This article uses Django Unchained (2012) and 12 Years a Slave (2013) to consider slave cinema (films that take slavery as their main subject) as unique sites of labor in which Black bodies are organized as commodities to perform economies of “pleasure and terror” (Hartman:1997) on the screen as cultural workers under the rubric of United States capitalism and structural hierarchies that privilege a white lens within the Hollywood film industry. The economies of terror and pleasure produced through these films reify colorblind ideology and perpetuate a racial regime that denies audiences the ability to emphasize with Black people or view them as full human beings.
Keywords: 12 Years a Slave, colorblind ideology, Django Unchained, empathy, fetish, Hollywood, performance, racial regime, sexual desire, slavery, social death, violence
Hollywood has had, at best, an oblique relationship to America’s longest running nightmare, slavery. As Donald Bogle demonstrated in Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films, the screen is haunted by the first images of Blackness and slavery by white actors performing in black face in Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1903) and D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915). The industry’s most enduring twentieth century film of slavery, Gone With the Wind (1939) portrayed the end of slavery not through the eyes of the white master, but through a plantation’s headstrong mistress, Scarlett O’Hara. The film also provided the first Oscar to a Black actress, Hattie McDaniel for her role of Mammy. Our latest filmic encounters with slavery Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012) and Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave (2013) continue this process of cinematic indirection, even while focusing our gaze on what was largely ignored in the 1930s versions—the enslaved themselves. For instead of showing the liberation from slavery as primarily a Black struggle, both of the more recent films continue the well-worn narrative that the only way for their black protagonists to be free is through the agency of white men. Yet interestingly, the white men are not ostensibly abolitionists, even though they are sympathetic to the plight of the central Black characters, Django (played by Jamie Foxx) and Solomon Northrup (played by Chiewetel Ejiofor). Rather, the white men are interested allies, men who have an agenda that goes beyond race, a desire for redemption themselves that both enables but limits their ability to be true liberators.
This article uses Django Unchained (2012) and 12 Years a Slave (2013) to consider slave cinema (films that take slavery as their main subject) as unique sites of labor in which Black bodies are organized as commodities to perform economies of “pleasure and terror” (Hartman:1997) on the screen as cultural workers under the rubric of United States capitalism and white supremacy within the Hollywood film industry. Based on close readings of the films, interviews with directors (McQueen and Tarantino) and screenwriter (John Ridley), as well as a close reading of Solomon Northrup’s text, 12 Years a Slave, I argue that the economies of terror and pleasure produced through these films reify colorblind ideology and white supremacy by denying Black people empathic capacity or viewing them as full human beings. To understand the problem of the colorblind is to understand the function of two types of overlapping modes of performance – aesthetic and efficacious – in which the aesthetic performance of Black social death is congruent with the way in which the performance of Black laborers is persistently marginalized within Hollywood.
Tarantino’s story begins in 1858, in the still of a night in Texas. Two slave traders (who go by the name of the Speck Brothers) make their way through the darkness on horses followed with their chattel in tow when they are confronted by an odd character, Dr. King Schultz (Christopher Waltz), who insists on purchasing their slave, Django. We later find out that Schultz is in the business of bounty hunting on behalf of a judge in Austin, and Django is in fact the only individual who can positively identify Schultz’s next bounty – a trio of overseers who formerly whipped, scarred, and then sold Django and his wife to separate plantations. Thus, when Schultz guns down the Speck brothers after their refusal to sell Django, he is acting out of pure economic interests. For Schultz, profit motivates Django’s purchase. He states, “On the one hand, I despise slavery. On the other hand I need your help. If you’re not in a position to refuse, all the better. So for the time being I’m going to make this slavery malarkey work to my benefit. Still, having said that, I feel guilty. So I would like the two of us to enter into an agreement” (Django 2012). The agreement is for Django to assist Schultz in capturing his bounty, for which Django will receive not only twenty-five dollars per bounty, but also his freedom. This begins Django’s journey into an improbable world of violence to fulfill his “super-objective” – to rescue his German speaking wife, Broomhilda von Shaft (Kerry Washington). The final scene culminates in fireworks when Django literally explodes the Candieland Plantation. The destructive act also destroys the antagonist of the film, the loyal slave Steven, played by the loyal Tarantino collaborator Samuel L. Jackson. Steven’s loyalty to Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) parallels Jackson’s loyalty to Tarantino who became “the filmmaker’s ticket to street cred” (Vognar, 27). Tarantino’s film suggests, therefore, that the white character who liberates the Black man does so because of some inexplicable but evident infatuation with the Black body and violence.
12 Years also pictures gratuitous violence, yet without the sensational violence on the order of Django’s exploding plantations, or the Spaghetti Western romanticism of riding off into the moonlight. The viewer watches Northrup (a formally free New Yorker) make several attempts to escape bondage on his own after having been kidnapped and sold into slavery by two white slavers. McQueen’s epic 12 Years ends in 1853 with Northrup leaving behind the repeatedly brutalized and sexually violated Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) in the dirt road before he is then reunited with his family. Northrup is finally “rescued” (for lack of a better word) from the Louisiana plantation by former friends from New York who, after having received word of his location by way of a sympathetic Canadian named Bass (Brad Pitt), have come to the plantation along with the United States Marshall to retrieve Northrup. In Tarantino’s piece, Django, with Schultz, kills white bounty for money on behalf of the same government that sanctions slavery as an institution. Yet, the institution of slavery, and the United States government that sanctions it, is never contested in either of these films – certainly not contested in the way that Christopher Dorner contested the Los Angeles Police Department as arbiter of racial and anti-Black violence. While scholars such as Walter Johnson have suggested that there is a collapse between Django and Dorner (to an extent I believe this to also be true) there is a distancing in Tarantino’s use of the Western genre that allows audiences to find pleasure in Django’s violence while disconnecting the historical factuality of slavery from the very real racial inequality of the present. Because “the United States is constructed at the intersection of both a capitalist and white supremacist matrix,” (Wilderson: 2005,1) these two films, despite the different approaches, are not for Black audiences. Rather, they are ways for civil society, “the ensemble of so-called private associations and ideological invitations to participate in a wide and varied play of consensus making strategies,” (Wilderson: 2005, 4) to render slavery as either historical adventurous entertainment or somber sentimental docudrama. This without the viewer being implicated in the perpetuation of slavery’s legacy in the present day police state, carceral system, and racial economic disparity. Any demand for contemporary social justice is elided in 12 Years by McQueen’s choice to end his film with Northrup’s return to his family in New York and not with the trial and the subsequent acquittal (á la George Zimmerman) of Northrup’s kidnappers. Similarly, Django would have its audience believe that by riding off into the moonlight, the slave is being returned to civil society. Nothing could be further from the truth.
