function, more in a second…

    “Bottom line on this is that, as a white man (probably not the only one) who may lack empathy for the black experience, 12 Years a Slave failed to get past those defenses, and in fact, ironically and even tragically, only made them stronger for its heavy-handed attempts to do so.”

    I genuinely don’t think that this was the purpose of the film, so it cannot have failed. The director has spent a lot of time examining pain. This was just a natural film for him to make, as he also happens to be black. Again, one of the most prevalent reactions some white people have to these kinds of things is to make it all about themselves and their responses (obviously, this is in response to you, so I include you in this category, but it’s not meant to be malicious, just an
    observation). It’s fairly annoying, however, and there seems to be an unspoken assumption there that needs examining, in my opinion.

    The director himself says, in a piece he wrote for BET.com:

    ” I was fortunate to grow up in London where race was present, but it wasn’t prevalent. It wasn’t the be all and end all. It was more about if you were cool or not. So I grew up in an environment where there were Iranians, Pakistanis, Greeks, Italians, Polish, West Indian, Africans. All we cared about was football [aka soccer] and having fun and music. As a child, I didn’t have role models, but it had more to do with who I thought was interesting. I remember when I was first introduced to Woody Allen for example. It was amazing. Or Prince or Eddie Murphy. It was so random but it was all about excellence. I was interested in great people doing interesting stuff. In some ways that was the inspiration. Race didn’t matter. It was more about what you do rather than who you are.

    What’s interesting, for me at least, is when I’m in America that race becomes this huge thing. It’s not to say that race is not a big issue in Europe; far from it. But what I mean is I don’t care about race. I honestly don’t. What I care about is doing the best I can. Often times you are confronted by how people look at you and how they perceive you and then one has to deal with that. I’m a human being, I’m part of the human race, within that I’m just interested in doing the best I can and trying to be excellent in what I do.”

    • Thanks for all that. I’m not sure where I stand to be honest, nor do I want, or feel the need, to have a stance at all. All things considered I am pretty sure that the reason I disliked the movie had considerably less to do with how I feel about black people than the way the film was made, that I would have tuned it out just as much if it had been about any other form of racial persecution, or any other noble cause. I just don’t respond well to films that I perceive as grandstanding or having an important message. I also question the idea that a film or any work about a joyless subject has to be joyless itself.

      I don’t see your point about white people making it about their response to the movie, as if the movie exists somehow independently of people’s response to it. You seem to be suggesting that because of its subject matter, it’s too important to be reduced to a critical response. But the film is an attempt to make people, of whatever color but especially whites, aware of a time in history and to challenge their feelings about it. (As you say, it’s not meant to give people enjoyment, so then what IS it meant to give them?)

      It didn’t feel like a personal film at all. I didn’t detect a strong sensibility, but then I didn’t in McQueen’s other movies either.

      About Django: I wasn’t necessarily saying the film *would* rouse blacks to kill whites, only that it had that feeling to it, and not because it was about revenge. It was the way the last portion was done, an orgy of killing with no redeeming style or nuance, so that, unlike Kill Bill, the only way to enjoy it, it seemed to me, would be for the sheer spectacle of a black man slaughtering whites.

      You say you can choose your affinities. I am curious to know how you think this is done. Maybe we understand the word affinity differently? I see it as a correspondence between innate qualities, not as simply a preference.

      My girlfriend, oddly enough, kept telling the overseer types and slave traders “Oh, fuck off, go back to Wales!” She spent a lot of time in the UK, in England, Yorkshire, the north, Ireland, etc. Perhaps you sensed that this film would not let you off easy, like the ones you enjoyed in the past.

      This seems an odd remark after what you said before about not understanding or agreeing with the idea of white guilt. I wasn’t even aware of the racists being “countrymen,” nor did I feel particular hostility towards them, or discomfort, even tho it was clear I was supposed to. Which helps me zero in on what I found “offensive” about it: it may have been historical but it had the feel of melodrama: the slave traders were portrayed as villains, not as people. I don’t know if this applied to Fassbender’s character, but certainly Pitt’s angelic dude seemed totally implausible to me.

