Can’t Stop Watching: Hollywood & Slavery, Why ‘AHS: Coven’ is Awesome & More

by | October 9, 2013 at 1:54 PM | American Horror Story, Black Entertainment, Can't Stop Watching, The View

"!2 Years a Slave" (Photo: 20th Century Fox)

When I learned that ABC was planning to do a 12-hour limited miniseries about a black White House servant during slavery, I was suspicious. Really, another slave story? It seems, based on feedback from various entertainment and social media sites, a lot of black Americans are side-eyeing Hollywood’s latest “obsession” with black subservience projects. One Deadline.com commentator, Madness, wrote, “This is pathetic but only serves as a reminder of how disconnected we are as an industry to the changing ethnicity of America. 40% of 18-34 year olds are MINORITY. Let’s get past the Blacks are Slaves mentality. Really. It’s 2013. No wonder youth are turning off the TV.” Another commentator, Ella Bee, wrote, “I’ve seen and loved The Butler, but this I cannot watch. Enough already!” Similar thoughts can be found all over the Internet. The problem is that you only get one type of narrative — irrevocably broken, needy characters — when telling these types of stories, which is why some people accessed Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” as revisionism. But as “Django” actress Kerry Washington  reminded in a recent “The New York Times” piece, “It’s unfortunate that so many people see Django as revisionist. I think it has to do with the lack of education around rebel slaves in this country, people who fought back and waged war for freedom by any means necessary. If you look at a story like “Nat Turner,” you know that “Django” isn’t really revisionist. We just aren’t taught those stories.” I literally high-fived the air when I read this. She expressed my exact sentiments. And it’s those stories that I want, and many people, not just black Americans, want to watch. Perhaps some of that will get translated in the ABC project, which is based on Elizabeth Dowling Taylor’s bestseller “A Slave In The White House,” which tells the true story of Paul Jennings, “a Virginia-born slave who served as personal valet to President James Madison,” according to Deadline.com. Jennings, who was considered a son to Madison, would eventually gain his freedom and help stage the largest slave escape attempt in this country’s history. Or maybe with British filmmaker Steve McQueen’s highly-lauded “12 Years a Slave,” which, based on the autobiography “Twelve Years a Slave,” tells the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped into slavery by  fake employers. I’ve read and watched McQueen, 44, in a few interviews and I like his way of thinking (Still familiarizing myself with the  ”A Slave in the White House” team). I think the brother is sharp. And “12 Years a Slave,” which has an all-star cast led by Chiwetel Ejiofor as Northup, appears to be a very rich story that is captivating audiences. Ejiofor and his very beautiful co-star Lupita Nyong’o visited “The View” Tuesday, discussing the importance of their working on that project. Ejiofor shares that when McQueen offered him the role, he hesitated. “It’s such an extraordinary story and I just felt the responsibility of it a lot. And I had felt I had never seen a story like this, I had never seen a film sort of inside this experience in this way. It wasn’t something I could jump into straight away,” Ejiofor said. We’ll get to judge for ourselves when “12 Years a Slave” opens Oct. 18.

“12 Years a Slave’s” Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o on “The View”

“American Horror Story” returns with witches and gris-gris: “American Horror Story: Coven” is all that! I watched the first episode last night and was glued to my iPad. In “American Horror Story’s” season 3 premiere we’ll see Angela Bassett as Voodoo Queen Madame Marie Laveau and Gabby Sidibe as a student at a Hogwarts-esque girls boarding school. The episode, aptly titled, “Bitchcraft,” also tells the story of Kathy Bates’ character, the psychotic Delphine LaLaurie, who will make “Misery’s” Annie Wilkes look like Mother Teresa (Bates sure can play crazy). Laveau and LaLaurie are based on real-life New Orleans figures. We’ll also get a look at some of the other ladies associated with the school and their special “talents” (I’m really trying not to give too much away). Lately, I found TV shows struggling to keep my attention, even those which I’ve faithfully watched or highly anticipated. Not the case with “Coven,” which possesses a very good, strong story line. I’m curious to see how the Voodoo narrative will develop (Hopefully it shies away from stereotypes and poorly researched materials.). You definitely want to tune in for “American Horror Story: Coven” at 10 p.m. EST on FX. [Watch here]

On my watchlist tonight? What I’m tuning in to see and what I’ll catch up with XFINITY On Demand with……
“American Horror Story: Coven”: It was so good, I’m watching it again at 10 p.m. EST on FX. [Watch here]
“Revolution”: Things are getting pretty interesting. See what I mean at 8 p.m. EST on NBC. [Watch here]
“Ironside”: I know this comes on at the same time as “Coven,” so I may watch this live or catch on XFINITY as soon as it’s available. It airs at 10 p.m. EST on NBC. [Watch here]

The Hot List: Who/What’s Hot, Not
HOT: Sean “Diddy” Combs donating $250,000 to the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) (Sounds like a great program teaching entrepreneurship to low-income youth)
NOT:Italian gymnast Charlotta Ferlito making a racist comment (Always be aware).

HOT: Lauryn Hill is released from jail on tax evasion charges and hopefully (fingers double-crossed) working on awesome music to present to the world (I’ve been a fan since “Sister Act 2″ and hoping for the best)
NOT: Arizona state Republican Brenda Barton calling President Barack Obama “De Fuhrer” on Facebook (People really don’t know their history, do they?)

HOT: Oscar-winner Angela Bassett in “American Horror Story: Coven” (Gotta see it!).
NOT: Missing mute autistic 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo in New York (I hope they find him alive and unharmed)

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.