My discussion thinks through “social death,” the desire and disavowal of Black flesh as a fetish which masks colorblindness but also undergirds, and locks into place, “the permanent, violent domination of natally alienated and generally dishonored persons” (Patterson 13). To understand slaves as simply property is to fall short of understanding “the principal way in which power is immediately interpreted in socially and cognitively acceptable terms” (18). Social death is structured through an unrelenting discursive, sexual, and corporeal violence, whose effects are felt today in the most vernacular of ways; in particular the unrelenting Black necropolitics of the carceral system. This is what Wilderson means when he refers to the “contingency of violence,” (Wilderson:2010) that holds civil society together (the world of the living), and a matrix of gratuitous violence that places the slave (in this case the Black) outside of civil society through a structural antagonism. Hence the non-slave, non-Black people, may engage in conflicts within civil society that can be reconciled through various mechanisms such as courts, schools, museums, and cinema. However, the constituent elements of civil society (a commons which can be equally accessed) are anti-Black.
While Black actors appear on the screen as characters, Django and 12 Years still render Black people and Black suffering illegible. As Frantz Fanon demonstrated in Black Skin, White Masks, the proscriptive therapy for suffering colonized subject/objects was and is decolonization. However, the psychoanalytic conceptualization of what it means to suffer, to be a human, is located in the Jewish Holocaust as the constant reference point for humanity. This is evidenced in interviews by Tarantino’s and McQueen’s repeated conflating of slavery with fascism, “little family quarrels,” (Fanon 87) and Anne Frank. Black suffering and empathy for Black humanity is incomprehensible because the grammar through which to understand Blackness is choreographed by a white Eurocentric discourse. As Susan Leigh Foster suggests, research “indicates that empathy and the feelings, such as compassion and admiration that it enables, are “hard-wired” in the brain” (Foster 127). However, empathy must be organized and socially choreographed through performance. While human beings may be hard-wired to empathize by projecting their condition into the situation of another, colorblindness, as the lingering effects of social death, is a technique that prevents the development of a language through which to recognize (and hence empathize) in a way that affords Black people a humanity and a voice.
What is the Colorblind and its Relationship to Performance?
As scholars such as Eithne Quinn and Brandi Catanese have demonstrated, colorblind ideology has shaped labor markets from the Antebellum South to current day Hollywood. Slavery, as a production of the African American subject/object, should be considered in terms of the stylized behaviors of Black bodies to occupy a certain social role as well as the economic imperatives that performance opens up in relation to those bodies at different moments in history. Django and 12 Years are representative of sources of labor in which unions, guilds, agencies, and a multi-million dollar Hollywood network are a part of an economic order that has historically marginalized Black labor. These diegetic experiences produce a paradoxical tension between Black performance within the Hollywood apparatus that affords employment to a small percentage of Black talent (actors, writers, directors, and producers) and an almost return to plantation-like ghettoization through the corralling of laborers and objects within an industry which continues to propagate whiteness as the norm reaping tremendous profit in the process.
Working through the effects of aesthetic and efficacious performance elucidates how race continues to structure relationships of power and how at “both institutional and cultural levels, performance has become the medium through which American anxieties about race (and in particular, blackness) are pondered, articulated, managed, and challenged” (Catanese 3). Ejiofor’s performance of Northrup as a free man, skilled laborer, violinist, and slave means survival as an actor within the Hollywood industry just as performance of labor meant survival for Northrup. The desire and necessity to perform was at once a paradox for Northrup, for it was the offer from Merrill Brown and Abraham Hamilton (Northrup’s captors) to perform in their traveling circus company which lead to his kidnap. As Northrup wrote, “They also remarked that they had found much difficulty in procuring music for their entertainments, and that if I would accompany them as far as New-York, they would give me one dollar for each day’s services, and three dollars in addition for every night I played at their performances, besides sufficient to pay the expenses of my return from New-York to Saratoga” (Northrup 13). The slavers veil their nefarious intentions with promises of financial return just as Schultz’s relationship to Django was driven by the profit motive.
The Black body in these films is still a fungible object despite Tarantino and McQueen laboring to convince otherwise. These films ask us to suspend our disbelief and buy into, as Tarantino purports in an interview with Henry Louis Gates, “a different place…an unfathomable place… not just…a historical story play…but actually…a genre story… an exciting adventure” (Gates 50). Tarantino gets away with this by conflating a Western genre story (civil society) with that of the Antebellum South (social death). Django’s and Northrup’s struggle relies on unique exceptional individuals who are able to endure American slavery and further inflate colorblind ideology by suggesting that the “racial regime” (Robinson xii) is about individual choices (rugged individualism) and not the power of the institution or collective struggle to change it. Rugged individualism is embodied by Django’s decision to role play a Black slaver as well as his constant decision to return to emancipating his wife rather than taking up arms with other slaves. To be truly manumissioned (in the eyes of Wilderson or Fanon) would require fulfilling an excess lack which would mean the implosion of civil society and the film and entertainment industry as we know it. Historically, this is most clearly evidenced by the temporal relationship to the Constitution as a legal framework for slavery, the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which further solidified the Constitution’s relationship to Black folks, and the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford of 1857, which not only upheld the Fugitive Slave Act, but removed the Black body (as text or corpus) out of any conceptualization of civil society in Justice Tauney’s decision. There was no empathy for the Black within the Constitution because the Constitution only applied to human beings; not to property or those who were three-fifths of a human.