      You may be assuming that my dislike of the film had to do with it making me uncomfortable, but it really didn’t. I just found it tedious. I don’t think it’s a good film but a pious one, but I think most people can’t, or daren’t, tell the difference. It happens all the time. Being pious doesn’t mean it was necessarily bogus. It may have been an honorable film, with good intentions, but that’s something else.

      Actually it reminds me of another film I thought was just terrible but that critics swooned over, There Will Be Blood. TWBB wasn’t pious, it didn’t have a “worthy” subject to alert the critics to be suitably respectful, but it was inflated and self-important work that telegraphed its “greatness” but which I found to be empty at its core. It’s the same problem I have with Kubrick, tho his later films were really quite inept at a basic, dramatic level, a fact people were willing to overlook apparently out of collective awe for the Master.

      As you can see, know, for me taste and ideology are inseparable. I can experience as big a gulf talking to a Kubrick-lover as to a racist. The point is, perhaps, that there’s no gulf too wide for consciousness to bridge it.

  18. Also, I read that review. I thought that was incredibly ridiculous. From the beginning:

    “McQueen’s prolonged sequences stretch out events or non-events into obscure significance. In one such scene, a freeman illegally sold into slavery for 12 years, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) tunes his violin until the chords snap. The sequence ends when he crushes the instrument. This ahistorical symbol denies the means of Black perseverance—including musical expression—through which global pop lore developed.”

    Is this guy serious? Musicians always destroy their instruments, I should know, I am one, and have done so. And you can’t snap a chord, violins don’t have ‘chords’ on them. They have strings.

    “McQueen never conceives a moment where the spectator experiences this world through the imagination of a musician, in terms of how he would process and respond to these situations. As such, Northup remains a cypher representing Black hopelessness. Thus, McQueen denies movie audiences understanding of the dehumanizing impact of Slavery on an individual person by refusing Northup the distinct personality and cinematic point of view of an artist (which even Roman Polanski achieved for the Holocaust in The Pianist). McQueen’s conception of the material dehumanizes Northup and the slave characters before slavery does its damage. ”

    I’m black, and a musician, and totally related to this scene. I have no idea where this guy is coming from.

    The rest is just as off the mark, but I have to sleep now…

    • I’m sure he meant cords.

      Maybe it was a bit reaching, and maybe I received it a bit too gratefully, since it sounded like the voice of reason to me amidst all the adulation. But I think his point has definite merit, the film wasn’t populated by characters but by “types” being used to set up and deliver the film’s message. (Same with TWBB, and Kubrick films) That in itself makes the film, and the message, highly questionable, to me.

  19. “@lycaeus: What about all those other Heritage and History months? What kind of opinion do you have of those?”

    It seems kind of silly to focus on the history of one racial group at the same time every year. Why don’t we just make every month ‘Human History Month’ and try and look at the bigger picture that includes all races instead of focusing on different races. Focusing on calling people by different races, and putting them into groups is solidifying the borders between people. When looking at history, who the hell cares if buddy was black or white who invented something? Let’s just be happy humans are progressing and learn from mistakes. Some people may think that these special months and very specific anti-racism campaigns are necessary to get through to people, some people like myself do not. I don’t think average people are so dumb they need it spelt out to them that prejudice is wrong.

  20. I think I understand your position more.

    I was both entertained by and enjoyed TWBB, by the way. Maybe I’m just an unsophisticated peasant, but that’s fine by me! There was a terror at its core that I thought was expressed wonderfully, though I’m not sure how intentional that was. Oil is death. Oil is God. God is Death. Oilmen are like the idiots in the horror films that evoke Choronzon, and then act surprised when Choronzon slowly dismembers them after raping their families to death.

