G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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At the Washington Post, Dan Balz writes up a survey commissioned by the Shriver Report and the Center for American Progress:
At the same time, the report argues that government and business have been slow to recognize the changes and adopt policies that recognize these new realities. The report asserts that this has been particularly hard on women, who carry burdens of being both breadwinners and principal caregivers to children, particularly those living on the financial brink.
For example, the survey found that 64 percent of all respondents and 77 percent of women on the brink agreed with this statement: “Government should set a goal of helping society adapt to the reality of single-parent families and use its resources to help children and mothers succeed regardless of their family status.”
More Americans agreed that women raising children on their own face major challenges and that government, business and communities should help them financially than those who agreed with the statement that unmarried women who have children should take complete financial responsibility for those children.
Research has shown that children have a greater opportunity for success if they are raised in intact, two-parent households. But the answers to the survey indicate that many people, particularly financially stressed women who head single-parent households, say government should worry less about what has happened and do more to find ways to help their families succeed.
There was this story about Rochester 16 year-old Devin Alexander who perpetrated another non-trend criminal act involving the cousin of ‘knockout game’ called ‘smack cam’. ‘Smack cam’ arose from the pits of Vine, which is a social media phenomenon where people post microvideos.
Now, we’ve learned that ‘knockout game’ isn’t a trend, but ‘smack cam’ is*. One reason that these are differently classified – and I’m just going out on a limb here – is that kids of all shapes, sizes, and hues are playing ‘smack cam’. Usually it’s a game played among friends with the understanding that if you ‘smack cam’ me, I will probably also ‘smack cam’ you. But Alexander’s ‘smack cam’ was quite different. He punched an older white woman in the head. She most likely won’t play ‘smack cam’ back.
Update: I removed some of this post for use in another place.
2. This brief piece on the low quality of academic research made me think, what are the compounded perils of a publish-or-perish culture in academia piled on top of a publish-or-perish dilemma in journalism?
3. Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit, in an interview about his new book about the declining returns to a college education. But I liked the last bit about the arc of the blogosphere:
I miss the fun of the early days, say from 2001 until late 2002. There was much more left-right camaraderie in the blogosphere because we were all doing something new and exciting, and that was more important than where we differed. That seemed to change really fast after the 2002 elections, but it was bound to happen. It’s like another one of my interests, electronic music. In the beginning, we were all dancing in warehouses and talking about Peace Love Unity and Respect. Then, after a while, it got big, and everything changed. But that’s the way of things.
My caution/warning is this: People are generally a lot nicer in real life than they are on the Internet. And I say that as someone who has mostly been surprised by how many nice people I’ve met via the Internet. But if you spend too much time on the Internet, the world seems like a meaner place than it really is. I worry that more and more people are spending too much time on the Internet.
4. A very good article on the low academic achievement of college athletes. Plenty of statistics and fresh reporting via open records requests. Here is a passage from the piece quoting an administrator from the University of Washington who has his head up his ass:
Robert Stacey, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington, said the conversation should be about the achievement gap — the difference between the academic levels of the athletes and their nonathlete peers at the same university.
“We know how to close the achievement gap. It’s just very expensive,” he said. “A student who scored a 380 on his or her (SAT) critical reading is going to face tremendous challenges, won’t be able to compete the first year with a student who has a 650 or 700. But with intensive tutoring — and I’m not talking about cheating, I’m talking about tutoring — by the time they get to be juniors, they’re competing. But it’s a very expensive process. It takes intensive work.”
6. BBC’s political editor admits that the organization censored debates on immigration during the 1990s and early 2000s because it wanted to avoid being seen as racist. (h/t Ray Sawhill)
John Durant tweeted a link to yet another piece by Hanna Rosin bugling the End of Men. Published at Time, the piece is titled “Men are Obsolete“.
“It’s the end of men because men, too, are now obsessed with their body hair,” writes Rosin, who provided five explanations for why the obsolescence of men is upon us.
Rosin’s entire thesis has been discussed a million times. Yes, in a number of ways, men are declining in relative terms compared to women. But – and it’s almost embarrassing to have to state this glaringly obvious truth – Rosin’s thesis is blind to the essential masculine qualities that are required for the production of most of our energy, our food, the transportation of our goods, and the protection of our cities and our nation as a whole. But “Men are in a Relative Decline” is not as sexy as “The End of Men” or “Men are Obsolete”.
