April 23

Robservations | The Birth of a Nation

Hey man, Rob Lee here and I have something on my mind: The Birth of a Nation. For those who don’t remember, The Birth of a Nation is a 2016 film depicting Nat Turner’s uprising in the antebellum south. The film had Oscar buzz which was later derailed but allegations that Nate Parker, the film’s star, director and producer, sexually assaulted a classmate in college in 1999. The following is a bit of a review on The Birth of a Nation.


The film shares its title with D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation also called The Klansman which was released as a Klansman recruiting film over a hundred years prior to this film. Griffith’s film made between $50 and $100 million compared to Parker’s $16 million. Also, with about 3000 more review’s Griffith’s film is rated higher than Parker’s on Imdb. A Klan recruiting video outgrossed a film about a black uprising but America’s post racial. Parker’s film has that distinction of sexual assault allegations but it would be irresponsible to ignore that this country has a rich history of racism. Griffith’s film – The Klansman was shown at the White House by Woodrow Wilson.  That racism I feel is reinforced in the respective box office and dollars spent.

My take

Let’s get right into it, Birth of a Nation is an OK movie. It’s not groundbreaking but it’s well done. The first half of the movie is a bit slow for me but the latter half takes off. The film is very effective in showing how shitty slavery is. The film is similar to Braveheart to me – minus the war paint.

The film succeeded in eliciting emotions from me. For instance, the scene when Cherry is “delivered” to Elizabeth Turner was reminiscent to someone getting a new toy. Elizabeth was gleeful to get a new thing. Black people were only a thing, dehumanized. He even the scene at Joseph Randall’s plantation and the little white girl has the black girl on a leash.

Samuel Turner reminded me of how people in a position of power – white people in this film – are supportive of you until you infringe on their interest. For instance, after Cherry was brutally raped Samuel gave written permission to Nat to go tend to her. Written-fucking-permission and he reminded Nat that most owners wouldn’t allow that. Samuel, although in a position of power, was like a lower level white person – hanging and seeking love from his blacks but once the slight inkling that he would be welcomed into “whitelandia” he switched up. He didn’t switch up did he? He reverted to his factory settings.

The battle scene could have been a bit longer but the buildup was slow but solid enough to make it effective. The fall out is similar to what has happened historically. If white people are uncomfortable, then someone else has to pay, examples have to be made. Just today black, still second class citizens, have been replaced by Muslims and Mexicans.

Nat Turner’s hanging was something I nearly turned away from. Like I don’t like the visual of hanging overall – especially when it’s viscerally shot. The walk out to the lynching was interesting. We have all seen the shitty, racist and dumbass white men during the film. As this point, we see how rabid the white women were. It wasn’t a mistake to show numerous instances of white women acting like mad dogs at a public execution. White people only act like this – albeit in film – to public murder. That hanging looked like the set-up for a fourth of July festival. Also, not a mistake. The murder of black men is as American as independence. Are all men created equally?


In summation, Nate Parker isn’t Nat Turner. I think the Oscar buzz was something to say that people in a position of power are “OK” with “revisiting the ugly past but by the way they’re also going to revisit the not so distant past.” The Birth of a Nation is a movie that people need to see – it as flaws like any movie but it made me think. It made me think of my job and intellect (i.e. being literate) got me inside the house, while brothers, hell my own biological brother, and is outside “tending to the field”. It makes me think about how nuanced racism is – racism was based in ignorance and has morphed, in my opinion, to classism. The film helped me revisit these thoughts and feelings that weren’t top of mind but deserve my attention. Birth of a Nation Deserves your attention.

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February 12

Steel | Who greenlit this shit?

Congrats DC, you did it before Marvel but you played yourself.

This was rough like really rough, it took 6 tries to watch this and shockingly, this is not the worst on this list. Before Hollywood knew better Shaq kept getting starring movie roles.  Granted, Blue Chips is one of the best Basketball films to date and personally take a look (granted a melodramatic look) inside the NCAA. After taking his talents to Hollywood and leaving Orlando, Shaq was destined to follow up on role in Blue Chips with starring roles. First came Kazaam and thank god that doesn’t count; I would’ve threw my laptop.  Kazaam was a flop, but Hollywood did not listen and gave Shaq a DC comic property to work with in Steel.

Steel was never a huge character. In fact, he was a side character to Superman and eventually tried and failed to carry his mantle after Supes defeat to Doomsday. The character John Henry Irons (yes, his name is a pun) was the 1st black comic character to get a Hollywood blockbuster film not Black Lightning, not John Stewart’s Green Lantern, or even Static Shock ugghhhh damn you DC for this!!!!

The film changed certain aspects of his character instead of being a weapons engineer for the fictional AmerTek Industries like he was in the comics, he was a weapons engineer for the military in the film. Also, there is no Superman in this film and thank fucking god for that.  Shaq who plays Irons is discharged from the military due to how dangerous his weapons are and paralyzing one of his comrades in a practice run.  By the way, Shaq in a Military uniform is as ridiculous as it sounds.  Long story short, Shaq sees his weapons on the street and he goes under the guise of Steel to take the bad guys and get the weapons off the street. This film doesn’t deserve a breakdown, fuck that don’t see it. Don’t ask me to elaborate. Judd Nelson plays the villain and he’s just being himself here.  THIS FILM RUINED SHAFT FOR ME. Dammit Mr. Roundtree how could you?  Ray J was in this film as Shaq’s brother, son, nephew I don’t fucking know nor care, but I enjoyed him in this film. This film is bad on all levels and I’m ashamed it took me 6 tries to finish it. Don’t watch it, save yourself.