To See or Not to See (“Lee Daniels’ The Butler,”) that is the Question

There is a lot of hoopla surrounding the new movie, Lee Daniels’, The Butler that was released this past Friday. Some of the discussion is positive, while some, eh not so much. The bad actually has me kind of floored but I’ll go more into detail concerning that a bit later.

For those who do not know the storyline, the movie is about Cecil Gaines, played by Forest Whitaker, who basically worked in the White House as a butler. Whitaker’s character is actually based on the real life events of Eugene Allen. There are some who have seen the movie already and have expressed how much they enjoyed it. Others, like myself, have not seen the movie yet but have every intention to do so. Then there are some who have stated adamantly that they refuse to see the movie. Like I said, this film has stirred up a lot of hoopla.

Now I usually do not blog about such controversial matters. I think that there are plenty of bloggers who adequately cover these issues, but seeing that I just published a Historical Fiction novel myself not too long ago, I needed to understand the objections because it’s pretty scary to think that someone won’t even give my book a chance at all because of the material. Just when I had gotten a handle on one issue in an effort to try to understand, another angle on the outrage was thrown out for me to analyze. As I explained it to my husband, mother, and sister, the people who have something to say about Lee Daniels’ The Butler fall into five camps (actually I told them about four, but I found that there is yet another group and the numbers may continue to rise).

1. The First Camp are people who say they will see this movie regardless. They believe that these are the stories that must be told and are teaching moments for the future generations. I mean how awesome would it be to see a story based on real life where a Butler received a position in the White House and holds that position for over three decades? Can you imagine being in the political epicenter during a time when the most notable of historical events have occurred? Being a butler is more than doing the obvious tasks, like answering the door, being a servant, and the overall management of the household. There there are the unspoken jobs of being seen and not heard, being a confidant, and remaining composed in difficult situations. A butler knows all the dirt in the house (pun intended). Do the children of our generation know how to be subtle or is it more important to them to “get someone told” in order to save face? Movies like Lee Daniels’ The Butler teaches us that we have survived because of the strength of those that came before us.

2. The Second Camp are people who think that there are too many stories about butlers, maids, slaves, and the broken Black American family home, and not enough movies about strong stable Black families (because we do actually have those) and heroes. I agree that there should be more movies that shine a positive light on people of color. The question is should we just have one and totally throw out the other? Or should we keep those movies that talk about those hard things but make more of an effort to include a movie where people of color have a storyline with a more positive storyline.

3. The Third School of Thought said, “Okay yes, we have to have stories about maids, slaves, and families that are torn apart, but do they have to be so violent?” People in this camp believe that these films show too much brutality to the point where it’s overkill. In fact, I found out that people call these movies, “Historical Porn.” Too much screaming. Too much blood hitting the screen. Too much humiliation. Too much. Oh really? Too much? Well tell that to the people who were whipped, hanged, raped, drowned, castrated, tarred and feathered, burned alive, drawn and quartered, shot, dismembered, watched their family killed, blown away with a fire hose, bludgeoned… shall I continue?

4. The Fourth Camp were tired of these scripts written by – let’s just say – not “us.” I understand that outrage. For me however, it’s just one more thing I don’t have the energy to complain about. Does no good anyway. So instead, I choose to pick up a pen and get to writing.

5. The Fifth Group is one to which I can relate. These people avoid these type of movies like Lee Daniels, The Butler for the same reason I refuse to see Precious or For Colored Girls. It is the reason I walked out of the room on Antwan Fisher. These types of movies awaken emotions that can be difficult for me to handle, so I just as soon avoid it.

Personally, I respect the fact that people have different opinions concerning movies like Lee Daniels’ The Butler, although I may not necessarily agree. And no, I do not think that anyone has an obligation to see this movie because it is a Black film. Frankly, if you feel that you won’t enjoy the storyline of this movie or any movie, then by all means, please save your $10.25. What I do not like however, is when big named people try to mess with other people’s money by being negatively vocal about something someone else has created. We spend so much time complaining about how POC do not get a fair shot on the big screen, so why is it that when a movie does come out with a Black cast some people have to publicly berate them? That, I do not respect. Not at all.

Anyway, I will see the film. It may not be in a theater, but I will see it because as a teacher, student, and writer of history, this a movie that interests me. And I will continue to write historical fiction because it interests me, and I want to share it. Based on these five schools of thought, people will either read my book or they won’t. I know I cannot please everyone, although I do try. All I ask is for a chance and the hope that someone will find interest in the story that I want to tell.