Just as Rosin boils down this complicated social transition to a dramatic title, she also ignores confounding evidence that render her arguments lame or incomplete. Take her hair example. She cites Anthony Weiner’s bare chest as an example of men gravitating towards more traditionally feminine styles*. But while “manscaping” is A Thing, we also know that beards have been really popular over the past five years. But I’m sure that if cornered with evidence that a lot of men are growing beards and would actually love to have a nice thick chest pelt, Rosin would say that this is an example of men desperate to reclaim the masculinity that they’ve lost during the course of their demise.
So Rosin looks for these huge Theories of Everything to explain these trends she observes from her elite perch. Her theories play well on the college campuses where she spends a good portion of her time speaking to blank slates. Which brings me to perhaps the most egregious oversimplification I’ve seen from Rosin. It took place during a TV segment on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that is now 4 years old. The segment was based on a 2009 article for The Atlantic. I think it’s worth another look, in case you missed it, or even if you didn’t.
(And now I ask the predictable question – what if a non-Jewish person blamed Jewish people for the housing bubble or any other financial collapse? I only ask because Rosin is Jewish.)
The mention of Joel Osteen is interesting since Osteen’s megachurch is based in Texas, and Texas was relatively insulated from the housing bubble because it had a lot of open space, no growth-management laws that led to speculation and other home lending laws that ended up protecting home buyers from themselves. Osteen’s reach stretches beyond Texas’ borders, to be sure, but there are a lot of prosperity gospelers in the state which was relatively untouched by the housing collapse.
And as Steve Sailer pointed out in his article “The Dirt Gap“, written way back before the bubble popped, Red State bubbles were much less inflated compared to Blue State bubbles. Assuming that prosperity gospel is more of a Red State thing, it would seem that there are better explanations for the causes of the bubble. The bubble hit hardest in states that are more similar in their geography and the political persuasion of their elites than they are in the religious makeup of their citizens. Las Vegas, Nevada’s huge collapse undermines Rosin’s thesis. California’s and Florida’s ocean views, which helped fuel speculation, overwhelms the argument that a huge number of Onward Christian Homeowners were making poor home purchasing decisions because their pastors told them that God wanted them to.
Rosin’s thesis is further undermined by a study from Christopher Crowe of the IMF (published before Rosin’s piece, but completely ignored by her) who found that evangelism was associated with smaller housing price gains and lower volatility in housing prices. That study is not necessarily the end-all-be-all of the argument, but it provides actual data to offset Rosin’s mostly anecdotally-driven theory. The theory also assumes that adherents to the prosperity gospel ignore some of the other teachings that tend to float around in Christian enclaves. Dave Ramsey, who was profiled by Megan McArdle at around the same time that the Rosin article appeared, is a financial guru who preaches the opposite of the financial gospel. He is not a pastor per se, but he infuses the Gospel in his admonitions to followers to avoid irresponsible financial decisions.
Rosin’s piece borrowed heavily from University of California – Riverside religious studies professor Jonathan Walton who wrote of how adherents to the prosperity gospel were implementing those teachings into their lives. But interesting, in an online symposium, Walton rejected Rosin’s take of his thesis:
Soon I was inundated with media inquiries. Many wanted to run with this notion that we should lay the blame for the subprime mortgage mess or economic crash at the feet of Christian preachers. But this was never my point. I find it absurd to believe that prosperity preachers have either the influence or intelligence to enact a global economic downturn.
Another contributor to that symposium qualified Rosin’s assertion that the Rust Belt states – the swath from Florida to Texas to Arizona to California – were hardest hit by the bubble. Michele Dillon of the University of New Hampshire wrote:
Hanna Rosin notes that prosperity gospel churches flourish in Sun Belt states with high levels of home foreclosures. It may be more relevant to note that these states (e.g., Florida and Arizona) also have high levels of migration and population instability. These factors make it harder for individuals to find protective buffers against the many persuasive get-rich-quick sales agents and schemes in contemporary society.
Maria Bartiromo really zinged Rosin when she asked about Barney Frank’s role in encouraging universal home ownership. To be fair, we’d have to mention George Bush and all other Presidents, politicians, and Federal Reserve chairmen who’ve pushed the virtue home ownership past its natural tolerance. Through both his faith-based initiatives and just a secular preaching of the American Dream – which included selling it to minorities and people with lower incomes – Bush helped inflate the bubble. But it seems more likely that those types of agnostic government policies would have done more to inflate the bubble than the prosperity gospel and Christianity. If the prosperity gospel had any impact at all, it would have paired up with this emphasis on minority home ownership. But the bubble was more dependent on lowered lending standards, states’ land-use regulations, and the profit motive of the financial institutions than it was on the life lessons being preached in the largely southern churches.
