I already know Nat Turner’s story. I read voraciously when I was younger, to the point where, most of it is actually forgotten. Some stories though, are unforgettable, forever ingrained in your consciousness. Nat Turner’s story is one of those. Even now, I fail to find the words to process the emotions I felt. How can you possibly categorize your feelings as you read of him sitting in a jail cell, unapologetically confessing to the murder of over 60 white men, women, and children? American history is as ugly as it gets.
And it is because of this exact experience that I felt such excitement when I found out Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation was going to be released. We’d finally have this incredible story on film. This movie would become required viewing for generations to come, because if ever there was a slave narrative that needed to be seen, it’s Nat Turner’s. Please understand that if we cannot look the ugliest parts of our history in the eye, we can not keep history from repeating itself.
Unfortunately, even before the disgusting news of Nate Parker’s past was resurrected for everyday consumption, I’d already begun to read the rumblings about the historical inaccuracies in the movie. While we know that we can never perfectly recreate history, and that creatives will take liberties to tell an entertaining story, I think it’s imperative that key details remain the same. If you want to tell our history, you NEED to prioritize accuracy. Otherwise, call it the trumped up fiction, farce, or satire it is.
Nate Parker has not done that. Instead, he has defended himself, and his storytelling, within an inch of his life. It would appear that Nate Parker expects his movie to be the definitive Nat Turner story. So, as I’ve sat here watching his “fuck you, I don’t owe an apology tour” in front of every interviewer willing to have him, I’ve just felt the disgust build. You mean to tell me, after having an unfortunate seat at the table of your shit-tastic personal life, you haven’t even made a five-star movie? You actually had the NERVE to rewrite the Nat Turner narrative?!
For those of you that don’t know, unlike in Birth of a Nation, it’s not recorded that the rape of his wife (there is no official record of her existence), sets Nat Turner off. Instead, it’s recorded that his visions (which he saw as Divine Intervention), punctuated by a solar eclipse are what led to his rebellion. He really believed he needed to do it.
But hey, Nat Turner was a religious man. I believe he probably did have a wife. Some historians say she exists. I also think, given how much trouble he was in, it makes sense he didn’t mention her in his last words. As such, while we can’t confirm Nate Parker is wrong about her existence, we can most definitely confirm that Nate Parker has made up most of this dang story. I guess what we have on record isn’t salacious enough for him. Hmm.
Even worse, of all the reasons Nate Parker could have shown for a slave rebelling (you know, like being educated and enslaved), he chose the rape trope. REALLY? How much lazier did his writing need to be?! And to add insult to injury, it appears he didn’t even pull the trope off successfully! Actually, some found his depiction downright troubling. And if we’re thinking seriously here, would rape, as heinous as it is, have been reason enough for a slave to snap as epically as Nat Turner did?
While today, the horrors of rape hold form (unless you’re an athlete or a white college student…), during slavery, rape was as normal as working in the fields. Slaves were property. They didn’t own anything, let alone their bodies, and if they were fortunate enough to be allowed the opportunity to marry, it was still understood they belonged to their master. So excuse me if I’m not buying that Nat Turner experienced this level of outrage over rape.
Note: This is not saying that slaves weren’t angry over rape, just that, the existence of the African American diaspora in America is proof their anger didn’t change anything. And given that, even in 2016, men are being sentenced to less than 90 days of jail time for rape, I’m not buying that raping women ever inspires men to go as apeshit as Nat Turner did. Freaking patriarchy!
Suffice to say, if you’ve gotten this far, you know I’m over it. I’m also extra mad because now that I’ve written this, I actually HAVE to see the movie. I can’t be on the internet complaining about what everyone else is saying without seeing it for myself! To add insult to injury, instead of ignoring him like usual, now I’ll have to engage with the bootleg man that’s always standing outside the hot wing spot. Yes, I said bootleg (you can’t arrest me unless catch me). You know Nate Parker is not getting a single, solitary dime from me!
At this point I only hold out hope that, despite the unfortunate presence of it’s creator and it’s blatant inaccuracies, the movie will be good. So many people are complaining about what went wrong, that they aren’t really saying what’s done right. That’s what I’ll be hoping to discover.
Let me tell you though, I really wish this brother would take a seat. Several seats. At the back of the damn bus.