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October 11, 2013


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"One thing that's gone largely unremarked upon in the praise of this film is how mercilessly it lays bare the debased, depraved psychosexual pathology of slavery in the United States."

I was so excited to see an adaptation of the memoir was in the works because this subject has so rarely been explored with any honesty. For example, I was extremely offended by the way Tarantino depicted the female slaves in Django Unchained. I thought that "The Pony Club" in particular was just nauseatingly exploitative. Usually he uses the tropes of exploitation cinema to make some kind of critical commentary. I didn't see anything except exploitation in that case--even the name of the club reeks of the cultural tendency to fetishize black women as animalistic.

One of the more surreal, disturbing images in McQueen's film is that of Epps, pantsless, holding the hand of a little slave girl. The implication to me was that Epps' behavior is cyclical. As soon as he tires of Patsey, there's another black woman in his power available to sate him sexually.


This movie should be a hit in the South, shouldn't it?

Chris L.

Well, I'm in the South, and primed to see and admire it. Will look to spread the word wherever possible, too.

This is an excellent post, and it makes me want to explore more of Ridley's writing. In interviews, it's fascinating to learn about the merging of his and McQueen's approaches to the material.

Also, that "never mind" at the end of No. 5 sure is tantalizing, but I can see how elaboration might have made this a very different thread. Perhaps some other time!


brilliant post. reading the overhead comments... i've just read that "never mind".


Apparently America's most respected critic begs to differ. I am, of course, referring to Armond White.


As predictable as the rising sun.

Jeff McMahon

Bizarre that he's using The Exorcist as a cudgel against 12 Years a Slave. Also, wouldn't it be great if AW made use of a copy editor to hone his phrases into their steeliest efficiency? Or make him look less like a ranting maniac?


Not a coincidence, I think, that Armond's booklet essays for the Criterion Collection always seem to read a little easier.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but Mistress Shaw (played by Alfre Woodard) was not the white man's actual wife, she was the lady of the house. Intermarriage was forbidden back then, right?

Steve Sailer

I'm sorry, but the stilted dialogue seemed lifted straight from a Victorian melodrama or a Horatio Alger novel. Why, in a movie full of rape and whipping, are there no curse words? Has anybody in the history of the world really spoken like the characters in this movie? The source material sounds like sub-"Uncle Tom's Cabin" and the adaptation is amateurish. If this movie were about anything other that slavery, not only would nobody be praising it, but it would never have been made.

Jeff McMahon

"the stilted dialogue seemed lifted straight from a Victorian melodrama or a Horatio Alger novel".

Just rereading this thread, and I was struck at the blathering absurdity of this comment.

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