A black screen with the title Antebellum written in red

A Disappointing Review of Antebellum

By Timia Cobb
Web Content Assistant Manager

In the wake of black horror films such as “Get Out”, “Ma”, “US” and more, I was ecstatic when I first saw “Antebellum’s” trailer last summer. It felt like a movie that would hit close to home by speaking on issues such as racism and conflicts in the black community. However, “Antebellum” turned out to be an hour and a half film filled to the brim of black trauma with an unsettling ending.

“Antebellum” starts off harsh, and when I say harsh I mean traumatizing. I tire of the same slave movies that show black people in disgusting places of abuse and “Antebellum” did just that. I understood that “Antebellum” took place or at least was going to show situations of slavery, but I disregarded this going in because I did not think this film was going to be like every other movie about slavery and black pain. Despite this, I was disappointed.

The first 15 minutes of “Antebellum” was hard to watch, it made my skin crawl in disgust and unsettled me to even look at but I continued to watch for the bigger picture, but the bigger picture never came.

In the movie, successful author and activist Veronica Henley, played by Janelle Monáe, is harassed by a group of people before being kidnapped and taken to a makeshift slave plantation, where present-day white people get to live out a fantasy of being slave owners during the Civil War.

During her time on the slave plantation, she meets characters that show no importance to the movie at all. For instance, she meets a young woman, played by Kiersey Clemons, who is brought to the plantation and later reveals that she is pregnant.

She ends up losing her child due to being beaten and then killing herself. Her part in the movie makes me question why the writers would show her losing her child then simply killing her off, making this movie even more seeable as a film full of unexplainable trauma.

Towards the end of the movie, it’s revealed that Veronica was taken due to her being a strong activist that needed to be silenced. Eric Lange plays Senator Denton, who throughout the movie rapes, beats and brands Veronica. Senator Denton’s daughter, played by Jena Malone, is the one who helps kidnap Veronica.

The only thing I can see myself understanding in this movie is Jena Malone’s part. It illustrates that men were not the only slave owners and weren’t the only ones being racist, white women took a huge part in it as well.

In my eyes, this is only a survivor story and sadly this story isn’t something to be celebrated. Yes, the main character escapes but that is it. This movie solely reminded me that I am black, I can die because of the color of my skin and some people will look at me as something that is not human and needs to be owned, that needs to be tamed.

This movie terrified me because I truly believe something like this could happen and there’s nothing to stop it from happening. I don’t understand what the goal was for this film but I do think that in some eyes it’s seen as a ‘thank god things like this can’t happen’ or ‘this is horrible, who would do something like this’ while in others it’s a reminder that their blackness can get them killed.

Featured Image by Timia Cobb

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