There are countless pictures and quotes being put up on Facebook blaming Disney films for giving people an unrealistic expectation of life. Meeting a stranger in the woods won’t lead to you finding Prince Charming. It’ll probably end in something less romantic and dangerous. But the happy ever after fairy tales portrayed in these much loved films do give many young girls unrealistic expectations. So when films that are brutally near the mark are released we should appreciate them and be pleased that Hollywood is telling us the truth. Ish.
In a comment piece in the Times last Saturday,Giles Coren, wrote of his struggle to convince his wife to watch 12 years a slave. With friends who are part of BAFTA they were given the film before it was on general release. To cut a long explanation short: His wife didn’t want to watch it as it is “sad and gory” and she doesn’t want to spend her time watching it in the two hours she gets between sleep and childcare. She has a point. He argued that she watched Schindler’s List, to which she said had given her nightmares for weeks after. Personally, I couldn’t watch past the Jews swallowing the family jewellery as the Germans invaded their homes. So again, her point still stands.
Films are used as an escape from our own lives when they are too difficult to cope with, whether you need a comedy to cheer you up or a horror to…. I don’t know why you’d watch one but I guess there is a reason. So you can understand why someone may not want to persist through the horrific scenes of Chiwetel Ejiofor playing Solomon Northup, being hanged to the point of near death. People think they know what happened to slaves during this period and so they don’t need, or want, to see it happening with popcorn on their laps.
We covered the topic of slavery at school and I remember watching part of a film that showed the treatment of slaves on the ship between countries. We also covered in a lot of detail the holocaust which gave me the opportunity to go to Auschwitz. I don’t think all schools teach their pupils about such important pieces of history as mine did and this is why films like Schindlers list or 12 Years a Slave are important no matter how hard they may be to watch. It's impossible for every part of history to be taught in schools so this education needs to come from elsewhere.
It’s easy to ignore the brutal treatment that people suffered, and still do suffer, if it isn’t brought to your attention. Very few people are going to choose to read up on such topics unless they have a specific interest. Documentaries may be made but why would people watch these when such educational programmes like The Only Way is Essex and Splash! are on at the same time. The only way to educate many people on the severity of such issues is by making a film that tries to tell the truth and is shocking at the same time. Then even if people only watch it because their friends have or they like particular actors it’s better than them having no education on them at all. So step up Hollywood and educate as well as entertain your avid viewers.