Moving from New York to Washington, D.C. (a slave holding territory), Northrup and the reader/audience are led further into the South’s forced performance spaces by Brown and Hamilton. Northrup writes, “The voices of patriotic representatives boasting of freedom and equality, and the rattling of the poor slave’s chains, almost commingled. A slave pen within the very shadow of the Capitol! Such is a correct description as it was in 1841, of William’s slave pen in Washington, in one of the cellars of which I found myself so unaccountably confined” (23). And it was there in the nation’s capital and with a savage beating at the hands of the slaver James H. Burch that Northrup would learn to perform what Harvey Young refers to as “the still stand of [B]lack bodies” (Young 29) the Black embodiment of silence for survival. Northrup’s text demonstrates the awareness of the very capitalist processes that are at the central trappings of social death. Observing the slaver peddling human flesh forces Northrup to negotiate an economy of terror that is dependent upon the corporeal power of his labor for which he gains nothing in return.
Colorblind ideology also operates to produce apathetic narratives around Black labor within the material conditions of the film industry itself. Film and cultural studies scholar, Eithne Quinn, demonstrates how the ideology of colorblind practices grew out of neoconservatism within Hollywood during the 1960s and was initiated as part of anti-Black campaigns against Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s findings of widespread discrimination. Quinn writes:
a new “colorblind”’ discourse was first fomented by intellectuals and policy advisers around the turn of the 1970s. These influential advocates, many of whom became known as neoconservatives by the late 1970s, came from the right of the Democratic party and the left of the Republican party and turned sharply away from the black freedom struggle, which they had supported, after the mid- 1960s civil rights victories. Proceeding from the assumption that discrimination had more or less ended with civil rights reforms, these new conservatives championed a laissez-faire approach to racial equality. That strategy was to have far-reaching implications. (Quinn 467)
As Quinn goes on to suggest, this logic of the colorblind, as ideology and policy, has been perpetuated and now buttresses the current state of the industry through white nepotism between individuals and institutions and denies Black participation. Indeed, Quinn suggests that Jack Valenti – head of the Motion Pictures Association of America from 1966 to 2004 — galvanized support for anti-Blackness through the strategic deployment of neoconservative rhetoric.
The logic of neoconservative rhetoric fulfills white supremacy by pealing off cultural producers such as 12 Years writer John Ridley who will then deploy neoconservatism when discussing the lack of Black economic mobility in return for a seat at the executive table. As he stated in his 2006 Esquire magazine op-ed piece titled “The Manifesto of Ascendancy for the Modern American Nigger,” ascendancy necessitates assimilation at all costs even when it means negating empathy for poor and working class Blacks. In the opening lines Ridley writes:
LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING ABOUT NIGGERS, the oppressed minority within our minority. Always down. Always out. Always complaining that they can’t catch a break. Notoriously poor about doing for themselves. Constantly in need of a leader but unable to follow in any direction that’s navigated by hard work, self-reliance. And though they spliff and drink and procreate their way onto welfare doles and WIC lines, niggers will tell you their state of being is no fault of their own. (Ridley:2006)
This rhetoric was born out of the false belief that the few gains that Blacks had made through the Civil Rights struggle had somehow genuinely leveled the playing field and that anything else granted to Blacks through federal intervention was reverse discrimination, despite the fact that those in the position of white privilege were constantly lobbying the state and federal governments for advantageous tax accommodations and relaxed corporate regulation. It is as if Ridley has downloaded the neoconservative playbook and refashioned himself as a Black Valenti. Before continuing to identify the ideal models (Collin Powell and Condoleezza Rice) for the ascension of niggers, Ridley makes clear that he is not a nigger. Furthermore, he must tow the party line that his own success is the result of his ability to keep the promise of taking what is rightfully his in exchange for his investment, energy, and dedication to the American Way. He writes:
Now, let me tell you something about my generation of black Americans. We are the inheritors of “the Deal” forced upon the entrenched white social, political, and legal establishment when my parents’ generation won the struggle for civil rights. The Deal: We (blacks) take what is rightfully ours and you (the afore-described establishment) get citizens who will invest the same energy and dedication into raising families and working hard and being all around good people as was invested in snapping the neck of Jim Crow. In the forty years since the Deal was brokered, since the Voting Rights Act was signed, there have been successes for blacks. But there are still too many blacks in prison, too many kids aggrandizing the thug life, and way too many African-Americans doing far too little with the opportunities others earned for them. If we as a race could win the centuries-long war against institutionalized racism, why is it that so many of us cannot secure the advantage after decades of freedom? That which retards us is the worst of “us,” those who disdain actual ascendancy gained by way of intellectual expansion and physical toil—who instead value the posture of an “urban,” a “street,” a “real” existence, no matter that such a culture threatens to render them extinct. “Them” being niggers. (Ridley:2007)
In 1967, EEOC studies showed that at all of the major studios Black employment was never higher than 2.1% and of that, they were all low-skilled and low-paying jobs. Beyond the paucity of Black and minority employment in the studios at the corporate level was systemic exclusion within the trade and guild organizations, which required that union employees vouch for an individual who wanted to enter a trade or guild. As a further obstacle for minorities, guilds and unions such as the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees screened applicants with questionnaires that inquired into the nature of employment held by applicants’ parents and grandparents. In this context, empathy as acceptance is reserved for the white working middle and upper middle class laborers who solidified their privilege through unionization. The fact that white men such as Valenti, who only recently retired in 2004, continue to be the arbiters of the Hollywood film industry and the broader economy of America, Ridley’s critique of Black dysfunctionality is disingenuous as it ignores systemic racism of the present.