    I admit I’m predisposed to appreciating 12 Years as I feel there is still something of a void in the film world regarding depictions of that subject matter from the perspective of people who endured it, rather than from the perspective of the people who inflicted (or heroically…eventually… helped to end it). This is a lot of what I appreciate about the film. I’m still waiting for one done by an American descendant of slaves, as it was still obvious that the director was raised in Europe. The deep south has far more symbolic meaning than was conveyed here, and the film was not particularly lyrical, nor was it soulful in the Black American sense of the word. It was kind of clinical. Perhaps they approached the tale with too much reverence, as you seem to suggest. But it’s still just a true story to me, and not a political film. If it were political I imagine they would have gone into the resulting legal battle.

    I didn’t like Django at all. I wanted to, when I heard about it, but it did very little for me. Tarantino in general annoys me. I enjoyed his earlier films, and he started losing me with Jackie Brown. Kill Bill vol. 1 was massively entertaining to me, and Kill Bill vol. 2 had its moments, but I still left disappointed. It couldn’t live up to the hype the first one built. Inglorious Basterds was ridiculous, though it did have a few moments (ironically, mostly the moments that featured the nazi, who was also in Kill Bill, the German actor whose name escapes me right now).

    I think we can choose affinities because, like an atom, we have all the basic requirements for everything built in to us. It’s a matter of shifting perspectives (or assemblage points). I’ve done it on a number of issues. Assuming we have some rigid structure of innate qualities that cannot be changed is non-cipher to me, in other words, it does not compute. Association is one method, directed meditation is another.

    I related the comment my gf made because you’re Welsh. It was more of an odd aside than some attempt at making a meaningful connection. She said that, and the next day our discussion began. She’s like a lot of Brits who automatically associate hick-ish things with Wales, rightly or wrongly (I’ve still never been). She was being funny, and echoing many Americans opinions that immigrants, particularly Africans, should go back to where they came from, namely, Africa, even though they didn’t exactly line up to get here. There should also have been more separation between those two comments.

    However, why you felt no particular hostility towards people engaging in what are pretty objectively despicable acts is interesting. The overseers behavior is gross regardless of their motivations. Do you think you might have had your defenses up before you even started watching the film? And if so, why? I know I did, at least, I had to prepare myself a bit.

    Also, slave traders were villains, to the slaves, which is who the film was about. People can be villains to one group while being kind and sensitive towards another very easily. We didn’t follow the overseers home because slaves never did that, we just got that depiction, because that’s the side of them the slaves got. Either way, two overseers were presented as people with complex emotions. The one who rescued Northup from a lynching, but then left him halfway hanging and paced on the porch, clearly torn but incapable of crossing all the way into seeing the slave before him as human. And the one who sold Northup out after expressing sympathy. He was human, and also opportunistic.

    Fassbenders character was decidedly not a villain in my eyes, more a product of the times, a wealthy man in the south who owned slaves because thats what one did, but who had some obvious misgivings about the whole arrangement.

    I’m not entirely sure what you mean by a pious film (the other critic clearly thinks it is nihilistic and atheistic), or why this would have to be a bad thing if it was (revering ones ancestors is a widespread trait in African communities, just as it is among most other groups). But I understand more about your reaction.

    Also, if “taste and ideology” are inseparable, there’s really not much room for discussion, is there? Ones taste depends on ones culture, “far from being timeless and universal, the term ‘taste’ is culture-specific, shifting according to the needs of a writer and his social group” and your taste feeds your ideology. If you’re trying to watch something depicting a different culture, whose experience generated different tastes and ideologies, and you don’t try to approach it from their standpoint, not a lot is going to be understood, and as a result your opinion, no matter how valid within the confines of your own culturally inherited tastes and ideological framework, may seem absurd to people familiar with that culture. Casting a conspiratorial view on these kinds of differences does nothing to help.

    “The point is, perhaps, that there’s no gulf too wide for consciousness to bridge it.”

    I agree with this emphatically.

    • I was both entertained by and enjoyed TWBB, by the way. Maybe I’m just an unsophisticated peasant, but that’s fine by me!

      It was actually the intellectual, “high-brow” critics who liked the film mostly; most people I knew didn’t, tho they were almost totally unrepresented in the media (I don’t think i read a single bad review of the film).

