Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Weighing bell hooks's review of Beasts of the Southern Wild

I have not yet seen Beasts of the Southern Wild, but bell hooks's negative review of the film is the first negative review I've seen. I respect her and suspect that if she sees in the film what she's written here, then that's probably what is in the film. You can read her entire review at New Black Man (in Exile). What struck me most was her assertion that movie smacks of conservative ideology and how she likens that agenda to a dog-eat-dog life philosophy.
Ultimately this film expresses a conservative agenda. Before audiences had a clue about its content, the notion that it was somehow a radical response to Katrina circulated. But there is nothing radical about the age-old politics of domination the movie espouses – insisting that only the strong survive, that disease weeds out the weak (i.e. the slaughter of Native Americans,) that nature chooses excluding and including. If Wink represents the dying untamed primitive then what does Hushpuppy represent. Her fate is unclear. Given all that she endures she may just end up being the mad black female, talking to herself, wandering in a wilderness of spirit so profound that she is forever lost.
Lately, watching the presidential election coverage, I've been attuned to this aspect of conservatism: although many of its proponents who profess to be Christian promote the philosophy, the philosophy flies in the face of aspirations to love, compassion, justice, concern for the poor, and cooperation to achieve the goals of a more noble existence, New Testament ideals.

The odd thing is that I did not have the film on my list of must sees before (it was on the "see if I get the chance" list), but now I want to see it to see if I see what Ms. hooks sees. Like me, hooks also perceived problems with the movie and book The Help that others did not see (I really got tired of people telling me I had to see The Help as though it was something fresh.), so I suspect my assessment of this film may be similar to hers when I see it. The trick will be to divorce myself from her view so that I can make my own assessment.

1 comment:

Travis Bean said...

This movie is nothing like The Help or The Blind Side or Precious or Crash, all of which are irresponsibly out of tune with the race relations involved within their films. I have actually found numerous faults with Beasts of the Southern Wild, but perhaps we've grown too accustomed with pinning down one "racist" film each year. There's nothing irresponsible about Beasts on this front. This isn't whitewashed crap made to appeal to the masses.