Tarantino has been able to actualize his fetish for Black bodies and Black death without consequence by creating and delivering an economy of pleasure through which audiences can consume an unrelenting ideology of tolerance for Black suffering. Django, is not an individual case of necropolitics within a slave narrative. It is part of a genealogy of Tarantino’s “dead niggers” or “dead nigger storage” as witnessed in his own on screen performances in Pulp Fiction (1995). Dead niggers – social death writ large – have been very good to Tarantino earning him an Oscar for best screenplay for Pulp Fiction and Django. Echoing Ridley, Hollywood’s rush to celebrate McQueen’s 12 Years as an unprecedented work about slavery, negates Gordon Parks’s television adaptation of 12 Years (1984). As Janice Harris Jackson suggests in her editorial for New York Amsterdam News:
African artists risk getting lost in the concept of “art for art’s sake.” The 2013 film “12 Years a Slave” is certainly very powerful. It is the most painfully carnal and graphic portrayal of slavery that I have ever seen. Its cinematography engages and disturbs all of the senses. It is intimately terrifying and a brilliant moment in filmmaking, but we must remember, nonetheless, that this excellent work is not the first cinematic portrayal of Northup’s story. Its remarkable artistry is bonafide while its “discovery” is fraudulent. (Jackson: 2014)
Parks (an award winning African American photographer) worked on a limited budget from the National Endowment for the Humanities (created for PBS). As Jackson points out, the lack of acknowledgement from any sector of Hollywood, most importantly McQueen, Ejiofor, Ridley, or any corner of the 12 Years team would suggest an investment in the mythology that African Americans have been somehow incapable of working through slavery on their own terms.
The Economies of Terror and Pleasure
In McQueen’s and Tarantino’s attempts to represent the terror of slavery, Black cultural laborers must perform what Sadiya Hartman refers to as “scenes of subjection” (Hartman:1997) in order to bring into materiality the historicity of slavery. This performance is always brokered through the interpreter (filmmaker, biographer, historian) who must filter the lens of the spectator’s gaze. This filtering is problematic because it pleads for empathy by asking whites to read their subjectivity into the condition of the slave. The white spectator reads themselves, and thus whiteness as ontological condition, into the non-ontological. White audiences can seclude themselves in the economies of pleasure produced by Tarantino’s Django. It is an opportunity for them to enjoy the brilliance of Tarantino’s boldness and edgy filmmaking because they are not asked to take seriously the possibility of Black suffering. With 12 Years, it is not the Black as a person who suffers, rather it is white subjectivity projected into the narrative of Northrup. Subsequently, cinema plays a slight of hand by suggesting that through the genealogy of slave cinema, the nation has embraced a racial progress toward colorblind egalitarianism.
McQueen’s film unearths performances of horror and traumas that echo through the crack of the whip. In the world of Edwin Epps’s plantation, the inscription of cruelty through a confluence of performative labor and torture enmesh, intertwine, ejaculate, and unrelentingly receive the violence of the racial regime. The absurdity of these performances is captured in Northrup’s passages such as the following:
All of us would be assembled in the large room of the great house, whenever Epps came home in one of his dancing moods… “Dance you [damned] niggers, dance,” Epps would shout. Then there must be no halting or delay, no slow or languid movements; all must be brisk, and lively, and alert. “Up and down, heal and toe, and way we go,” was the order of the hour. Epps’ portly form mingled with those of his dusky slaves, moving rapidly through all the mazes of the dance. (Northrup 137)
Epps’s desire to see the “niggers dance” was no less about his desire for amusement than it was about instruction and reminding of how to behave and perform as a slave. The spectacle simultaneously operates to maintain the idiom of power through the surveillance of Black bodies. The master instructed the slave how to dance in order to remind the slave that they were not the master of their own body. The very pleasure of the performance derived by Epps was terror for the slave. “Formations of terror and enjoyment” solidified the relationship of domination because representing power was essential to reproducing domination. Terror and domination also produced economies of enjoyment which “bound the black body, [and] permanently affixed [it] in its place, engender[ed] pleasure not only rooted in the buffoonery and grotesqueries of Cuff, Sambo, and Zip Coon but above all deriving from the very mechanisms of this coercive placement; it is a pleasure obtained from the security of place and order and predicated upon chattel slavery” (31). I would argue that these very same economies of enjoyment permeate throughout audience consumption of 12 Years and Django. In particular, scenes such as Mandingo fighting in Tarantino’s Candieland, in which two Black bucks are forced to fight to the death for the amusement of plantation owner, Calvin Candie, are capable of reproducing a similar spectacle of amusement. Django’s misplaced vengeance, not at Candie, not at the state as sanctioning institution of Black violence, but at the ultimate slave, Stephen, satisfies similar (white) audience desires.
While Black audiences may have gone to see 12 Years or Django to support the overwhelmingly Black casts, as one columnist, Orville Lloyd Douglas, writes, “The narrow range of films about the black life experience being produced by Hollywood is actually dangerous because it limits the imagination, it doesn’t allow real progress to take place. Yet, sadly, these roles are some of the only ones open to black talent. People want us to cheer that black actors from…12 Years a Slave are likely to be up for best actor and actress awards, yet it feels like a throwback, almost to the Gone with the Wind era” (Douglas: 2013). In response to Douglas’s editorial and augmenting commentary over the lack of insurrectionary impulses, Demetria Lucas suggests the following in The Grio:
And maybe I’m just too demanding and never satisfied, because I (and Douglas) want more options than watching blacks suffering in servitude with stoic dignity. If Hollywood insists on giving me slave narratives, can I least get a Nat Turner movie where a black man goes H.A.M. at the injustice of it all? If I must watch servants, can I get more maids, like the character Minnie from The Help, who exact revenge? Must black people always be calm and righteous in the face of social abuses? (Lucas: 2013)
While Django explodes and scales up the act of revenge to the point of farce, 12 Years remains in steady tension through calmness and “critical stillness,” and this is especially true in relationship to the most salacious of performances.
Sexual Desire and Fetish
While intimated, Tarantino denies the visualization of sexual abuse of the light skinned German speaking Broomhilda whom, by Django’s account was, “not a field nigga…she pretty.” However, if Broomhilda is not a field nigga, then what is she? Bound by the particularity of white sexual desire for Black flesh in Northrup’s text, Patsey, on the other hand is “the queen of the field,” queen of Epps’s desire, and the desire of white audiences to hold onto the Black female body as a sexually dysfunctionally functioning object. While the darker skinned Nyong’o has been awarded the Oscar and People Magazine named her most beautiful person of the year for 2014, her acceptance speech at the Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon reveals a paradoxical disavowal and desire that I have been exploring:
I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I had been the day before. (Nyong’o:2014)
When placed in conversation with Kerry Washington’s performance and career trajectory, Nyong’o’s statement reveals how Broomhilda’s sexual violation as “mulatta” is denied on the screen in exchange for her contrapuntal relationship to the position of “field nigga.” In so doing Django makes sexual violation of the Black female body all the more palatable for civil society by reifying the notion that sexual violation is acceptable for some bodies, if not for others.
