- WHY YOU SHOULD SEE HARRIET
So, I’ve heard that Black Twitter has drawn swords over the recent biopic, Harriet. Well, too bad. I like it. A lot. And I think you and your family will enjoy it, too. Here’s why:
1. Rather than focusing most of the story on the well-trod story theme of slavery’s brutality—which it does not gloss over—the focus is on Harriet and her journey. Her fight! It highlights the truly bad assness of this woman, who upon securing her own freedom, went back and helped free family, friends and strangers.
2. One angry Twitterer remarked on the inclusion of a black slave catcher was sacrilege and lacked historical accuracy. Um, it’s a movie about events in the 1800s. Was Twitter there? I have never seen any historical movie that made me feel it was one-hundred percent accurate. Black overseers did exist. Did black slave catchers, too? I don’t know. But I’m going to look into it. Not to prove the filmmakers wrong, but because it brought up a thought-provoking subject. I want to know.
If this movie motivates one child or adult—black or white—to use Google for something other than Fortnite, to actually go in search of facts and truths, it would a beautiful thing.
3. The movie is well-acted, fast-paced despite a two-hour runtime.
I’ve never been a big fan of slave narratives. Being a black kid and avid reader, well-meaning teachers and librarians were always trying to get me to read books that extolled the sorrows and tragedies of slavery. When I complained to my mother that I wished I could find more books about contemporary black girls. Stories about girls like me, living in working class neighborhoods with factory-working fathers. Girls who wanted to grow up to be journalists or advertisers or artists; who wished they could ride horses or become cheerleaders. My mother took a long draw on her Kool cigarette and said, “Well, Sherri Denise, I guess if that’s what you want, you’ll just have write it yourself.”
Years later, I’ve been able to do just that. History and contemporary fiction both have value. So do fictionalized versions of historical characters and events.
If you’ve heard the negative hashtags about Harriet and think you know the story, think again. The movie is a good conversation starter. A great reminder of how far we’ve come as a society and how truly brave people living in slavery and escaping slavery had to be. Go see it. Keep an open mind. Google some stuff afterwards if you have questions. Dare I suggest, even stop in at your local library.
But don’t boycott this film because a few self-serving, self-righteous folks have decided they own black history and anyone who differs from their narrative is deserves to be socially whipped. I used to review movies for a living while writing entertainment for Tribune’s Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. Know what I learned? It’s not genius work, being a critic. You take a few hours, dissect someone else work, and subject it to your point of view.
Mama was right. If you don’t like it, do something else. Do it better. Until then, it’s the right time to start a conversation about black history and slavery that centers around empowerment, struggle, perseverance and redemption. But don’t let me keep you. I think you’ve got a movie to see.