Birth of a Nation, Rape, the Oscars, and Why We Need to Stop Defending the Wrong Black Men

The FX TV show The People v. O.J. Simpson argues that the O.J. Simpson trial basically predicted social discourse in America for the next 20 years. The painful, and often times confusing, intersectional conflicts between white people, black people, and the women that comprise half of both groups, all would come to define so much of what we’re so acutely aware of today. It was all there, clear as day, in what everyone was calling “The Trial of the Century” (a moniker that is looking less and less like hyperbole with each passing year). Today, we are seeing a storm on the same wavelength of that legendary trial heading towards the Oscars next year. Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation tells an important story about America’s dark history, but it also reclaims a meaningful title from the original 1915 Birth of a Nation, a racist propaganda film that also happens to be one of the most influential films ever created. The original Birth of a Nation was a technically incredible breakthrough in film making technique and directing, but it also happens to be a horribly bigoted story about how the KKK was really a heroic force in America. By all accounts, what Nate Parker is doing, especially in light of the Oscars controversy of this year, is a great thing on the surface, but since the universe is a random and cruel thing, Nate Parker – A black man who co-wrote, directed, and starred in a movie about the racial injustice of America’s past which includes his fictionalized wife being gang raped by white men, is himself an accused rapist (along with his black friend who he co-wrote the film with, making them alleged gang rapists) whose trial was an intensely harrowing experience for all parties involved, but mostly for the victim who eventually took her own life after its conclusion and Parker’s acquittal. Clearly, there’s a lot to talk about here.

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The Newsroom on Rape: Misunderstood but Still Wrong

“Well, it’s complicated for a lot of reasons”

This is a phrase uttered by Don Keefer, a cable producer and one of the stars of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, regarding a certain rape incident at a University. After watching the controversial penultimate episode for the series “Oh Shenandoah”, I’m not sure he truly understands the complexity of the situation or rape in general. In fact, it seems as if he’s driven by the goal of simplifying it as much as possible to follow a moral guideline that does not really apply to the issue presented here. The issue being the fact that a woman was raped at her university by two men after being heavily intoxicated, and in retaliation (and after effectively being ignored by the police) she created a website for others like her to anonymously post about their sexual assault experiences and accuse their attackers. Don’s news corporation (ACN) would like for him to track Mary (the rape victim) down and invite her onto one of their shows for a joint interview between her and one of the men she is accusing. Don, due to his reservations about the nature of this hypothetical joint interview, tracks down Mary and does everything he can to convince her not to go through with it only to fail; but he ends up stopping it from happening anyways when he lies about being unable to find her to his furious superiors. This series of events, the portrayal of Don, and the execution of the story itself is problematic for a number of reasons, but I feel those reasons got lost in a barrage of righteous indignation that came about in response to the writing.

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