The movie, The Butler, arrives at movie theaters as we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. It may be a little hard for those born after the heady, scary days of the Sixties to understand the importance of Martin Luther King and the fight for civil rights. This is not history they lived and, therefore, it seems distant and unreal to them. That's one reason to see this movie.
The Butler is loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen who served as a White House butler for 34 years. Forest Whitaker plays the fictional butler, Cecil Gains, and Oprah Winfrey plays his wife. Their outstanding acting is complimented by a large cast of well-known actors. This movie is an education for those that missed this piece of our history and helps them to understand what all the fuss is about. Some have criticized this movie for not presenting fully-developed white characters. My take on that is that this movie is about the black experience at a time when blacks were supposed to be silent and invisible in the presence of whites. Maybe that was the big disconnect back then--an inability to walk comfortably in a white world. Walking on eggshells. Not understanding the hatred or the person who delivered it. Not trusting in those whites who tried to help. In any event, it’s okay to focus on the black perspective because it has so often been excluded from consideration. How else are you going to get the big picture?
Maybe this movie wasn’t perfect, but it was entertaining and enlightening. Sometimes the message was a little heavy-handed, but it was ambitious in trying to distill the black experience and what it felt like. I think every viewer will come away with a much better understanding of our history and the awareness that there is always somebody who wants to take your life away, figuratively or literally. There is always somebody who wants to stand in the way of somebody else’s rights. Honorable people struggle to roll back the barriers and insist on justice for all. That is why we must always remain vigilant and recognize that today there are those who want to diminish voter rights, women’s rights, economic rights, and minority rights.
Go see The Butler. I don't think you'll regret it.
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