Historical Culture in a Movie
The recently released movie, 12 Years a Slave is a movie about a free Negro man from New York, who lived an ordinary and happy life with his wife and children. He was an extraordinary violinist and is tricked into joining a circus in which he would perform with his violin, but in reality he is sold as a slave. He enrolls in a journey of being a slave where he fights for his freedom, trying to send a letter to a friend so that he would be rescued. He was betrayed once when he confined in a white slave to deliver his letter, but didn’t give up and finally his letter is delivered and he is rescued. This film scores a C on the Representation Test, which is a cultural test that measures whether or not the film represents a diverse array of people and experiences. When I first heard this was a cultural test, I decided to write my blog on this movie because it is about slavery and history. However, this test is more of a measure of how well the movie represents the various cultures and different kinds of people in current daily life. 12 Years a Slave does not score high on this test because it concentrates on the African American race and their suffering during times of slavery.
In the woman section of the test, this movie scored really low because in times of slavery woman did not have a lot of rights. Furthermore, enslaved women where seen as property, “objects for the male gaze”, and where not allowed to speak whenever they wanted. Because they where slaves and could not speak whenever they wanted, this movie does not depict a significant conversation between two woman. However, I think the movie could have had a better score if it depicted two or more enslaved women who where brave and had the courage to stand up against their mistreatment. I believe this movie is kind of sexist because only men are allowed to say what they think, men do most of the work and they dominate woman in any way they want. Men rape women and are not punished for that. Furthermore, none of the women in the film play a major or leading role.
12 Years a Slave scored high in the “race, ethnicity & culture” section of the test because it is about the African American race. This movie teaches the audience how bad and brutal slavery was. Furthermore, this movie does not celebrate racism but the other way around; it points out how bad it was.
The reason I believe this movie is not a good representation of culture in general is because it does not include the wide variety of people in our culture. For example, it does not portray older people, gays, fat people or people with disabilities. Most of the men and women in the movie have a good body.
Louis Giannetti says in his book, Understanding Movies that “A performer must do something inventive and compelling with his role if he is to stand out” (Giannetti 274). In this movie Chiwetel Ejiofor, the actor who plays the leading role does a great job in making his emotions believable to the audience. When I watched his movie, his facial expressions led me to really imagine what he must have been feeling and place myself in his position. The fact that his acting is so believable makes him stand out from any other actor or character. Using the audience’s emotions to send a message is an argument of pathos.
I believe that The Representation Test is accurate because it includes all aspects of culture. At first I thought that it was not accurate because a movie could be about a different point in history, such as 12 Years a Slave that is about a time in history that happened a long time ago. But in reality gay people, people with disabilities and racial and gender inequalities have always existed. This movie does a great job in depicting gender and racial inequalities but it forgets LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) and people with disabilities. Furthermore, it is a good cultural movie because Steve McQueen who is a man of color directs it. Another way in which this movie is a good representation of culture is because, besides portraying both Negro and white people, there is a scene in which Indians are depicted. Because the movie only fails to include LGBT and people with disabilities, but depicts a very important aspect of culture at a significant point in time, I give this movie a rating of 4 because I believe that the positive qualities exceed the negative.