âThe Butlerâ Shuffles Through Black History [REVIEW]<br />

‘The Butler’ Shuffles Through Black History [REVIEW]

Director Lee Daniels presents Black History 101 in a way that may move many viewers and still seem trite to others

by Ernest Hardy, August 16, 2013

âThe Butlerâ Shuffles Through Black History [REVIEW]<br />

Forest Whitaker serves at the crux of Black history

where we’re thrust into the middle of a Black Panthers meeting, and the actors and actresses are all gorgeous, even sexy. It’s The Butler’s unforced (if not unconscious) acknowledgment that a lot of the power of the Panthers wasn’t just in their radical quest for Black self-determination, but the fact that it was packaged in young Black bodies that were vibrant and fiercely unapologetic for their being.

Daniels fumbles this vein of exploration in a third act dinner scene that makes the Panthers represent crude and blatant disrespect of Black elders, thus nudging the audience to come down on the side of the status quo. The film, which rallies for a feel-good ending and ends with an earned chuckle, will undoubtedly move many. But it doesn’t prove Harry Lennix wrong.

Ernest Hardy is a Sundance Fellow whose music and film criticism have appeared in The New York Times, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, Flaunt and L.A. Weekly. His collection of criticism, Blood Beats Vol. 1: Demos, Remixes and Extended Versions, recipient of the 2007 PEN / Beyond Margins Award, was published in 2006. 

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