The darkness of Patsey’s flesh as a Jezebel, her inability to be raped because of her lascivious tendencies, simultaneously secures the validation of relentless sexual violence visited upon the Black female corpus. As Hartman writes in her discussion on seduction and the ruses of power, “the actual or attempted rape of an enslaved woman was an offense neither recognized nor punishable by law, but also its repression was essential to the displacement of white culpability that characterized both the recognition of the black subject as the originary locus of transgression and offense” (80). Sexual domination as a technique of control worked to return the Black female body to the place of object by denying ontology and natal sexual identity. The Jezebel trope validated and justified unfettered access to the Black female body, in turn precluding any consideration that it was even possible for the sexual relation between master and slave to be anything other than necessary and consensual.
The historicity of sexual violation of female slaves at the hands of white masters often took on a pedophiliac nature. Such history was documented in the legal case of State of Missouri v. Celia, a Slave (1855) as well as in McQueen’s 12 Years in the relationship between the Patsey and Epps. Northrup writes:
Patsey is twenty-three—also from Buford’s plantation… [She]…was queen of the field… Her back bore the scars of a thousand stripes; not because she was backward in her work, nor because she was of an unmindful and rebellious spirit, but because it had fallen her lot to be the slave of a licentious master and a jealous mistress…Nothing delighted the mistress so much as to see her suffer, and more than once, when Epps refused to sell her, has she tempted me with bribes to put her secretly to death, and bury her body in some lonely place in the margin of the swamp. (143)
Both in the passages and scenes in the book and film, the depiction of Epps’s relationship with the Patsey further illustrates the tyrannical process of gender constitution within the economy of terror and enjoyment. This process renders the Black female body as sexually illegilible, and with the state’s collusion, incapable of being raped. Hartman writes:
The eliding of rape must also be considered in relation to what is callously termed the recognition of slave humanity and the particular mechanisms of tyrannical power that converge on the black body. In this instance, tyranny is not a rhetorical inflation but a designation of the absoluteness of power. Gender, if at all appropriate in this scenario, must be understood as indissociable from violence, the vicious refiguration of rape as mutual and shared desire, the wanton exploitation of the captive body tacitly sanctioned as a legitimate use of property, the disavowal of injury, and the absolute possession of the body and its “issue.” (86)
Patsey is forced to endure the desire and disavowal of both master and mistress, rendering her culpable of unprovoked violence that she must suffer at the hands of both parties and even at the hands of Northrup, when he is forced to whip her. Patsey has no right of redress under the law. She is the one deemed responsible for her own suffering, in which the nonexistence of rape means that the enslaved woman is a guilty accomplice and seducer. The omissions of any kind of jurisprudence must be read symptomatically within an economy of bodies in which the full enjoyment of the slave as thing depends upon unbounded authority and the totalizing consumption of the body and its fungibillity. Patsey as free laborer is queen of the field in her ability to barrel cotton as well as fulfilling Epps’s sexual fetish. There is no empathy for Patsey for she is the very purpose of her suffering.
Yet, McQueen has described the relationship between Epps and Patsey as one of love? In an interview with Charlie Rose for PBS, McQueen is asked specifically about Epps the character and his relationship to Patsey. Rose asks, “You see Epps as a victim of a man who could not see anything beyond his own property?” (Rose:2013) McQueen responds, “I think Epps is a human being first of all, just like everyone here at this table… [sic] He doesn’t understand how, he, a white slave owner, is in love with this black slave. There is a passion there which, you know, love is a thing where it decides. You don’t decide. And his dealing with that is classic. It’s a classic tragedy in a way” (McQueen:2013). Granted, as a filmmaker McQueen would have to ask of his actor to commit to the role of a three-dimensional person. Northrup’s description of Epps in the book doesn’t bode well as he suggests that the slaves referred to Epps as “old hog-jaw,” when not in earshot – a nuance which is absent in the film.
However, I read the dynamics between these two individuals as not love, but the quintessential example of simultaneous desire and disavowal of the Black body by the white patriarchal heteronormative gaze. It is this contradictory dialectic, which cannot be euphemized as love, through which power is produced, and in this case enacted upon the slave’s body in the most brutal and horrific ways. Such brutality is embodied in a scene in which Epps brings Patsey out into the moonlight and mounts her on top of a wooden cart. After climaxing, he slaps Patsey with full force across the face and proceeds to choke her. Epps stops short of completely asphyxiating Patsey as he realizes that he is vulnerable to discovery and the jealous rage of his wife. The absolute authority that the master holds over the slave as object – as thing – pushes the relationship between Epps and Patsey toward what Harvey Young suggests as a fetish for the Black body as a souvenir object. Young’s discussion of the spectacle of lynching, which renders the Black body as souvenir, a fetish, emerges from his historiographic reading of the brutal practice.
Patsey’s body, as Epps’s queen and souvenir, takes on an aura of mystique because in addition to being incomplete, her body is also illicit. It displays the romance of contraband, for its scandal is its removal from its natural location and its appeal to the person who takes the object and the audience to whom it is displayed. Taken away from its environment, which is unlike the one in which it is displayed, the souvenir’s presence reveals its own theft (170). Epps’s nonconsensual control and desire to possess Patsey within political and sexual economies is not love but a fetish. Young, citing William Pietz, defines the properties of the fetish as having four traits: “it is materially based; it synthesizes multiple elements in a single body; it has social value; it has power to affect the physical body” (179). Epps’s fetish over Patsey’s body synthesizes his desire to brutalize Patsey with the whip and his genitalia, while simultaneously lending social value to his status as master. Indeed, in perhaps one of the most horrific scenes after Patsey has been whipped, we see Epps strolling in the pastoral of his plantation holding hands with a prepubescent young girl who is a spitting image of Patsey. Epps has found another souvenir to replace his old one and a thing through which to further enact his fetish. On this point Ridley seems to grasp the non-empathetic condition of negrophobic pedophilia.
