Another day, another example of Rape Culture

Last year, it was revealed that actor/director Nate Parker would be starring in and directing The Birth of a Nation, a biopic about Nat Turner’s 1831 rebellion. The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this past January, was such a hit that Fox Searchlight picked it up for $17.5 million, a price no one has ever paid for a film in the history of the festival. That’s a testament to the quality of the film, which is something that Parker had a huge effect on. I’ve seen many a commenter remark about how excited they are to see the movie, which debuts in theaters on 10/7/16. For my part, while I recognize that the film is probably an amazing one, there are three reasons I’m not going to see it.

First, to be honest, I’m sick of the narrow range of movies about black people Hollywood sees fit to create: those like The Birth of a Nation involving the enslavement of black bodies, those involving black people being a source of laughs (think any of the comedic movies by Martin Lawrence), and those involving black people being “the help” (think of the movie of the same name). I want to see black actors offered the same type of diverse roles as white actors. Where are the horror movies with black characters in the leading role? Suspense thrillers? Fantasy movies like Lord of the RIngs (yes, I look forward to Idris Elba in Dark Tower)? Science fiction? Where is Inception with a black character as the main protagonist? No, black characters-by and large-get to be slaves, the help, and the entertainment. For all that it might be a great movie, The Birth of a Nation is one more the long line of “black suffering movies” (which ought to be its own subgenre if it isn’t already) that Hollywood executives are enamored with, and that I am *over*.

Secondly, on the off chance that I *do* want to see black people suffering, all I need to do is turn on the news, or fire up my computer. It happens every day. Whether its police brutality or racism from our fellow citizens, we black people experience a great deal of suffering on a regular basis. That’s not really something I want to go out of my way to watch (and have to pay for). It’s certainly not something I find entertaining.

As for the third, well, if someone had asked me today why I wasn’t going to see the movie, I would only have had two reasons. After today, I have a third (though it’s not about the movie). It’s about the director, Nate Parker. From all indications, he’s a rapist:

 
 
Variety reports that in 1999, as a student at Penn State University, Parker and his roommate Jean Celestin, who co-wrote Birth, were charged with raping a 20-year-old female student in their apartment after a night of heavy drinking.

Parker admitted he had sex with the co-ed but claimed it was consensual. The woman said that she was unconscious, and did not consent.

 
You cannot consent to sex if you are unconscious. That is rape. That should be a pretty damn cut-and-dried concept to grasp. But clearly Parker and Celestin couldn’t grasp such a simple concept. Or worse, they didn’t care that their victim was unconscious.
“Seventeen years ago, I experienced a very painful moment in my life,” Parker told Variety. “It resulted in it being litigated. I was cleared of it. That’s that. Seventeen years later, I’m a filmmaker. I have a family. I have five beautiful daughters. I have a lovely wife. I get it. The reality is” — he took a long silence — “I can’t relive 17 years ago. All I can do is be the best man I can be now.”

That was a painful moment in his life? What about the pain of his victim?  What about her anguish? Where is the apology for her? Where is the recognition of the pain he and Celestin brought to her?  The two of them raped her and Parker is making it all about his pain? I wish his “pain” were physical, so I could crush it between my hands, stomp on it a few thousand times, and burn it. That’s how much I give a shit about his so-called “pain”.

As for him being cleared? The courts went and fucked the entire fuck up. Again. From Variety:

Parker was suspended from the wrestling team, and later transferred to a different college in Oklahoma. In a 2001 trial, he was acquitted, based on testimony that he had previously had consensual sexual relations with his accuser.

Our court system-specifically the people who make up the court system-seem to be incapable of understanding the facts about sexual assault. In this case: it does not matter that he’d had sex with the victim in the past. I could have had sex with a guy 500 times in the past, but if he tried for #501 and I said “No, I’m not in the mood” and he continued? That’s rape. Rape is not determined by whether or not you and a partner have had previous sexual interaction. Rape is determined by whether or not there was consent. And the amount of sex you have with someone in the past is not a “get out of rape/you can fuck me whenever you want against my wishes” free card. Every time you want to have sex with someone, you Need. To. Have. Consent.

