By: Lauren Dominguez (Correspondent)
The new Harriet movie tells the tale of one of America’s greatest heroes and is currently facing mixed reviews.
This biographical film about abolitionist Harriet Tubman was directed by Kasi Lemmons starring Cynthia Erivo as Tubman, and Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, and Janelle Monáe in supporting roles.
Harriet Tubman who was born into slavery in Maryland in the early 1800s, escaped as a young adult by running nearly 100 miles to Philadelphia. After that, she consistently put her life on the line to return to Maryland and lead other slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad.
This movie focuses less on the brutality of slavery and more on the real human stories from the underground railroad.
“I really felt that I wanted to speak about a different kind of violence, which was family separation, which I hadn’t seen as much of but is very much the Harriet Tubman story and what she was motivated by,” said Lemmons.
The movie primarily focuses on the escape that Harriet experiences, as well as the 70 people she helped after that. It also looks at how she explores the underground railroad and later how she became a fundamental part of the abolitionist movement.
When Harriet reaches Philadelphia, she meets William Still (Leslie Odom Jr.), a leader of an anti-slavery group and the underground railroad. She also meets Marie Buchanon (Janelle Monae), a lodging house owner. With the help of these two people she tries to go back to Maryland in hopes of rescuing her husband from slavery.
Gideon Brodess, Harriet’s salve-master, played by Joe Alwn, is furious at her escape and her attempts to savepeople from slavery; therefore, he devotes himself to hunting her down. Although the film had a strong opening weekend bringing in $12 million, some critics were quick to claim it features a“white- savior theme.” Some viewers say that the black bounty hunter in the movie was being portrayed as the antagonist, while the movie failed to focus on the horrific wrong-doings of the slave-owners.
One Twitter user writes, “At the end of Harriet, she forgives the white man who was her slavemaster while she kills the Black man. In one sweep this film is saying forgive the white man but hate and never forgive the Black Man. Most anti Black movie ever made in 2019.” Many twitter users criticizing the film have begun to use the #NotMyHarriet as well. Another twiiter user says, “I swear the whole point of this Harriet movie is to restart the ‘Black men ain’t never cared about Black women’ narrative rather than tell Harriet’s story.” Despite complaints there was also a lot of praise for the film.
Brittney Cooper, a professor of Africana women’s and gender studies at Rutgers University, says that there is no “white -savior” plot in the movie. “For there to be a white savior, the white person would have to had saved her. He was hunting her. He didn’t want to save her. And she escapes. She saves herself.”
Sophomore Julia Welch who saw the movie says she can see where people are coming from with the “white-savior claims” but adds that it was really well done and factual. “The story of Harriet Tubman is truly inspiring and I think they really did a good job making the movie as true to her story as possible,” Welch said.
“I’m happy movie producers realized it was necessary to bring her story back to the mainstream audience,” Welch added.
Sophomore David Frank says he wished more people talked about the way she pioneered the underground railroad and resucused so many from slavery. “I think somebody as influential as Harriet Tubman should get all the recognition she deserves,” Frank said.
Although people who liked and disliked the movie have their differing opinions, one thing they all agree on was how important Harriet Tubman was and how her story should be continued to be told more than 100 years after her death.
“This film did a great job bringing back her amazing story for us all and I’m happy I got the chance to see it,” Frank concluded.