I reported Monday that fans were attacking “The Woman King”, a black-led movie about a black woman. While its defenders are trying to portray it as an attack from racists or sexists but what isn’t being discussed much is that most of the backlash comes from the black community.
The film’s focus on an all-female warrior group called the “Agojie”, who fought for “Dahomey”, in the early 1800s, is what causes the anger. The film claims that Dahomey was at the forefront of pushing colonialist whites out of Africa, who wanted to enslave African people. In reality, however, Dahomey and their female fighters were known for raiding African villages and brutally torturing and murdering those who could not be used, and selling other captured slave traders.
Many people, including the black community, were angry at Hollywood’s glorification of the people we all agree are the bad guys.
Viola Davis, the lead actress, says that there is a lot at stake and that if the film fails to achieve success, Hollywood will not have another black female-led movie. This is sensationalist nonsense that was used to scare and guilt people to see the film. However, these “stakes,” are now leading Davis to defend the movie’s accusations directly.
Variety reports that Davis and Julius Tennon, her husband, said the movie was educational and that they had taken liberties with historical accuracy to make it.
Davis said, “We entered the story at a crossroads where the kingdom was in flux.” They were trying to preserve their kingdom and civilization. They were finally decimated in the late 1800s. The majority of the story is fictional. It must be.
Tennon went further.
He said, “We are now what you call “edutainment”. It’s history, but we must take the license.” “We must entertain people. We cannot tell a history lesson (which we could), without entertaining people. That would be a documentary.
You can see the huge issues in their defenses right away.
One, Hollywood is very familiar with the practice of fictionalizing stories. But even though the changes can be dramatic, the story tries to remain the same. This is what makes the story worthwhile. Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven”, which depicts the fall of Jerusalem and Saladin, is a good example. Functionalization was true, but many story beats were maintained. The historical context was preserved and the characters remained as they were.
“The Woman King” is a different story. It injects a lot of message-first moviemaking into the film. The film takes an important characteristic of the kingdom it is talking about and throws it out for modernity’s sake. Social justice filmmaking is a strict discipline. Modern standards do not allow for an African kingdom to be considered evil if it has female warriors.
The movie lies. It’s lying about the worst thing it can do to make a movie featuring black women as the only good guys. Conveniently turning a blind eye to slavery, which is the most horrible thing that has ever happened to blacks in their history is not going to win hearts.
Let’s put it in perspective by playing “Swap It”, one of my favorite games.
What if I made a movie called “The European King” about Adolf Hitler? It would tell the story of a man who wanted to free his people from the clutches of an allied force. He began fighting a war to let his fellow Germans prosper.
This would get a lot of backlashes. Hitler, who was undoubtedly one of the most bloody dictators in history, committed atrocities against Jews that would be echoed for generations.
Although Hitler’s destruction and devastation of human life were far more than that of the Dahomeys, there are still some comparisons to be drawn. The movie “The Woman King” could have been made in a fictional African kingdom. But the makers wanted “based on a true tale” to be attached to their film. Rewriting history to support their ideology was worth it.
They just assumed people would be stupid or willing to see the other side. They got neither, unfortunately.