*I would argue that the type of men who would send selfies to women are the type of men who would wax their chests. Hairy men either don’t feel the need to lower themselves to this level, or they don’t need to do it.
1. Yglesias tweeted a link to this piece about how the NBA has too few black coaches. 12 of the NBA’s 30 teams have a black coach while 80% of NBA players are black. The piece also points out that the NBA’s black coaches are more likely to have been NBA players whereas white coaches often do not come up through the league. In fact, even though overall there are many more white coaches than black coaches, there are more black coaches with NBA playing experience than white coaches with NBA playing experience.
I don’t know how much of a link one should make between the ability to play in the NBA and the ability to coach in the NBA. I remember a lot of conversations about why Michael Jordan never became a basketball coach despite being the best player in the history of the league. The rebuttal to the argument that he should coach was essentially that he would not be able to relate his abilities to people who weren’t as good as him. He might develop his game strategies with his superior capabilities in mind.
So the question then is why do black non-NBA players not make it up to the NBA coaching ranks. The OP guesses at but then seemingly rejects one possibility:
I think it’s fair to say there’s another bias that white players are smarter. And a way to show this is by looking at NBA coaches.
Looking at the numbers, the combined record of the NBA’s black coaches this year is 189-256. That’s a 0.425 winning percentage. I didn’t look at coaching experience or anything like that, and it’s possible that the bad teams are more likely to hire black coaches. But going back to the pass-through from player status to coach status, the non-players who become coaches generally have a lot more *coaching* experience than the players who become coaches. Those players like Jacques Vaughn (coach of the Orlando Magic) or Jason Kidd (coach of the Brooklyn Nets) actually had no pure coaching experience before becoming coaches. But Gregg Popovich – who lettered at the Air Force Academy – had a ton of it.
I have my best friend from high school in mind here. He’s white. We loved basketball and tried our hardest to make varsity by our senior year in high school, but failed. My friend had an aptitude and love for basketball strategy. He just liked to think about crafting basketball plays. He seemed to talk a lot about in-bounds plays. My friend really just wanted to be a coach from the get-go. My guess is that there are a lot more white guys who love basketball who have coaching in mind than there are black guys who love basketball who have coaching in mind. Maybe a good proxy for this would be to look at something like fantasy football “owners” (we could look at fantasy basketball, but I’m not even sure if anyone plays that anymore). Blacks make up most of the NFL players, but I’d go out on a limb and guess that fantasy football team ownership aligns more closely with the makeup of the general population.
2. A passage from a piece by Heather Mac Donald about the decline of the UCLA English department. In 2011 the school’s English department replaced courses on Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton with gender, race, and sexuality studies courses.
4. This fits my theory on the decline of Red Lobster. (h/t Sparks)
5. A new study on data from an adolescent health survey suggests that “jokesters” lied about being gay. The jokesters were also more likely to have a lot of other behavioral issues that showed up as negative readings in the survey. Besides lying about being gay, the study found that jokesters would lie about having extra limbs or fingers and other nonsense. So this adolescent health survey that is relied upon by many researchers are using data about gay youth that relies on readings from these troubled jokesters.
1. Tradeoffs: countries with generous paid maternal leave policies also have a higher gender pay gap.
2. English schoolboys without proper male role models will be mentored on how to talk to girls.
3. Also from the Telegraph (U.K.), Labour’s shadow education secretary wants to shore up the education received by white schoolboys who are suffering in the face of relatively unrestricted immigration.
4. You’ve probably seen this, but we have yet another delay under the Obama regime. The number of pull-ups required for female Marines had been set at 3. The Marines will now review that policy and analyze more data on the issue.
5. I’ve been torn on the Duck Dynasty thing. On the one hand, Phil Robertson is entitled to his opinion, and A&E had to have known that he held certain beliefs about homosexuality. But also, people are blindly defending Robertson and the entire Duck Dynasty crew without considering that they all brought this on themselves. Robertson and his family sold their privacy and embraced their redneck side for money and fame. If you lay down with dogs, you get up with fleas. Ilana Mercer has the best article on the entire debacle.