 Parker was suspended from the wrestling team, and later transferred to a different college in Oklahoma. In a 2001 trial, he was acquitted, based on testimony that he had previously had consensual sexual relations with his accuser.

Between the systemic racism and the Rape Culture infecting our criminal justice system, I don’t think it’s possible for me to believe that our courts are remotely just.

So yeah, I’m definitely *NOT* going to see this movie. I don’t want to support a rapist.

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Another day, another example of Rape Culture
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10 thoughts on “Another day, another example of Rape Culture

  1. 4

    Edward:
    To be honest, I don’t have a fully informed opinion on Ban the Box. I have a vague idea of what it is about, but I would need to explore it more before I could give you anything approaching a considered response.

  2. 5

    “In this case: it does not matter that he’d had sex with the victim in the past. I could have had sex with a guy 500 times in the past, but if he tried for #501 and I said “No, I’m not in the mood” and he continued? That’s rape.”

    Simple, clear, easy. Consensual sex requires each party to consent to each act each time. One consensual act cannot make future acts consensual, only future consent can do that.

    “Where are the horror movies with black characters in the leading role? Suspense thrillers? Fantasy movies like Lord of the Rings (yes, I look forward to Idris Elba in Dark Tower)?”

    What do you think of Grace Jones and Wilt Chamberlain in Conan the Barbarian? That was along time ago, and a lot could have happened between then and now that did not happen.

  3. 6

    Sporkfighter:
    re: Conan the Barbarian-I’ve been meaning to rewatch some older movies that I enjoyed as a kid, and this is one of them. I’d like to see how they hold up under eyes that have a better understanding of the various manifestations of systemic oppression.
    All of that is to say that right now, I don’t have an informed enough opinion on their performances in that movie.

  4. 7

    Tony, you say “from all indications, he was a rapist” but, if I understand the above correctly, he was acquitted and cleared of all charges, yes?

    However, this only means you need to change your charge levelled at him to: “from all indications, he was an accused but acquitted rapist”; which is still sufficient, in my book, for all your subsequent positions to stand.

    I make this point because I think we need to face up to and be open about the fact that the space between a rape accusation and a rape conviction is not up for grabs.

    Thanks for this blogpost. I had caught the early buzz around this film and may have unwittingly contributed to this accused-but-acquitted rapists’ career (which will hopefully tank following these recent revelations).

  5. 8

    kimleder:
    Sure, a jury acquitted him. Doesn’t mean I accept that acquittal. I’m not a court of law, and I don’t have to take their side in this. I know how horribly the criminal justice system handles cases of rape and sexual assault. I know that far too many victims of sexual assault find not justice in our so-called “justice system”. Combine that with the fact that the victim said she did not consent (and I believe people when they say they did not grant consent until such time as it is proven otherwise), I stand by saying “from all indications, he was a rapist”.

  6. 9

    Thanks for the response and clarification, Tony.

    My point (poorly made, I suspect) was that we should be able to refer to someone like Nate Parker as an “accused but acquitted rapist” – safe in the knowledge that most readers of that phrase will understand that means he most likely did it, despite the ‘legal’ acquittal.

    You believe the victim where the Court didn’t. You’ve reversed the usual onus of proof to require the accused prove their innocence. I agree with this approach for cases of rape and sexual assault. Courts don’t currently take this approach, but I don’t think it is impossible that in my lifetime this could change.

  7. 10

    Yeah, I’m no longer watching anything involving Black people suffering. I’m not here for it. I watch enough suffering everyday. I’m not going to pay Hollywood for the privilege of watching more of it.

    I’m here for The Dark Tower, superhero movies (no matter how dumb some people might think those are), scifi, and action movies. How come we can’t get the same boring, quiet dramas that white actors get?

    I’m not watching one more slave narrative or civil rights movie. (I can and do read books for that info. I don’t use movies to tell me about history.) I can always read a history book if I want to know what this movie is about. I’m not giving Parker my money.

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