Birth of a Nation? More like Death of a Career.

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Ahoy, gentle readers. I’ve been on the road chasing… well, probably best not to say. But did you know that the wifi in the Himalayas is horrendous? Anyway, while I was gone, a whole hubbub has exploded over the writer/director/star of the Sundance darling The Birth of a Nation. As it turns out, he’s an accused rapist! But it gets better! His partner in crime? His partner in writing this crap-tastic movie. More on all of it after the jump…

So, just to fill in anyone who hasn’t been keeping up, The Birth of a Nation (hereafter known as T-BoaN) is about Turner’s Rebellion, a footnote in history which involved a bunch of pre-Civil War slaves rising up against their owners and killing 50-60 white people before getting killed themselves. It’s generally considered an atrocity, and until recently, even black people preferred to try and ignore it. Seriously, this wasn’t a war situation, where they only killed the mean, vicious white men whipping them. They killed men, women, and children. Let that sink in for a second. Men. Women. Children. These are not nice people. Of course, the movie doesn’t make that point, because, well, it’s strictly from the point of view of the leader of the rebellion, Nat Turner, played by none other than the writer/director Nate Parker. Who, as it turns out, isn’t really a nice man himself.

You see, in college, Nate and his roommate (and future writing partner) Jean Celestin, did a bad, bad thing. Nate had been out drinking with his girlfriend and when they got back to his apartment, she passed out. Having been taught that sharing is caring, he (obviously) invited his roomie to join in a little “Shit, she done passed out!” sex. Yes, they raped her. Allegedly. Just for argument’s sake, let’s all remember that an intoxicated person cannot give consent, no matter what. Even if said intoxicated person slurs out “Okey dokey,” it is still not consent. So… you know. Allegedly. It did go to trial, and for some reason which is utterly beyond my comprehension, the jury determined that, since she had previous sexual contact with Mr. Parker, he couldn’t have raped her. Which is generally bullshit. His buddy, however, was found guilty (of sexual assault only – apparently, the jury members were morons) and got a whopping 6 to 12 months. DUIs regularly get more than that. But instead of just taking his slap on the wrist, he appealed and got his conviction overturned in favor of a new trial. And then, surprise, surprise, the DAs decided not to pursue it. Years later, their victim (allegedly) killed herself. Although there was no direct link to the trial, her death certificate says that she suffered from “PTSD due to physical and sexual abuse.” make your own conclusions from there.

Now, we jump ahead to today, where Hollyweird is singing the praises of their new anti-whitey hero, and saying that his glorious story about a fucking massacre of women and children is going to sweep the Oscars (which it probably still will, since they’re doing their best to make sure no one white wins one ever again). The rape story comes out, surprising his new buddies. Some people start backing away from their support. More and more regular people out here begin hearing the story we just went over in the last paragraph. Generally, things start snowballing, and that shit is rolling downhill fast. What ever can they do?

Bring on the PR shills! Yup, the studio (Fox Searchlight) hired PR experts and started getting good ol’ Nate on every show from 60 Minutes to Good Morning America. They even got Oprah and her friend Gayle a private viewing of the movie (which to the surprise of no one with two connected brain cells, they declared that they loved. I wonder why?) and got Oprah to give him pointers on how to do the interviews. Basically, they said “Go out there, say your mea culpas, and do a little damage control.” Which is exactly what he didn’t do. No apologies. No regret. When asked about it, he just says “I was falsely accused, I was proven innocent and I’m not going to apologize for that.” Actually, sir, that is wrong. You were accused, and a jury gave a star athlete a pass, because as we already went over… intoxicated means no consent. You were not proven innocent. You were found not guilty. Which are two entirely different things. Everything is the media’s fault. He didn’t do nothin’. And now, he’s basically made himself unhireable. Why would a studio invest a huge amount of money in what is essentially a kid just starting his career, when he won’t even just go out and say a few “I’m sorry’s” and admit that he could’ve handled the situation better? Searchlight bought this one for $17.5 million, and it’s on track to open at (maybe) $10 million. In movie dollar terms, that’s a solid loss. And from where I’m sitting, I don’t think it could happen to a more deserving guy.


UPDATE: Now that hard numbers are in, it turns out that T-BoaN didn’t even do $10 million on it’s opening weekend. It made a comparatively measly $7.1 million. For reference, Blair Witch, the sequel to the classic that came out a few weeks ago, opened to $9.5 million, Deepwater Horizon opened to $20 million, and Sully opened to $35 million. None of those are real blockbusters. They might as well go ahead and flush this thing. It’s stinking up the place.

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