Even though I have learned about the institution of slavery, I never thought of the multitude of disturbing situations that could extend from it. The most poignant aspects of the movie that hit home for me was that of the slave women. Their situations are uniquely tougher, and as a woman myself, it is unimaginable the atrocities that they faced commonly. The first situation that was eye opening- was that of Eliza, a slave mother, being forcibly separated from her children as she begged and pleaded the white master’s to not do the unthinkable. Just recalling the scene gives me a sharp chill down my spine.
The reality sinks in that slaves were traded and bought like livestock, and children suddenly separated from their mother’s in an instant based off one white man’s decision and pocketbook. Lives irrevocably changed and shattered in a human auction house, very tough to witness. I think it was important for the director Steve McQueen to include the subtle emotional response of the white preacher, Ford, had to Eliza’s pleas. He tried to buy Eliza’s daughter as well but was refused and there was little he could do about it, but it showed his humanity even as a “superior white” male amongst an institution that just “is what it is. The second side story that was heartbreaking to watch and realize, was that of slave girl Patsey.
Even though she was the most efficient and quickest cotton picker on the plantation, she had to face the unbearable duality of lust/hatred of her Master Epps- who seemed to be both infatuated and disgusted with himself for his feelings towards her. Patsey not only incurred regular rape from Epps (the rape scene was particularly brutal), but she also had to deal with the wrath of Mistress Epps, for she was not blind to her husband’s infidelities and regularly encouraged him to whip her.
The scene where Patsey begs Solomon to strangle her was particularly depressing, for if I were in her situation, I too would find more peace in death. My heart cried most for Patsey, for her plight echoes what I know must have been a very commonplace occurrence for slave girls. This movie overall was intensely hard to sit through, but I feel that the vicious reality of it is something that was eye opening and important for those of us in the present to reflect on and understand.
What the movie does so well is put history into perspective, forces viewers to recognize the everyday horrors that was the slavery institution, which was true and real not so long ago. The film was able to stir up a storm of different emotions for me, sadness, horror, disgust- but most importantly, grateful; grateful for my freedom and for the liberties that I take for granted every single day. This film well deserved the three Oscars that it won, if not, for reminding us all that life, liberty, and freedom should and must remain a natural human right- and that history does not repeat itself in this way ever again.