      So if anything, I’m in the “UP” class here, and it’s true that I tend to dislike highbrow works (Kubrick and his heirs) and embrace “trashier” ones (like Matrix, Counselor).

      I’ve done it on a number of issues. Assuming we have some rigid structure of innate qualities that cannot be changed is non-cipher to me, in other words, it does not compute. Association is one method, directed meditation is another.

      I certainly believed this at one time but not anymore. I don’t disbelieve it either, I just don’t know. I would have to come up with an experience of mine in which I willfully changed an affinity. The whole idea seems absurd to me somehow. Maybe it this: there are superficial affinities that have to do with conditioning (and would relate to taste and ideology) and then are energetic affinities that relate to one’s essential nature. The former can be changed, perhaps, but why bother when they are only superficial anyway? The latter can’t be, but they don’t need to be: fire and wood have an affinity for each other and fire and water don’t. It’s all part of the natural order.

      This gets me close to what could be the nub of the racial question: how much is race a superficial difference and how much is it energetic? I’d be curious to hear your take on this. For me, instinctively, the difference between races is deeper than merely cultural.

      I related the comment my gf made because you’re Welsh.

      That sort of tickles me. I’m happy to be identified that way, but only because I never have myself, or been before.

      However, why you felt no particular hostility towards people engaging in what are pretty objectively despicable acts is interesting. The overseers behavior is gross regardless of their motivations.

      Yes but it was a movie! My lack of hostility had nothing to do with indifference to the acts depicted, but with the perpetrators (and even I think the victim) not being fully drawn as characters. I can hate an action, but not the person doing it if they aren’t real to me. It’s hard to put into words what I think was amiss in those early scenes. Obviously I don’t think we should have followed the slave trader home to see how sweet he was to his kids (!), but an intelligent and sensitive filmmaker, a great one anyway, can give even a marginal character enough substance and nuance that we don’t simply see him or her as a brute or a bore (it was similar with the black woman who laments her lost children in scene after scene – I found her quite annoying, and not at all sympathetic, but I couldn’t tell if I was meant to, especially since Northup reacted to her that way too). I think it’s mainly to do with the actors not being well directed – IMO!

      Fassbenders character was decidedly not a villain in my eyes, more a product of the times, a wealthy man in the south who owned slaves because thats what one did, but who had some obvious misgivings about the whole arrangement.

      I’m inclined to watch the rest of the movie out of respect for you, but I’m trying to quit movies, so that may not be enough. 🙂

      Also, if “taste and ideology” are inseparable, there’s really not much room for discussion, is there?

      I think we’ve proved otherwise. Certainly this exchange has proven far more nourishing (and enlightening) to me than the movie did.

      If you’re trying to watch something depicting a different culture, whose experience generated different tastes and ideologies, and you don’t try to approach it from their standpoint, not a lot is going to be understood,

      Not sure if I agree. You’re suggesting that I, or the viewer, needs to make an extra effort in order to get the movie? I would say it’s the filmmaker’s job to ensure that this isn’t the case. As I say, I don’t watch movies to be educated, much less to make an effort. I realize that to you, and many others, this can seem as if i am callously indifferent to the subject matter, that because it’s “important” I should be willing to give it a little extra time. The problem is that I strongly object to that “vibe” from a movie (Spielberg saying that it was people’s “duty” to see Schindler’s List, for example – give me a break), so then my lack of interest becomes active impatience. I hope I’ve made clear that this doesn’t mean I’m indifferent to the subject matter, only that it’s not an area I was currently (consciously) looking to learn more about (I have anyway, but more thanks to you than McQueen’s movie).

  21. Nothing special, just a thing we send at my job Re: people who comment on our forums/support site and add nothing, and in fact complicate things more than necessary (I work at a rec. studio/software company, and we seem to attract all the idiots on Earth).

  22. My fault I shouldn’t have blurt that out. I don’t want to divert the discussion. Just think there is a tug of war between opinions being at play.

