Mindfulness Mondays: As if real life isn't enough: Trauma Entertainment
"To be a champion you have to believe in yourself when nobody else will."-Sugar Ray Robinson
Beautiful People! Let's Go!!
I am a movie buff (with the exception of mafia and ultra-violent flicks) open to any movie that will entertain and of course provoke thought and discourse. There are a number of movies and television programs within the last few years that have left an impression, that not only resonated with me mentally but emotionally as well however, not in a good way. From Fruitvale Station, and more recently, the very disturbing THEM on Amazon, had me come to a realization, that black trauma is profitable for Hollywood.
I can't seem to escape a "Black" movie or drama that isn't saturated with portrayals and imagery of the relentless oppressive and violent issues that we as black people face on a daily basis. Once upon a time, television and movies were used to escape reality, nowadays reality (trauma) is utilized as a form of entertainment at our expense. On Netflix, the film "Two distant strangers" starts off with a man trying to get his dog back (innocent enough?) it then morphs into a groundhog type storying telling with a run-in with the police that leads him to be slammed against a wall by an officer as he painfully exclaims "What did I do?"
Ok; after witnessing that I had to switch over to something else; I could not stomach a piece of drama that I know happens every day to our black men; movies such as this are being profited from their backs, their experience.
And then there is Amazon's THEM....
Marketed as horror, THEM is a series anthology set in the Jim Crow era of the 1950s that centers on a black family (the Emorys) that moves from North Carolina to Compton, California during a period in history known as the "Great Migration." Though having some elements of horror (the evil hovering spirit, elements of the supernatural) the real "horror" were the very realistic scenes of racial violence that by episode 5 depicts the murder of a black baby while his mother is raped; with later episodes depicting the blinding then burning to death of a black couple; I am surprised that I made it through all 10 episodes, maybe there was a part of me that had hoped the protagonists in the story (the Emorys) would rise up and create all kinds of chaos, and drive off into the sunset where hope and peace lie ahead..not the case here; THEM premiered two days before the fatal shooting of Daunte Write by a white police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis and during the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. I wonder how strategic the timing of this series was against the backdrop of such a high-profile case.
For me, spotlighting black suffering and pain in entertainment can be emotionally and psychologically painful especially for black audiences. For white folk, this form of entertainment provides an opportunity for them to see things that they may normally not see; for black people, these portrayals are our reality and fears that in so many instances come to life. In a conversation, I had with my brother G, we talked about the reoccurring trauma that programming such as THEM bring up; it is ok to declare "entertainment" such as this to be concerning; the characterization of black death is allowed in mainstream media in a manner you don't see with other racial groups; truth be told, would other racial groups even tolerate it? Is the message being lost when that level of violence/brutalization is happening thus taking away the understanding of racism or anti-blackness?
As I watch the episodes of THEM, I could not help but think about the real-life experiences of black families being driven out of their home (be it by eviction or home foreclosure), the black man or woman falling victim to racism in the workplace every day, that black undereducated child whose teacher already has given up on him or her before that child warms the seat of the chair in the classroom or blatant death of the black men and women by the hands of the police.. I don't need the sensationalism of Hollywood to know that there are real-life atrocities subtle and not so subtle happening to our people day by day, moment by moment.
Black horror and Black trauma horror are vastly different areas of entertainment and yes, one is far worse than the other
As a Black community (be it fractured) we have given sooooo much to America to which America has profited-and now they want our trauma too? Seriously????
If I wanted to be traumatized for the equivalent of 10 episodes (i.e. 10 hours) I can do that just by watching what's happening in America in real-time.
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