Over the Palmetto Hedge

Some funny stuff there.

Some funny stuff there.

People who know me, know that it takes a lot to get me to laugh one of those rolling on the floor, tears flowing down my face, stomach-aching laughs. My 7-year-old son can make me laugh that way because he’ll say something off-handed and painfully honest not even intending to be funny, which is what makes it funny. My husband is pretty funny. He sees the humor in almost anything and his laughter is pretty infectious (I try not to let on that he makes me laugh though, what’s the fun in that?) He had me fooled when I first met him at that urban planning meeting. The M&M commercials also have me cracking up. I can relate to the Brown M&M who wants to be taken seriously but doesn’t want to be considered uptight. The Yellow M&M is so funny to me though, especially when he’s paired with the impatient Red M&M (Uh… Santa? ROFL!) Yes, put on an M&M commercial and you’ll get more than just little chortles from me.

Then there are the animated films. I have a couple of favorites. The Princess and the Frog, of course tops the list. Also tops are Finding Nemo (I just love that turtle scene) and Milan (I can relate to her as well as we both have the tendency to buck tradition). The animated movie that has me rolling on the floor with laughter is Over the Hedge. If you are an urban and regional planner, it is definitely a must see. I don’t want to give away the movie, so I’ll stick to the basics. There’s a turtle, a squirrel, two opossum, two porcupine parents and three adorable porcupine children, and a attitudinal skunk. They awake from hibernation to find the forest gone and a huge subdivision in its place. If you think they had nightmares when they saw it, I was having horrible dreams myself. It was like one of those subdivisions I used to have to approve (but really hated to) while working down in Henry County, Georgia: Zero lot lines, eight units to the acre, two entry ways to accomodate the traffic for the 300 lots, a mess of culs-de-sac, and my favorite (sarcasm) not a tree in sight. Anyway, these adorable woodland creatures are shown the ropes of navigating the suburban encroachment by a wayward raccoon. Now this movie may sound like, “whatever,” but the writing is genius as it displays the excessive human behavior through the eyes of these animals. To them, we look ridiculous. We use up too much land. We eat too much food. We drive cars that are way too big. This movie tells the truth but it’s hilarious.

There used to be a lot of animals on Hilton Head. My father told me about some of them. He told me about the cattle that used to graze in what is now a prominent subdivision. Some animals, I saw for myself. When I was my son’s age and we would visit the island, there would be several properties with that lone horse grazing in yard, including in grandparents’. Granddaddy, used to ride his horse down the street at Christmas time and the horse would perform tricks. After I moved to the island, I took the bus home from school and we would pass a couple of pigpens… A parent at one bus stop had a farm with grazing cows . We used to have this crazy bus driver who used to try to run them over if they were crossing the road when she approached (Maybe they were worth 500 points if she hit one). I remember one day in particular when the poor farmer had to push that last cow and himself, through the open gate to avoid being a part of her grille. There were the chickens when our house was first built. Before we could garage doors, there were these chickens perched on top of moving boxes, dropping feathers and …uh other stuff. There were wild animals behind our house like wild turkey, Harvey the Hare (Daddy named him), and the occasional deer. I guess the point is, and maybe this is a rhetorical question, but where did all of the animals go? Did they wake up one morning like they did on Over the Hedge to find the forest gone? Is their home now in a small grove of the remaining underbrush? Well one thing I can say for Hilton Head planners is that they don’t allow developers to clear-cut the land. They remove just enough of the trees to build the home or business. There are still plenty of old oaks, but is that enough of a home for the animals? Seeing as they cross through the backyard sometimes, I would say no. And of course the island way of life has changed so that the horses no longer graze lazily in the field. They are now at the equestrian center. I can’t remember the last time I saw a cow or pig on the island. I did see a wild turkey, only he was running down a suburban street in my home of Knoxville. I wonder if it saw past Thanksgiving because that turkey was huge.

What happened to the animals on Hilton Head is actually not funny, but a movie of them exacting revenge on humans is. So if you want to get me to laugh, pop some popcorn, get me a root beer and Peanut M&Ms, and cue up Over the Hedge for some crazy animal hijinks. You’ll be picking me up from the floor.