  23. Thanks Jasun! @pseudonym3000 “That’s that shit I don’t like…” But no worries. I think we’re having a good discussion, for what it’s worth. Are you not reading the posts (no sarcasm)? Either way, this is probably my last epic post for a minute, work is getting really busy again, projects and all that, but I’ll be around…

    @Jasun:

    “It was actually the intellectual, “high-brow” critics who liked the film mostly”

    Allow me to adjust my monocle… 🙂

    But seriously, I usually watch movies after getting pretty high. I recall watching TWBB shortly after a particularly devastating psychedelic experience, which left me very sensitive to weed, even more so than before I started smoking. Like I said, I’m not sure how much of what I saw was in me or in the film. I know I never watched again, nor had any interest in doing so. I wonder a lot about how much how high I get before a film has to do with my reception of it. At times it seems the weed opens me up to things, but at other times it seems to have the opposite effect, even the high feels the same. For instance, I now find it very difficult to watch most comedies (not stand up) while high, which sucks, because I also find it difficult to watch comedies while sober.

    I also feel like the high helps to expose insincerity, or fraudulent motives, hidden currents, subversion, to link signs and symbols with intent. There were some alarms that went off during 12 Years, but more in the sense that the filmmakers seemed to be looking down on the majority of black people, and that was unfortunate. In fact, there were two scenes that, had I been watching the movie for no reason, might have ended in me turning the film off. They were early in the film though, and I let myself get past it.

    “I don’t disbelieve it either, I just don’t know.”

    I suppose I don’t know either, but I definitely feel that certain core elements have changed within me. I’m also not entirely clear on what is or is not the result of cultural programming, to some degree, and while I feel that we have an essence that goes deeper, I don’t think it would necessarily submit itself to our conscious distinctions.

    “how much is race a superficial difference and how much is it energetic?”

    I think if the differences were energetic we would not be able to breed, to put it crudely. For me, most racial differences are clearly cultural. I know I’m something of a chameleon, and this developed out of literal life or death necessity. It also re-introduced a question I was raised with: “What am I really?” I feel that my true essence is simultaneously empty and full. I think this holds true for us all.

    “For me, instinctively, the difference between races is deeper than merely cultural.”

    I think that difference you perceive may be our instincts. Some cultures are older than others, far older, and so different instincts have developed, but none of it is written in stone. In fact, it’s written in a helix that is constantly changing.

    “Yes but it was a movie!”

    Understood. For me, there is a lot of info in the sketch already, so I don’t need it to be fleshed out, I suppose. And yes, I’m far more a spectator than you when it comes to films.

    “an intelligent and sensitive filmmaker, a great one anyway, can give even a marginal character enough substance and nuance that we don’t simply see him or her as a brute or a bore”

    This is true, and that is a shortcoming in the film. It did rely on ‘types’. I’m just not sure how much of that is due to the direction as opposed to the source material. Humans can be incredibly typical. But I see your point.

    “laments her lost children in scene after scene – I found her quite annoying, and not at all unsympathetic, but I couldn’t tell if I was meant to, especially since Northup reacted to her that way too”

    Did you mean “not at all sympathetic”? I also found her very annoying, but I almost always find that kind of mindless submission to grief annoying. I wonder if I’m somewhat envious of the ability to mourn so deeply for something? I doubt it, but maybe. I thought Northup was going to talk some sense into her, but no. In contrast, a young kid I’ve known since he was six recently was killed at age 14 and while I was just at the memorial service over the weekend I was amazed by how resilient his parents were. It’s a hard thing to endure, and it gets harder before it gets better, but they were able to laugh and joke, even though you could see they were in pain. Life goes on. I’m also suddenly reminded of all the controversy surrounding Sandy Hook, and the accusation that some of the parents were actors due to how they appeared on television, etc. That’s all bullshit, most of those people saying that with such certainty have probably never been around any kind of death at all other than what they had for dinner. A lot of us really want to believe in some strange things…

    “I’m inclined to watch the rest of the movie out of respect for you, but I’m trying to quit movies, so that may not be enough.”

    If you’re trying to quit don’t waste any more of your time on something you’re not likely to at least be entertained by on my account! The rest of the film is the meat of it, and it’s where the transformation occurs, but the book is probably better.