Colorblindness and its Relationship to the Ruse
Citing Fanon, Afro-pessimists such as Jared Sexton and Wilderson have called attention to the ruse of analogy which negates social death, Blackness, and further reifies the non-ontological condition of the slave. It is this non-ontological condition in relationship to civil society that Wilderson suggests throws the Black into a state of objecthood which cannot be understood through the analogy. This is what McQueen and Tarantino cannot comprehend. As Fanon wrote, “the attitude of the anti-Semite can be equated with that of the negrophobe…the anti-Semite is inevitably a negrophobe (101). However, Fanon did not say the negrophobe is invariably an anti-Semite. Yet, the metadiscourse on racial formation and its relationship to domination necessitate that any conversation about Black suffering is immediately checked by analogizing it to European fascism.
When asked why make 12 Years now, McQueen automatically defaults to the Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl. It is only through lens of the Holocaust, that slavery seems to make sense for McQueen, his interviewer, and for whiteness writ large. The grammar that constructs the parallax through which suffering is understood is still rooted in the ontological condition that has provided the natural metaphor through which one can ask what does it mean to suffer? However, Auschwitz is not unprecedented for one whose frame of reference is the Middle Passage. The Muselmann is not the slave. Yet, the historiography of intellectual thought emerging out of the Second World War has fortified and extended the “interlocutory life of widely accepted political common sense which positions the German/Jewish relation as the sine qua non of a structural antagonism” (Wilderson 36). This historiography allows political philosophy to attribute ontological and social significance to the Jewish Holocaust that can be resolved because the Jew can be returned to civil society as a human being. This is the difference between being hunted and being sold.
In a roundtable discussion with the Hollywood Reporter’s David Simpson in 2011, McQueen is the only one of six male directors who is not white. At the end of the hour and seven minute interview Simpson asks, “You’re all men. Only one of you, Steve, is a minority.” There is uncomfortable laughter with eyes turned down as the group attempts to name three to four woman directors. Then McQueen states, “The question should be different. The question should be why are there no Black directors since there are more women directors than there are Black directors.” To which Simpson presses further, “So, what’s the answer?” It is here where I would argue that McQueen shows the disjuncture between African descended people of the North Americas and his positionality as a Black British artist. Similar to his other interviews, McQueen cannot fathom the idea that the very negation of Blackness, as non-ontology, is the principle reason for the underemployment of Black directors. Because directors construct the reality of the film set, they are often the primary arbiters of employment for talent in front of the camera. Hence the paucity of Black directors correlates with the casting of Blacks and other minorities. McQueen fumbles around for an answer, concluding:
I’m always astonished by American filmmakers, particularly living in certain areas, when they never cast one person as a Black person, who have never actually put a Black person as a lead in a movie. I’m astonished. It’s shameful. [sic] How can you be living in a country or cities in America as a director and not cast sort of [Black] people, I don’t know, you live in New York and not cast Black actors or Latino actors. It’s shameful. It’s unbelievable. (McQueen:2011)
Simpson presses on, “Why is that?” McQueen nods with his head to the rest of directors sitting in the circle who are now all silent and squirming awkwardly in their chairs, further intensifying the very point of McQueen’s Blackness as an alienated condition. McQueen continues: “You ask them. It’s bizarre…I feel it’s odd. I feel it’s shameful. Tremendously shameful in fact.” Simpson then presses the question to the rest of the group about why this reality, which McQueen has made blatantly obvious, exists. There is a pause from the group and then the following answers, “I’m not stepping into that,” and “I don’t know.” For a moment, McQueen had managed to articulate the problem. The exchange took place three years before McQeen’s 12 Years won the Oscar for Best Picture. The conversation could not “hold the break” (Moten:2003). Rather it had to close by returning to a discussion what the coming year would hold for independent versus commercial (as if inclusion isn’t commercial) cinema. A topic to which the other roundtable directors were more than eager to entertain given their inability to speak back to McQueen’s previous remarks.
This is not to suggest that the Black is at the top of every hierarchy of discrimination. Rather it is to call attention to the manner in which “violence which…destroys the possibility of ontology because it positions the Black in an infinite and interdeterminately horrifying and open vulnerability” (Wilderson 38) with practical and real implications. Another way to think about this is the constant echo-chamber of Black on Black violence that Ridley espouses as the dysfunctionality of niggers. In filtering the suffering of the Black through the white lens of the Holocaust, we are blinded, calloused, and indifferent to Black social death, and the lives of actual people. We can see this indifference in President Obama’s reaction to the carnage Adam Lanza unleashed on New Town, Connecticut, in which President Obama, rightfully so, decried that this “kind of senseless violence” has to stop and pointed his anger toward the gun manufacturing industry and structural inequality in mental health. Adam Lanza, a member of civil society, was mentally disturbed, not a thug, right? By contrast, the President’s rhetoric regarding Black youth dying either at the hands of other Black youth or at the hands of the state often has been couched in a language of absentee-fatherism, gangster youth music and culture, urban decay, and the necessity to just pull up one’s trousers. This language, even coming out of President Obama’s mouth, is never an issue of mental health caused by colonialism and internal colonialism of the mind.
In fact, it finally took the tragedy of Trayvon Martin, and the subsequent acquittal of George Zimmerman, for the President to finally pose the question to the American public on live television, in effect, asking how would a jury have reacted if Trayvon Martin made the same claim to stand your ground. Or better yet, can Black people make the same claim to the second amendment and the right to self-defense? In the press conference the President stated:
And for those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these “stand your ground” laws, I’d just ask people to consider, if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened? (Obama: 2013)
Yet, this would have nothing to do with mental health because as Fanon demonstrated, “A drama is played out every day in the colonized countries. How can we explain, for example, that a black guy who has passed his baccalaureate and arrives at the Sorbonne to study for his degree in philosophy is already on his guard before there is the sign of any conflict?” (123). For President Obama and Django the state’s sanctioning of violence cannot figure into the question of Black liberation. However for Fanon, writing and fighting were revolutionary acts to bring about the denouement within the drama of a dying colonialism.
