Identity Politics and Hollywood dumbing-down things again
Fierce, Black, Female Warriors.
That checks almost all of the boxes for modern Identity Politics. That's why if you oppose the movie The Woman King for any reason then you are a low-life dirtbag.
In fact, the Dora Milaje were modeled after the Agojie warrior women (also known as the Dahomey Amazons), who defended the western African kingdom of Dahomey (modern-day Benin) in the 1800s and were the dominant military force in the society. Now, the Agojie are the subject of a new film, "The Woman King," directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood from a story by actor Maria Bello and screenwriter Dana Stevens.
By 1823, the kingdom of Dahomey was under the thumb of the Western-influenced, richer Oyo empire. It was forced to pay tribute in the form of virgins, guns and captives to be sold into slavery to European colonizers.
"You had this sort of David and Goliath situation where the slightly smaller nation decided to beat back on this," said Cathy Schulman, a producer on the film. "And of course it was the Agojie who led the fight."
"She said, 'Can you imagine if one day we actually made a movie about this amazing group of female soldiers who caused such an act of resistance that slavery paused for a time?'" recalled Schulman, who was then an executive at STX Entertainment.
Yeh, can you imagine that? The kingdom of Dahomey existed. The Agojie warrior women existed, and they fought against the white European colonialists. Everything checks out. So what's the problem?
— Nas (@nasescobar316) September 17, 2022
“The Woman King” simplifies Dahomey’s complicated history by transforming it into an anti-slavery kingdom. In doing so, it misses a crucial historical reality by focusing on the story of Dahomey’s female soldiers as African liberators. Dahomey rulers never opposed the Atlantic slave trade. They were deeply engaged in waging wars and selling their enemies into slavery.
Oh, right. These women warriors weren't fighting slavery. They WERE the slavers. Which is the exact opposite of the message of the movie.
In 1727, Dahomey conquered the Kingdom of Hueda, who lived along the coast, and took control of the port city of Ouidah, inaugurating its active participation in the Atlantic slave trade. Historians estimated that nearly one million enslaved Africans were put on ships to the Americas in Ouidah between 1659 and 1863. The port was the second largest supplier of African captives to the trade, behind only Luanda, in today’s Angola.
Ouidah was a major port for selling slaves and the Dahomey controlled that port. This is no small thing.
The Woman King portrays the Agojie as liberators. In the film, the Mahi, a people established north of Abomey and allied with the Kingdom of Oyo, are seeking to capture Dahomey’s subjects, to sell them into slavery. But the reality was quite different. The more powerful Dahomean army was often the one that attacked the Mahi....In the missive, he tells in detail how his army killed the Mahi king and his subjects, including women. Most prisoners who escaped alive from these bloody battles were sold and sent into slavery to the Americas, especially Brazil.
Quite simply, the Dahomey were the bad guys. Or bad women, in this case.
As you might imagine, there's been a backlash against this movie.
The Dahomey warriors were not just slave traders
They would take all the young healthly people, murder the elderly & disabled and burn down everything left in the village
— PJ #MagdalenBernsForever (@PJenkins1931) September 16, 2022
Hmm. Some people in the black community are upset over this whitewashing and glorifying of slavers.
The response to the backlash is predictable - they are all racists and misogynists.
Thank you! A lot of this is just veiled misogynoir. People really hate to see dark-skinned women have a platform other than many roles and struggle love roles. I saw the film. It does not whitewash what was happening between these African tribes. DO NOT #BoycottWomanKing https://t.co/WAeeId1gUC
— Princella D. Smith (@princellasmith) September 16, 2022
I'm not trusting any hashtag that tries to get a Black women led movie to fail. I'll see it for myself and if it's bad or spins history in a negative way so be it. But Viola & John are going to get my movie dollars. Suck on that, bots & ops. #BoycottWomanKing
— Christa Tomlinson Blood Kiss is now available! (@ChristaTRomance) September 16, 2022
Of course, it's worth pointing out that the movie was written by two white women. So that might have something to do with it.
Let’s be honest folk. It’s movie about a African tribe famous for selling slaves to Europeans that was made into a female empowerment story by two White women writers. You don’t have to be very “woke” to see the problem here.#BoycottWomanKing pic.twitter.com/Mk5dpvsBUk
— Edward (@EqualityEd) September 16, 2022
Viola Davis' response is simply "you’re not going to win an argument on Twitter."
Julius Tennon's response is more strident.
We are now what we call “edu-tainment.” It’s history but we have to take license. We have to entertain people. If we just told a history lesson, which we very well could have, that would be a documentary. Unfortunately, people wouldn’t be in the theaters doing the same thing we saw this weekend. We didn’t want to shy away from the truth.
Davis also added "Most of the story is fictionalized. It has to be."
The story "had to be fictionalized" because it was a lie. The movie had "to take license" because the story was a lie.
Here's the thing: You didn't have to lie to the movie viewer. You chose to lie.
If you actually wanted a TRUE story of black Africans rebelling against slavery, fighting and killing the white slavers, and changing the world. You didn't have to invent a story. You didn't have to lie to the audience.
There is a true historical character that Hollywood continues to avoid - Toussaint Louverture. And if someone made a movie about him, I'd pay to go see it.
Or maybe you wanted to make a movie about women warriors that were so totally badass that it's hard to believe that they actually existed. But they did.
The Nazis nicknamed them The Night Witches.
I'd pay to go see a movie about them too.