Later on, there’s a cut-scene of a white blonde woman being dragged off, screaming, by black men.
Indeed, as Stokes shows, The Birth of a Nation grew organically from Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Thomas Dixon, a lawyer, politician and Baptist minister born into a slave-holding family in the Confederate state of North Carolina three years into the Civil War, was enraged by the success of a stage version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. His response was to write a quasi-autobiographical novel, The Leopard’s Spots: A Romance of the White Man’s Burden (1902), which was both a sequel and a corrective to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s story, extending it into the Reconstruction period. Among the characters who reappear in Dixon’s book is the sadistic slave-master Simon Legree, who opportunistically turns Republican, gets elected governor of North Carolina, steals a fortune and relocates to New York City.
The Leopard’s Spots sold more than a million copies; Dixon’s subsequent Civil War-Reconstruction novel The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan (1905) was even more successful, and was turned into a hit play which toured for several years. Dixon even attempted to make his own movie version of it before joining forces with Griffith, who was another son of the South – indeed, the son of a Kentucky colonel. Griffith, who had been brought up on his father’s war stories and a belief in the nobility of the Confederacy’s lost civilisation, streamlined the melodrama by focusing on two families, the Stonemans of Pennsylvania and the Camerons of South Carolina, and simplified the narrative even as he expanded the story backwards to the eve of the war. He also invested Dixon’s material with his own family history, not to mention his fear, race hatred and sexual paranoia.
Among its other outrages, The Birth of a Nation presented itself as historically accurate. Stokes enumerates its most blatant distortions. Courts in South Carolina were never dominated by blacks, and ex-Confederates experienced only a partial and temporary disenfranchisement at the polls. Blacks held a majority of the seats in the state legislature but never controlled the state apparatus (and made no attempt to legislate on intermarriage). There was no period of corrupt black rule or black terror; the collapse of law and order had more to do with white attacks on blacks than vice versa. The Ku Klux Klan disbanded in 1869 and was moribund by 1871; it played no role in an anti-Reconstruction counter-revolution. The radical Republican senator Thaddeus Stevens, represented in the film as Austin Stoneman, died in 1868 and never visited South Carolina.
The most important inspiration for the novel was Melville's experiences as a sailor, in particular those during 1841-1842 on the whaleship Acushnet.
Moby-Dick contains large sections—most of them narrated by Ishmael—that seemingly have nothing to do with the plot but describe aspects of the whaling business.
It's more or less exactly what we want out of a Resident Evil game, but it's impossible for us to play it without the metanarrative of race providing a grim context for our every in-game action. It's clear when playing it that they've added a few caucasoids to the mix, and also what looks like zombie version of Saddam Hussein, but it's hard to tell what they're doing there. Playing the game does nothing to dilute the imagery people have found objectionable, the trailer wasn't out of context in any way - in fact I would say quite plainly that they go far beyond what you might have believed possible.
It won't be hard to find an authentic, devoted racist on Xbox Live to play as Chris - but is the game somehow less racist if I join someone else's game as co-op partner Sheva Alomar? I hope so. It's sort of like those Magic Eye pictures. You can't see it, you can't see it, and then wham. All you can see is the genocide.
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