6. Bryan Caplan asks, who are the students who enroll in classes, never show up, and fail while foregoing dropping the class to get a tuition reimbursement. I did this a lot in my first two years of college. As I recall, part of the failure to drop was just me being lazy. And though my memory is vague on the details, it seemed that I would have faced an immediate financial loss of grants or student loans – or a forced repayment – had I dropped the class. It was a completely irrational financial decision at the time, but that’s why it’s kind of stupid to give 18 and 19 year control over their own finances. That’s one thing you rarely see covered in all of these stories about how we need so much more financial aid. That system is completely abused. Students enroll in enough hours (at least 12) so that they’ll qualify for grants/loans, and then they take the full amount of loans offered to them without much thought to their future repayments.
2. Audacious Epigone with a fantastic look at GSS data concerning race group perceptions of which racial groups are more likely to commit violence.
But as journalists, should we really be going after “Truth” in the vague, poetic Keatsian sense of the word? Or should we be going after “facts”?
After a story is exposed as being a fake or half-true — whether it’s Amanda Marcotte on Duke lacrosse, Matt Gutman on Trayvon Martin, or Huffington Post on the latest restaurant receipt hoax — journalists and other advocates try to argue that it doesn’t matter if the attributes of the particular story are false since the message that the falsified event is meant to convey — that bigotry/racism/rape/homophobia/etc. still exist in our society — is true in the abstract.
5. On Twitter yesterday Matt Yglesias was asking if the decision on the part of Darden Restaurants to spin off or sell Red Lobster was due to the seafood chain’s bad food. He seemingly meant “bad” in a taste sense, but, if that’s what he meant, I think he’s wrong. First off, food that is “bad” at a certain price point ($15 a plate) becomes “good” if it costs, say, $10 a plate. Red Lobster was once successful, and assuming both that their food is about the same as it’s ever been and that their prices have remained relatively stable, then something else must be at play here. One reason for Red Lobster’s decline may be that they are not a healthy seafood chain, and consumers are marginally choosing healthier fare. Right now, Red Lobster is known for its fried shrimp, butter-laden dishes, and butter and cheese biscuits (they are wonderful). Consumers aren’t exactly healthy, but they seem to be avoiding audacious caloric decadence. But besides that shift, I wonder if Red Lobster’s customer demographics have anything to do with its fall. It’s no secret that black people love Red Lobster. According to Black Enterprise (I apologize for the annoying auto ad at the link) blacks visit casual dining seafood restaurants 57% more, in relative terms, than other racial groups. But blacks have fared the worst during the economic decline and stagnation. I think that’s finally become an untenable situation for Darden after years of its other concepts keeping it afloat.
6. There are a couple of interesting aspects to the case of Terry Loewen, the Wichita man who was arrested in a terror plot to blow up the local airport:
He [a friend of Loewen's] asked his friend how he had gone from being a devout Christian, a guy who sometimes brought a Bible to work and knew thousands of Bible verses off the top of his head, to supporting Islamic jihad.
But Damien Loewen said he began to see his father become more distant, which he attributed to his stepmother.
For the past eight months, Damien Loewen said, he didn’t see much of his dad at all. His dad stopped coming around to visit him, his new wife and son.
“He seemed a little more down recently, more tired. I noticed a sudden decline in everything,” Damien Loewen said.
Damien Loewen said his wife tried to reach out to Terry Loewen on Facebook, telling him he needed to come visit more often. But he said Deborah would not allow it.
This is not to say that Loewen’s wife or his life situation or his impressionability and desire to find an absolute doctrine (and what is more absolute than power?) caused him to attempt in his own feeble way to try to blow up the Wichita airport. But those are some of the conditions which are associated with people doing desperate things.
On another note, Loewen seemed to not have any legitimate connections to Al Qaeda nor any knowledge about how to make or procure materials for a bomb. This looks like another one of those FBI sting operations in which the “threats” are not imminent and which occur because arrests look good to the public and also because the FBI has a counterterrorism budget that it has to spend. Trevor Aaronson has a good book on this topic which I’ve just finished reading. If you’ve ever wondered why we hear about people being arrested on terrorism conspiracy charges without any actual terror being conducted in the States, it’s because all of those who are charged with the crimes were set-up from the get-go with inert bombs.
1. Slate: The truth about mass shootings. No increase over recent decades. Federal assault weapons bans won’t work. School security measures and increases in mental health spending won’t work either, the researchers say.
2. Wall Street Journal writer thinks men are pathetic for competing for attention from attractive women. He does not call women pathetic for being turned on by competitive men.
