Enslaved Men and Masculinity in 12 Years in Slavery (Essay Sample)
James B. Stewart, "Reconsidering the Abolitionists"
Richard Follett, "'Very Ingenious Man'" (chapter from a book about planters and slaves in Louisiana sugar cane plantations)
Based on what you know from assigned readings and "12 Years," write a paper in which you evaluate the movie's treatment of one of the following topics to what historians have said on the same topic:
(a) social relations among enslaved people, or "slave community"
(b) management of enslaved people by owners and overseers [this can overlap with (e) below, but does not have to]
(c) the domestic slave trade and slavery's expansion
(d) enslaved men and masculinity
(e) slave labor as skilled labor
To properly evaluate the movie's treatment, you must summarize both the movie and the relevant points in the reading, but the key task is to evaluate (or judge) the movie in light of historical research
Hollywood is usually uncomfortable with race even though it favors heroic masculinity. It is not surprising then that movies about slavery usually end up being about men who becoming men. Honorably and remarkably, 12 Yeas a Slave has a special story to tell. When the movie starts, Northup is a free man, living with his wife, a daughter and a son in Saratoga, New York. He is a success and an adult; he does not need to learn how to become a man. The narrative arc of the movie is not from weakens to strength; it is the reverse. Northup is a musician meets two men who give him a word on a touring gig, and then, after they have allured him to Washington, they drug him. He wakes up in a cell where he is tortured and is turned into a slave; he loses his name to a runaway slave, Platt.[Northup, Solomon. Twelve years a slave. JDB Ediciones, Sep 25, 2014]
If one was working with the reasoning of Django, Northup would have to recover his manhood by facing his attackers and successfully beating them. However, this is not what happens. Instead, he tries different ways of dealing with the system. He starts by using his skills and education to help his comparatively human owner, William Ford, with numerous engineering projects. Then when he is hassled and attacked by his owner's overseer, he strikes back.[Â Â Nichols, Bill. Â Engaging Cinema. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.]
This movie does not present masculinity as an answer to slavery, and so it is able to think and care about women as persons instead of accessories. Other than Northup, the most memorable slave characters are women. There is Eliza, who is completely distraught by the loss of her kids. There is also Patsey, an exceptional worker in the cotton field who Northup's subsequent brutal owner, Edwin Epps takes as his mistress. She is raped by Epps, hated by his resentful wife, and systematically beaten, abused, and tortured by both.[James Brewer Stewart, "Reconsidering the Abolitionists in an Age of Fundamentalist Politics," Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Spring, 2006), pp. 1-23]
The masculinization of Black Death is entrenched in White society's constant assumption of reflective patriarchy, meaning that they presumed that their gendered artistic worldview was emulated in other communities, and used it as such. This was also the state back in the 1700s and 1800s when majority of slave stories were told by Black men and published by whites. It was more probably that black women where narrating their experiences before Phyllis Wheatley, but having them published was another challenge, as...
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