This article has used Django and 12 Years to work through recent iterations of slave cinema. I have demonstrated that these films are representative of unique sites of labor in which Black bodies are organized as commodities to perform economies of pleasure and terror within a Hollywood film industry that propagates colorblind ideology and white supremacy by denying Black people empathic capacity or humanity. Furthermore, simultaneous desire and disavowal for Black bodies has created a fetish for Blackness that has been conflated with love as well as the suffering of white innocence. In exploring these relationships, I have also been calling for an understanding of how colorblind ideology is intertwined with aesthetic and efficacious modes of performance in which Black social death is congruent with the way in which the performance of Black labor is persistently controlled and marginalized in Hollywood. As a consequence, cinema helps shape the discussions around race relations that continue to affect the lived experiences of Black people in the United States.
I didn’t cry when I went to an invited screening of 12 Years, which had a predominantly Black audience. As Wilderson concludes, empathetic aesthetics, by which popular socially progressive films are underwritten, dissipate cinema’s critical potential by hailing the spectator to an impoverished ensemble of questions, such as Isn’t it sad? Isn’t it tragic? Why do some people behave badly and others don’t? (339). Certainly, within McQueen’s project we are asked to move in the direction of these moral questions at the expense of analytical ones. Yet, just like analytic film aesthetics that strive to repudiate moral assessments by privileging effect over cause as well as independent cinema’s implicit and explicit political promise, neither tradition processes the ensemble of questions nor approaches a language through which to articulate the economy of Black non-ontology.
In Django Unchained, we are never asked to ponder any kind of relationship to civil society, as the protagonist is presumed to live outside society except when accessed as fungible object by the will of the state to perform the role of bounty hunter alongside Schultz. All of this, despite the fact that the will of the state determines that the slave has no relationship to the state because the slave is a non-citizen, a non-human. But exploring the relationship of Blackness to civil society is neither Tarantino’s project nor concern. Tarantino, like Ridley, is concerned with the box office and obsessed with Black necropolitics. As the history of capitalism in the United States has demonstrated, Black bodies and money make excellent bedfellows. While Ridley recognizes that he is in fact being consumed and simultaneously prospering, but yet cannot comprehend why he is being consumed in parasitic like fashion (and thus must insist that he is a unique host unlike the other niggers), the parasite, Tarantino, feasts. Tarantino wants us to indulge with him in his fetishization of the slave’s body. He will do anything to it he wants. He will kill it, eat it, fuck it, shit on it, and then fuck it again. His obsession, yes, festishization, with the Black body has no end and he wants everyone to know it. He enjoys knowing that everyone knows it. It is through this process that his status as white, male, and privileged is affirmed, and for this his audiences handsomely reward him.
Funding for this project was made possible by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, a research center within the Institute for American Cultures at University of California, Los Angeles. For their generous sharing of time, resources, and knowledge I would like to thank Vice-Provost Belinda Tucker, Professor Darnell Hunt, Dr. Ana-Christina Ramon, the Bunche Center staff, and the Race and Hollywood team for committing their energy to the study of diversity (or lack thereof) in the Hollywood and entertainment industry. I am most grateful to Dominic Steavu-Balint, Leo Cabranes-Grant, Darnell Hunt, Bob Myers, Rael Jero Salley, and Jeffrey Stewart who contributed to the shaping of this essay by lending insights and providing comments on drafts.
- For an interesting discussion on Dorner’s relationship to Django, see Walter Johnson’s article “Allegories of Empire Django/Dorner/blackness/blowback” in Transitions.
- For this article, I am following Frank Wilderson’s suggestion that civil society or the world of the living includes everyone else, but Black people. See Wilderson’s discussion on Asians’ and Latinos’ relationship to civil society in the context of a contingency of violence within civil society in Red, White & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010. (Wilderson 45, 65, 356)
- This passage is translated differently depending on the text. In this case I am referring to Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks. London: Pluto Press, 1986 which can be accessed at http://abahlali.org/files/__Black_Skin__White_Masks__Pluto_Classics_.pdf
- Foster traces the etymology of empathy suggesting that the term “came into usage at the end of the nineteenth century. Naming the experience of merging with the object of one’s contemplation, it was originally coined in 1873 by the German aesthetician Robert Vischer as Einfuhlung, and translated into English by Edward Titchener in 1909.” (127)
- As the Bunche Center for African American Studies “2014 Hollywood Diversity Report: Making Sense of the Disconnect” quantitatively demonstrates, minorities (African Americans in particular) and women continue to be woefully underrepresented in front of and behind the camera.
- As Richard Dyer suggests in his seminal text, White, “For those in power in the West, as long as whiteness is felt to be the human condition, then it alone defines normality and fully inhabits it…the equation of being white with being human secures a position of power.” (9)
- According to the Hollywood Reporter, Django had an estimated budget of $87 million and grossed $162,805,434 million domestic and $262,562,804 foreign box office for a total of $425,368,238 worldwide. In comparison, according to Box Office Mojo, 12 Years cost less than half as much at a production budget of $22,000,000 and has nearly doubled its return at $56,671,993 domestic return and with a foreign return of $131,061,209 12 Years currently stands at $187,733,202.
- The book presents Northrup as a sophisticated and conscious character whose father had been born a slave and relocated to Saratoga, New York in 1808, the very year that the Atlantic slave trade was technically abolished by the United States. The abolition of the Atlantic Slave trade in turn escalated the need to actually steal more Black bodies within the country in order to support the agricultural needs of the South which supplied raw materials for the Industrial Revolution in Europe the demands of production and consumption of the United States as a whole. This is significant as the text demonstrates that while Northrup’s existence in the free northern territories allowed him a tenuous financial sustainability.
- The legal framework for slavery written during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 was still in place. They were; Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 which relegated all persons held in bondage in slave states as three-fifths a person, Article I, Section 9, Clause 1 which determined that the Atlantic Slave trade would not end until 1808, Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3 the escape of slaves from slave holding states to free territory did not exempt them from return to their rightful owners. To read in full, visit http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html.
