Because I Didn't Watch Roots, But I Wish You Did
Starting on Memorial Day and for the duration of the week several networks aired a much discussed Roots remake. Leading up to the premiere, discussion was pretty positive. Everyone's favorite bookworm - Levar Burton- endorsed the reboot of the project that originally launched him into everyone's home. And you didn't have to take his word for it. The support for the project was pretty clear. The cast was loaded with well-acclaimed actors. And finally, some of Alex Haley's errors that have been well critiqued were going to be addressed and corrected for the time of #blacklivesmatter, 23andme, and the million Finding Your Roots knock offs. Then as the miniseries was set to premiere, so did the backlash from several corners including Snoop Dogg. The man has a point. Constant imagery of trauma can be emotionally triggering. But if that's the only case that can be made, then America also should not watch Game of Thrones, any of the million shows set around terrorism, and Law & Order SVU.
I believe Snoop's heart is in the right place. His argument however is flawed. And it's surprising that so many people have echoed his feelings.
The same people calling for a boycott of Roots are likely of the "You shouldn't watch Tyler Perry variety." What we fail to acknowledge in all the policing of media representation is that, you cannot have diversity in your representation if you decide that some images are too tragic, triggering, or foolish for portrayal. The full bodied beauty of the black experience cannot lie solely in indie films set in a desert only 5 people have actually visited. The black experience is varied and rich and includes positive moments as well as some hard to swallow and discuss moments. For all 5 minutes I did watch of the new Roots, I was able to see a vibrant community set in western Africa where customs and rituals were honored, boys had crushes on girls, and people had fights over bruised egos. I saw humanity exposed in short clips that gave more to the narrative of the long histories of the people who built this country. For those that decided they would only see defeat in the Roots series, then you can only admit to seeing the same for OKC because they lost that last game at the same time Roots wrapped up episode 1. There was glory in that final loss, and there's another season coming.
Of course, celebrating and representing ordinary moments is just as important. Yes, there needs to be even more movies that celebrate marriage or cookouts or just some regular family drama. However, the idea that we don't need another slave movie is full of the idea that justice will come without an understanding of our history or acknowledgement of our ancestors. And while I didn't watch Roots, I am still anxiously awaiting the Harriet biopic. In the meantime, I guess we have Underground.
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