    “I think we’ve proved otherwise. Certainly this exchange has proven far more nourishing (and enlightening) to me than the movie did.”

    For me as well, it always is. I think my assertion was more that the two are not inseparable, that stretching, modification and growth occur when you interface with any Other, and indeed even when you don’t, at least when your mind is healthy and open.

    “You’re suggesting that I, or the viewer, needs to make an extra effort in order to get the movie?”

    No, more along the lines of what I said above. You would better serve yourself by taking the culture in which the thing you’re watching arose, and acknowledging your own blind spots and limitations, if you can. I’m saying we should be vigilant with ourselves while we’re doing everything. It is the filmmakers job to make it easier for people to get into the film, but one can only do so much. If the film is about the sexual awakening of a gay British socialite in the 1800’s and the viewer is a gangster from Papua New Guinea, then since he is the passive observer it kind of falls on him to do any adjusting that might be required if he wants to get anything out of it. The film is done, he is still happening.

    “As I say, I don’t watch movies to be educated, much less to make an effort.”

    And there is another difference, between us that it’s good to know, in the context. I definitely watch movies to learn something, and I appreciate movies that are challenging in some way.

    “I hope I’ve made clear that this doesn’t mean I’m indifferent to the subject matter, only that it’s not an area I was currently (consciously) looking to learn more about (I have anyway, but more thanks to you than McQueen’s movie).”

    Very clear, and I’m glad we had the discussion! A lot of times, when people dismiss movies about slavery, etc (and this happens A LOT) there is the nagging question…”Well, why? On what grounds? Don’t they know…? Are they racist?” And this question exists, because a lot of times that is exactly the case. When people say some of the same things racists say I have a tendency to assume they may be racist or have suspect racial ideas. That’s self defense, in a lot of ways. For instance, Ted Nugent recently called Obama a “gangster” a “chimpanzee” and a “subhuman mongrel” all in the same interview. Clearly common racist rhetoric. Ask Stormfront. Or any racist, anywhere, who is not worried about PR and cash money. Now, he SAYS he’s not racist, but I’m not dumb enough to believe him. Anything he says about race, among other things, is officially UNRELIABLE DATA. So I hope you see where I’m coming from as far as that’s concerned. I wouldn’t want to listen to too many ideas from a person who might think I’m a subhuman mongrel, I might wake up one day hating myself for all the wrong reasons! So I inquire further about these kinds of things when I hear them from people I respect. Sorry to use such an extreme example, it’s just the most recent thing that popped into my mind. Not that I ever respected Ted Nugent!

    Anyway, as always, this has been informative and entertaining, in both senses of the word!

  24. It seems I have spent most of the day with this back and forth between jasunhorusly & eyeofsiva (and a few others) that started with Jasun’s film review thence to Comments about “12 Years . . . .” and I wanna tell you, I have better things to do with my time. Where did the day go? Hypnotized apparently, trapped in dialogue about a film and what it meant, leading to who knew where? It went on and on until surely milked dry, but nooo. There was always more, an answer to an answer and each reply to a reply, in details. Discussion beyond concern for common time and space reason it might seem. Penetration into the why of differences, intellectual, personal, cultural and emotional, generated eliciting point of view about a film for chrissake. Good or bad, reasons why, finally filtering thru a result of sorts for both parties: a change of perception to a degree. At least a meeting of the minds in terms it would seem understanding the ‘opponent’. What he is about psychologically and philosophically, personal makeup and of course colour. All that talked out. That in itself is an extraordianary compendium, an education for both men it would seem, coming as it does from the guts and mind. Each to persist in points of views. and consequent, revealing and finally exposing vulnerabilities confessed. As I say, I’ve never seen anything quite like this in any forum. Two folks having at it until a satisfactory game is played out. Game over, well played Sir. My hat is off to you. My, what is possible! In ‘negotiations’ dropping the politics right there. Heroes, heh, characters effected by ‘dialogue’ confronted as they move along episode to episode. Who start out ‘this way’, likely mostly ‘one way’ venturing forth, ending the same person but . . . evolving within convictions that life imposes indelible on each of us, making our story, but never quite the same after in depth encounter with other convictions well played. If each party is open. That’s important, listening. Hearing. Who changes consequence adventures and experience and learnings? Or stay the same ole, same ole.