- Tauney’s opinion declared that slaves were not citizens of the United States and could not sue in Federal courts. This decision declared that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional and that Congress did not have the authority to prohibit slavery in the territories. For more see the Library of Congress at http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/DredScott.html#American.
- As Robin Kelley has discussed, the neoconservative trope of dysfunctionality operates to inculcate stereotypes such as welfare queen and the disruption of organized labor movements. See Yo’ Mama’s Disfunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America. Boston: Beacon Press.
- For more, see Jackson’s complete editorial titled “Please remember Gordon Parks’ ‘Solomon Northrup’s Odyssey’ in New York Amsterdam News at http://amsterdamnews.com/news/2014/mar/06/please-remember-gordon-parks-solomon-northups-odys/
- A similar argument was also made for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In this particular case, Stowe’s tactic was in fact to stoke the ire of white northerners into feeling contempt for the South and legitimating support for the Union Army.
- As noted in Hartman and as recorded in Melton McClaurin’s Celia, a Slave (New York: Avon, 1991). Celia was a slave who was hanged for clubbing her master to death after repeated rapes even when she was ill and with fever.
- Derived from the Portugese fetico, meaning “sorcery” or “charm” the word fetish was employed by sixteenth – and seventeenth – century merchants to describe sculptures, figurines, trinkets, and other religious possessions of their West African trading partners.
- The roundtable discussion can be accessed at http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/video/video-award-season-roundtable-series-directors-uncensored-265448.
- For a complete copy of Obama’s remarks, visit the White House homepage at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/07/19/remarks-president-trayvon-martin.
Bogle, Donald. Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films. New York: Viking Press, 1973. Print.
Catanese, Brandi W. The Problem of the Color(blind): Racial Transgression and the Politics of Black Performance. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011. Print
Douglas, Orville Lloyd. “Why I won’t be watching The Butler and 12 Years a Slave.” The Guardian. Thursday, 12, September. 2013. Web.
Dyer, Richard. White. London: Routledge, 1997. Print.
Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. New York: Gove Press, 1967. Print.
Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. London: Pluto Press, 1986. Print.
Foster, Susan L. Choreographing Empathy: Kinesthesia in Performance. London: Routledge, 2011. Print.
Gates, Henry L. J, and Quentin Tarantino. “‘an Unfathomable Place”: a Conversation with Quentin Tarantino About Django Unchained (2012).” Transition. 112.1 (2013): 47-66. Print.
Hartman, Saidiya V. Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Print.
Hunt, D., Price, Z., and Ramon, A.C.. “2014 Hollywood Diversity Report: Making Sense of the Disconnect,” Bunche Center for African American Studies. (pp. 1-33). UCLA. 2013. Web.
Jackson, Janice Harris. “Please remember Gordon Parks’ ‘Solomon Northup’s Odyssey.’” The New York Amsterdam News. March 8, 2014. Web.
Johnson, Walter. “Allegories of Empire: Django /dorner/blackness/blowback.” Transition. 112.1 (2013): 13-21. Print.
Kelley, Robin D. G. Yo’ Mama’s Disfunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America. Boston: Beacon Press, 1997. Print.
Lucas, Demetria L. ‘12 Years a Slave’: Black audiences need more than slave narratives.” The Grio. October 31, 2013. Web
McQueen, Steve and Solomon Northup. 12 Years a Slave. , 2014. DVD
Moten, Fred. In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003. Print.
Northup, Solomon, Sue L. Eakin, and Joseph Logsdon. Twelve Years a Slave. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1968. Print.
Nyong’o, Lupita. “Lupita Nyong’o Delivers Moving ‘Black Women in Hollywood’ Acceptance Speech.” Essence Magazine. Feb. 28, 2014. Web.
Obama, Barack. “Remarks by the President on Trayvon Martin.” The White House. Office of the Secretary. 2013. Web.
Patterson, Orlando. Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1982. Print
Quinn, E. “Closing Doors: Hollywood, Affirmative Action, and the Revitalization of Conservative Racial Politics.” Journal of American History Bloomington. 99.2 (2012): 466-49. Print.
Ridley, John. “The Manifesto of Ascendancy for the Modern American Nigger.” Esquire Magazine. November 30, 2006. Web.
Robinson, Cedric J. Forgeries of Memory and Meaning: Blacks and the Regimes of Race in American Theater and Film Before World War II. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007. Print.
Rose, Charlie. “‘12 Years a Slave’: McQueen, Fassbender, Ejiofor.” Bloomberg TV October 11, 2013. Web.
Sexton, Jared. “The Ruse of Engagement: Black Masculinity and the Cinema of Policing.” American Quarterly. 61.1 (2009): 39-63. Print.
Sexton, Jared. Amalgamation Schemes: Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracialism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008. Print
Simpson, David. “Award Season Roundtable Series: The Directors Uncensored.” The Hollywood Reporter. < http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/video/video-award-season-roundtable-series-directors-uncensored-265448> November 23, 2011. Web.
Stowe, Harriet B, and Jean F. Yellin. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. Print.
Tarantino, Quentin. Django Unchained. Beverly Hills, CA: Weinstein Company Home Entertainment, 2013. DVD.
Tarantino, Quentin. Pulp Fiction. S.l.: Miramax Home Entertainment, 2002. DVD.
The Constitution of the United States: With the Acts of Congress, Relating to Slavery, Embracing, the Constitution, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, the Missouri Compromise Act of 1820, the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, and the Nebraska and Kansas Bill, Carefully Compiled. Rochester: D.M. Dewey, 1854. Print.
Vognar, Chris. “He Can’t Say That, Can He?: Black, White, and Shades of Gray in the Films of Tarantino.” Transition. 112.1 (2013): 23-31. Print.
Wilderson, Frank B. Red, White & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010. Print.
Wilderson, Frank I. I. I. “Gramsci’s Black Marx: Whither the Slave in Civil Society?”We Write. 2005: 1-17. < http://bmorereadinggroup.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/frank_gramsci.pdf>. Web.
Young, Harvey. Embodying Black Experience: Stillness, Critical Memory, and the Black Body. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010. Print.