4. Great interview in Salon with Richard Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who is a gay Catholic, talks about how religious sexual mores arose out of the desert religions.
And that is what really interests me in my description of the relationship of heterosexual women in my life. I think that the problem with women controlling their reproduction and gay men getting married is that we’re not generative, as the Vatican would judge us. And that’s a deep violation of the desert. It’s the whole point of the desert religions, to give birth, you know. And when women are not doing that, or women are choosing to control the process, or men are marrying each other outside the process of birth, then that’s the problem.
And on affirmative action:
I would say even on an issue like affirmative action, for example, I haven’t changed. I think that the hijacking of the integrationists’ dream as it announced itself in the North, where racism was not legalized but it was de facto, the hijacking of that movement to integrate Northern institutions by the middle class and to make middle class ascendancy somehow an advance for the entire population — I think was grotesque. And so you ended up with a black and brown bourgeoisie and you did nothing with those at the bottom, and you also managed to ignore white poverty. What the left has forgotten or ignored is that it is possible to be white and poor in America.
This brings to mind Noam Chomsky’s comments in a recent Salon interview.
5. Hispanics are avoiding signing up for Obamacare because of immigration enforcement fears.
6. Jonathan Merritt argues that Phil Robertson’s comments on blacks were more inflammatory than his comments on gays.
I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field …. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word! … Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.
Contrary to Robertson’s assumption, his single experience in Louisiana—however true it may be—doesn’t tell us anything about the realities of the Jim Crow South. For that, we (and he) need to hear many stories. And not just stories of statutes and signs that specified “whites only” or overlooked public beatings or slogans that reiterated black inferiority or the crushing poverty inflicted upon an entire race that was almost as bad as death at the hand of a lynch mob. We also need to hear the stories that comprise what Howard Thurman called the “anatomy of segregation” in his famous 1965 book The Luminous Darkness.
Both of these passages can be correct. Robertson didn’t say that blacks had nothing to complain about under Jim Crow. He said that he didn’t see it. If somebody wanted a perspective of how blacks experienced Jim Crow, why would they ask a white guy anyway? Perhaps it’s a set-up question just like the rest of the interview.
7. NYT profiles the queen of the cat ladies:
Next on the horizon is a consulting business built around the concept of “catification”: tailoring your living space to the needs of your cat without sacrificing aesthetics.
My/our/this side of the spectrum looks at liberals and Democrats and ask, what happened? At least when leftists were radical we had to respect them a little bit. But now we have Pajama Boy and President Mom Jeans. Their highest ideal is to feeeeeel safe through having a good health insurance policy. And then there’s the hero worship.
At NYT, Ishmael Reed has an article titled “The President of the Cool”:
Last month I got to see the president of the Cool at the San Francisco Jazz Center, a $64 million building that opened earlier this year. I am in my second term as its poet laureate, and one of my poems, “When I Die I Will Go to Jazz,” has been installed on one of the building’s walls (in an alley named after Hawes’s memoir, “Raise Up Off Me”), so I was invited to attend the event.
The pianist who anchored the evening, Herbie Hancock, is cool. He was accompanied by other cool musicians, like the saxophonist Joshua Redman and the bassist Esperanza Spalding, who was so engaged in her instrument that she seemed attached to it.
An added attraction were the SFJazz High School All-Stars, a group of white, black and Asian-American students. One of the graduates, the young flutist Elena Pinderhughes, performed with the trio and held her own.
Outside, though, it was hot. Demonstrators against everything from military drones to energy pipelines greeted the president’s entourage when it arrived. (ed: These people used to be cool.)
After being introduced, the president just about bounced onto the stage. A few days earlier I had heard a commentator say he seemed in the dumps these days. That afternoon he was fresh, unruffled — in other words, cool. (Maybe it was because our state’s health-insurance exchange, Covered California, demonstrates how well the Affordable Care Act works when implemented correctly: My youngest daughter got a silver plan that drastically reduces her monthly premiums within an hour of applying.) [emphasis added]
One hallmark of a cool musician, like Ms. Spalding earlier in the evening, is an intensity and focus that lurks underneath the detached exterior. The same with Mr. Obama that night.
Mr. Obama was intense and focused…at a political fundraiser. Go figure. Is there anything less cool than a political fundraiser luncheon? And how cool is it that the ticket prices for that luncheon were slashed from $1000 to $500 a plate? Pretty cool.