    How ‘helpful’ it is to bother with each other after all, in a dialogue. Time spent battling/hashing it out, coming to terms anyway, eh. That’s a big one right there, coming to terms, then we understand from whence and where a person is coming from, upon which analysis is sourced. The leading figures, in this AUTICULTURE Comment/Reply instance, seem ‘changed’ far as an understanding of motivation. In conjuction not so much different as at first likely perceived. But of course, in this instance, as different as we get. In the sense of Black and White opposite ends of most any spectrum. Whoa. Going in there is that biophysic, enromous contrast, not in the blood maybe but simply what comes with color difference and spectrum between which leads one to the other of the same colour added up plus or minus, never changing spots completely no matter how hard to try. That difference I am talking about. Leave that topic for another day, that we are all same blood under the skin.

    So due to challenge argument automatically brings into play, I got to witness this back and forth between formidable matched antagonists consequent positions taken elicited consequent this film “12 Days . . .” I myself changed consequent this exchange. Aside concluding both points of view are most valid, naturally, and I leave this forum without really taking sides as to the winner. And Itell you, it was back and forth, me a white man as they come, and friend to Jasun, concluding the marvel is in the persistent dialogue renders more understanding about how many right but diverse ways a film/life be interpreted than I had before. What more could an inferior person look for and ever get any more . . . enlightening? Course I am still white.

  25. The message of 12YAS is transhumanist, and is in fact interlinked with The Counselor by more than just the appearance of Fassbender.

    1. Faceless filmmaker Steve McQueen chooses his avatar Fassbender tradition, it would seem , with Fellini/Marcello, Ford/Wayne or Burton/Depp.

    2. Makes two rivting, tough and personal films with Fassbender as apparent Auteur/Actor avatar.

    3. Fassbender’s work on The Counselor must be concurrent or in pre/succession to his work on 12YAS.

    4. The Counselor releases first in all markets.

    5. In the prelude to the standout scene of The Counselor (Malkina and the Ferrari), Rainer (Bardem) asks the Counselor about the excesses of his past. The question has a clear subtext of the male homosexual encounter, and as he answers, Fassbender’s Counselor looks straight at a framed poster of ACTOR Steve McQueen, dressed in a boyish white and blue “sailor” suit (probably an image from McQueen’s work in the 1966 film Navy war movie The Sand Pebbles).

    6. About the time that The Counselor has made its initial public impressions, DIRECTOR Steve McQueen makes what are his first widely broadcast media appearances, as part of the roll out for 12 YAS. I know these are the first such appearances because I am a bonafide hard-core media junkie whose technique is to avoid self-programming at any cost. I watch whatever is on TV a whole fuckloaad of the time. News, daytime talk, cartoons, TV drama from France, UK, Canada and the US, some Telelatino, Docs, low-brow and high brow, local and outworld. This is no boast, broadcast media is like air to me. Twas ever thus. I was aware of McQueen’s work, had seen Hunger and Shame and read a bit about them in my usual way. I had never seen a single image of Director McQueen anywhere, including on the many movie review and celeb talk style shows, the BBC’s Talking Movies, the list goes on, not one word or flash of what McQueen looked like, his age, his style, nuttin’.

    7. The 12 YAS rollout and what ?!? Turns out Director McQueen, who has implied strongly with Fassbender the use of the classic Auter/Actor avatar combo, turns out Director Steve IS NOT a rangy uber masculine white guy bachelor on the sharpest edge of the po-mo motorbike rebel style, but a pudgy soft-spoken bespectacled family guy who is decidedly black as Timbuktu.

    Conclusion

    Using his ouvre as the platform for his torrential fantasy, Director McQueen channels the next lever of transhuman foolishness. Director Steve is a wiry blonde white repressed homosexual super macho motorcycle boy trapped in the body of Cedric the Entertainer.

