Friday, July 13, 2012

Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman & Vampires

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

Am I the only one who just heard about the film, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? People, I just saw the book in the bookstore the other day and then, come to find out that the Tim Burton produced film hit movie theaters last month!

Where have I been?

Okay, maybe I did hear about it, but promptly shelved it with the 'ridiculous things that I don't understand' section of nonsense in my brain.

But then a couple of days ago, I noticed an ongoing conversation in the Black Twitterverse about a bi-racial actress named Jaqueline Fleming, playing Harriet Tubman in the film. So, I felt compelled to investigate.

Let me begin by saying that once I got the gist of the book's (and movie's ) premise -- slave owners in the United States were really vampires and our muscular 16th president was uniquely qualified to annihilate them -- I was intrigued. To me it sounded like the type of bloody, violent, revenge fantasy story for Black people that Inglorious Basterds was for Jewish people. Here's an article from the Daily Beast that explores the positive of the book's conceit.

But, of course the movie couldn't measure up to the book's aspirations. In fact, the film apparently was pretty tepid and the filmmakers shied away from any kind of potentially powerful message. But don't take my word for it, since I didn't even see the film. Read what Entertainment Weekly film critic, Lisa Schwarzbaum had to say.

So, from here, do we really care that Harriet Tubman, who appears in only a couple of scenes in this reportedly lackluster production, has literally been whitewashed? Some people really do. Over on Madam Noire they explain why.

In my opinion, the very idea that Harriet Tubman be cast as bi-racial with light skin and European features is more preposterous than portraying Abraham Lincoln as a vampire slayer. I mean, Harriet Tubman was Harriet Tubman because she was dark and African looking. Her color and her looks informed her destiny in life. That's not true for all people. Some people's destiny is forged, despite their looks. But for Tubamn, that wasn't the case. Colorism or a system of pigmentocracy was very much in place in antebellum America. And though often unspoken, still is today.

So, do we protest the film? Do we rally the troops? I'm going to pass. Why? Because this film is clearly so bad, nobody is going to watch it anyway. And Harriet Tubman is hardly in it. Why bring more press to a bad film? In the meantime, I'd rather work on my next book which is going to explore these issue of color and colorism in a way that hopefully will bring more attention -- and hopefully healing -- to the topic than a vampire slaying president ever could.

Just wondering. Have any of you seen the film or read the book? What did you think?



sleepyccs said...

If Harriet Tubman looked like the actress portraying her she would have been part of the "fancy girl trade". Fancy girls led very different lives.

LT said...

Good point. And one of the reasons this is just such bad revisionist history.