Daniel Jose Older saw “12 Years a Slave” and it reminded him of something that pisses him off about movies that depict slavery and so he wrote a piece for Salon titled “It’s time to take the white savior out of slavery narratives“:
About three-quarters through the movie, Brad Pitt suddenly shows up and, essentially, saves the day. Never mind that Pitt is also one of the film’s producers (an interesting contrast to Quentin Tarantino, who cast himself as an Australian slave trader in “Django Unchained.” But that’s a whole other essay). In this otherwise monumental and groundbreaking film, written and directed in the age of stop-and-frisk and “stand your ground,” of Trayvon and Aiyanna and Marissa and Renisha, did we really need yet another white savior narrative?
We absolutely did not.
The question I had when I watched the movie was whether we actually needed Brad Pitt to play the savior. Why not a different white actor? Besides the fact that Pitt’s performance – from his odd accent to his all too Brad Pitty pious smirk – is distracting from an otherwise well-acted movie, it was completely predictable that Pitt would work himself into this savior role. Such a Pitt move. But if Pitt didn’t play the role based on the person who served as the catalyst to help Solomon Northup gain his freedom after 12 years in captivity, then, in order to remain true to Northup’s autobiography, it would be just another guy.
Older admits this, but Pitt’s whiteness allows him to launch into a discussion at his frustration that that was the way things were:
Some have pointed out that it’s simply being true to the historical record of Northup’s life [ed: What a gracious admission. But only "some" have pointed this out?]. But the creative process begins with selection: which narratives we decide to privilege over others matters. Our myths reveal mountains about who we are as a nation. Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” erased Frederick Douglass, reinforcing the tired notion that a singular white man, through the sheer force of his moral conviction, brought slavery to an end. In “Lincoln,” as in “12 Years,” this cliché not only hobbles the film’s cultural relevancy, it is a narrative failure as well. The story begins with Lincoln already having formed his opposition to slavery. Without the history of his relationship to Douglass, we have no idea how this president is willing to risk so much to pass the 13thAmendment. There is no inciting incident, no motivating factor: We are left with just a determined man. And the story suffers for it.
Nevermind that Steve McQueen, who is now hailed as a genius, chose Northup’s story on his own accord. Older continues (and check out the backlash in the comments there at Salon):
What would a cinematic aesthetic of American history look like without the white savior? Perhaps the myth of white American exceptionalism would begin to crumble. Filmmakers would have to struggle to find new ways of getting people of color out of tight situations. Unpredictability might ensue; creativity would thrive. Maybe we’d finally see a Harriet Tubman biopic, instead of a cheap joke video at her expense.
Older doesn’t want to admit that the “white savior” was instrumental in ending slavery, it’s as simple as that. He wishes for another slave narrative in which only blacks obtained their own freedom or that of other blacks. But how often did that happen? One gets the impression that Older would sooner have had Northup remain in captivity until his death rather than have to face a story that spends scant minutes on the help provided by a white abolitionist. He might rather have the story of other free Northern blacks who were kidnapped and sent to Southern plantations. But then he’d basically be calling for a movie without a happy ending, which I think is a different conversation about film theory than about white saviors.
Older misses the real point of the movie anyway. McQueen said of his film, “It’s a narrative about today,” in an interview with New York Magazine’s Dan P. Lee. “It’s not a black movie. It’s an American movie. It’s a narrative about human respect, more than anything.”
Goes without saying that slavery was the basis of that movie, but it was also about how the will of a human being can be eroded over time. The climax of the movie came when Northup breaks his mask and starts singing “Roll Jordan Roll” along with the other slaves at a funeral for another slave who had fallen dead in the cotton field. Northup had fashioned himself a proud free man up to that point – and one who was different and superior to the other slaves on the plantation. But his conditions finally weighed down upon him in that moment, and he broke. So the movie isn’t even about Brad Pitt coming in to save the day, and the rescue scene is actually fraught with its own sadness. We would normally think that any moment when a slave would earn his freedom would be a completely joyous moment. But Northup left behind others who were not so fortunate and who might likely face retribution from the slavemaster Edwin Epps for Northup’s freedom.
Now, Older could make the case that there are slave narratives other than Northup’s story that would fit his ideal. But the best way to make that case would be to actually criticize Northup’s story on the grounds that it was inaccurate if not heavily fabricated. Because if you believe that Northup’s life was accurately depicted in “12 Years a Slave” then it’s a hell of a story that needed to be told, and the movie deserves its praise.