    The transsexual process is officially legitimate. There are, right now, children as young a 8 years old, who are encouraged by addled parents and an addled society to express, pursue, dress up and inevitably alter the very physical gender path determined by their birth.

    If it is OK for Laverne Cox, why not for Director McQueen?

    Of course, IT IS OK, isn’t it kiddies? Steve is wee bit unlucky is all. The technology to provide his desired transformation isn’t here yet. But thanks to radical advances in bio-therapy, sometime in the not too distant future, a young man of pure African blood has achieved his finest dream–to be as white and gay as Richard Simmons.

    • I am a bonafide hard-core media junkie whose technique is to avoid self-programming at any cost.

      My first thought was “Hey – a kindred spirit!” Then I noticed that “self” in there — I guess you mean having a programmed self? If so, hey – a kindred spirit.

      Undo the programming of the past and it slowly ceases to “stick” in the present, is my current aspiration/view.

      I also was surprised when I discovered McQueen was a white guy. If your compelling analysis is true, then the movie conceals a subtext of self-rejection. It also brings to mind Larry-Lana Wachowski.

  26. Pleasant surprise to see LeClair post here. I listened to your lately Always Record episode last night to take my imagination off the ground.

  27. Hey Jason,

    I have found you kindred for some years now, going back to my getting hold of The Lucid View, which I enjoyed reading and re-reading and then passed on to my nephew, who was so freaked out he found the lord.

    When I say I “avoid self-programming” what I mean is that I don’t so much “choose” media as I let it happen. I won’t deny certain favoured predilections, but when I crave a media delight, I fall for the first thing to hit the deck. This trait, this habit, has been honed by a small bit of knowledge on how code breakers work. Deep codes can’t be forced, so old school code-head would read only half of a column, watch half of a film or TV show, listen to half of a broadcast, looking not for the Grand Narrative, but the bubbling stream of pure azmuto dancing between the lines…

    …or, in other words, I like to drift.

    Just finding your blog now.. Tonnes and tonnes of intersting perspective. I plan on asking for a copy of your full bit on The Counselor.

    Pax and Comfy Slax

    • Free-associative media consumption is probably a good way to minimize the deleterious effects of social programming, by allowing the unconscious (aka Holy Spirit – for the sake of your nephew) to select and arrange the databytes rather than the Illumineers….

      I avoid media saturation & go to the other extreme, stringent ‘self-programming’ according to preference based on what I hope is an ever-evolving sensibility and discernment (aka bullshit detector).

      This makes me something of a pop cultural fascist, or totalitarian of taste, no doubt due to increasingly conscious ambivalence about my own consumption of fantasy. Maybe that is why I dislike Kubrick so, or more precisely, what makes him my bete noir/disowned shadow – ironic because it’s Kubrick’s stringently intellectual approach to film that ensured he be “the most talked about filmmaker ever” that for me is the irrefutable proof for his bankrupt sensibility.

      Sidetracked; my interest in pop culture is mostly retrospective (The Counselor being a recent exception), a way of seeking information not about life, the universe, & everything but about my own psychic formation, i.e., what drew me to certain works over and over again and formed my totalitarian taste buds (pop ideology), why, and how.

      I am nostalgic for a future in which pop culture has gone the way of finger-painting. At the same time I envision the inevitable transhumanist world in which the technology of dissociation has become available to all and a faux-subconscious created by the super-egos of the 1% Eloi-programmers and populated by the id-monkey Morlocks of the 99% consumers.

      But that’s probably part of the fantasy fiction too…

      A-hunting & gathering we go

  28. http://thesyncbook.com/alwaysrecord
    05.08.14 Episode 86: The Tensor (with Mark LeClair and Alex Fulton)

    These guys are way out there: finding connections by synching soundtracks to Kubrick films.
    But whenever I’m utter bored or in despair I lay down and let these podcasts take flight with my imagination.

  29. Wonder what eyeofsiva & you jasun would think of Canibus new album “Fait Accompli”. A self-conscious album about today’s world politics. Willing to give it a chance?

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