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Recoiling from on-screen racist violence isn’t the same thing as celebrating Black people’s lives

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01.06.2021

In an interview this spring with the Los Angeles Times, “Them” creator Little Marvin explained why the horror series included a sequence of rape and murder that repulsed some critics and viewers. “I wanted a scene that would rip through the screen, grab the viewer by the jugular and force them to contend with a history of violence against Black bodies in this country,” he argued.

Little Marvin isn’t alone in believing that depicting intense violence on-screen can shock the conscience. Movies such as “Queen & Slim” and “12 Years a Slave” operate by that logic as well. In a bit of meta commentary, Quentin Tarantino’s revenge drama “Django Unchained” even includes a White character who is radicalized to the point of self-sacrifice by a Southern plantation owner’s viciousness.

Still, there’s an important difference between art that primarily serves to make the audience recoil at White violence, and art that illuminates and elevates the experiences of living Black people. Creating a sense of moral horror about police brutality and extrajudicial violence may set a minimum level at which Black lives matter. But that can’t be the end of the conversation. Treating the people who live those lives with dignity in art is another vital step — as matters of both creativity and humanity.

In a recent essay, critic........

© Washington Post


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