xx Introduction role was a pivotal one as, according to Margaret Mitchell’s racist words, “It had always been a struggle to teach Scarlett that most of her natural impulses were unladylike. Mammy’s victories over Scarlett were hard won and represented guile unknown to the white mind” (1936, 19). Mammy is an enslaved house servant, but she has agency. What she doesn’t have is a life apart from her servitude to whites. Another myth perpetrated by Gone with the Wind was that the planta- tion house was a place of gentility. The plantation house in Richard Fleisch- er’s Mandingo (1975)—which Dave Kehr refers to as the “anti–Gone with the Wind”—is derelict, its white inhabitants disabled, disgruntled, abusive drunks and its Black inhabitants militant, disgruntled, and empowered. The abuse and brutality portrayed in all the movies discussed is unsettling and ugly however, the South was a violent society compared to the North. Quentin Tarantino’s ultraviolent uneasy blend of history and alternative his- tory make Django Unchained (2012) exploitative, yet “DiCaprio does cap- ture the unchecked and capricious use of power that was at the heart of the plantation system” (Bunch 2013). The enslaved were beaten for being disobedient and attempting to run away, often to catch up with a family member who was sold away or to run back to one’s family. Enslaved families were separated without warning—a field laborer might return home from a backbreaking day in the sun to find a family member had been raped, beaten, or sold. According to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), “more than half of all enslaved people in the Upper South were separated from a parent or child, and a third of their marriages were destroyed by forced migration” (“Families Torn Apart” 2017). The announcement in 2017 of a projected HBO speculative series Con- federate, created by Game of Thrones’ showrunners, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, sparked a media controversy. The revelation of the series’ conceit—a modern America in which slavery remains a viable institution after the Southern states have successfully seceded from the Union—incited April Reign, the activist/creator of the potent #OscarsSoWhite campaign, to urge viewers to get behind #NoConfederate. An HBO executive promised that “the narrative is not a defense of slavery” and that there “should be no whips and no plantations,” but the project was canceled. Toni Morrison, when she was contemplating writing about slavery and fictionalizing the story of the formerly enslaved woman Margaret Garner for her novel Beloved (Knopf, 1987), set in 1873, made into a poignant film in 1998 by Jonathan Demme, said, “The need to reexamine and imagine it was repellent.” Morrison didn’t want to examine victimhood and pity for a novelist, she said, the “real excitement ...is not what there is, but what there is not” (1998). It was the miniseries Roots, based on Alex Haley’s best-selling novel that showed to an audience of more than a hundred million viewers how enslaved Black Americans experienced and endured slavery and what it was like day to day, from the African’s capture in Africa to Emancipation. The CBS show
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