Friday, September 20, 2013

The Review: Lee's Daniel – The Butler: A Tale Of Invisibility

Forest Whitaker - Cecil Gaines
David Banner – Earl Gaines
Michael Rainey Jr. - Cecil Gaines
Mariah Carey - Hattie Pearl
Aml Ameen - Cecil Gaines
Clarence Williams – Maynard
Oprah Winfrey - Gloria Gaines
Isaac White – Charlie Gaines
David Oyelowo – Louis Gaines
Terence Howard – Howard
Tyson Ford – Elroy
Cuba Gooding Jr - Carter Wilson.
Director : Lee Daniels

As Cecil Gaines serves eight presidents during his tenure as a butler at the White House, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events affect this man's life, family, and American society.- IMDB
'The Butler' explores the role of the African American experience during different times of American history. The movie starts off by showing us a young Cecil Gaines who goes through a racial traumatic experience and how this experience shapes his story and how he views race relations. Cecil is able to get out of that environment and move to the city where he becomes a butler and a very good one who gets to work in the white house under several United States Presidents. But, while Cecil is working in the white house, the tide is changing outside in terms of racial relations and his family is getting caught up in the crossfire. Cecil will eventually have to choose a side.
When we talk about the civil rights movement in American History we often get caught up in the story of those that visibly fought for rights.   But, what about those that quietly fought within the system. Those that created change without creating waves but  changed mindsets individually. 'The Butler' celebrates those individuals.
the butler2Beyond celebrating the quiet activist, 'The Butler' also tells the story of the blue collar worker who in many cases has so many negative stereotypes ascribed to him or her. 'The Butler', gives dignity back to the blue collar worker by implicitly stating that their role in society is extremely important. They are part of the chugging wheels of the economy. There is dignity in labor.
This movie also juxtaposes two different forms of activism and its consequences. Cecil's son Louise was one who had seen the effect of race on his life though he grew up in a black neighborhood in which his family was obviously middle class. He was able to understand that the indignities that he saw daily wasn't acceptable because he was someone from the new school. He had not been indoctrinated to understand that as an African American of that time period, he should be grateful that his father had a job in the white house even if he cleans boots all day. He had not grown up on the farms to see the brutal indignities that African Americans at that time had to accept. He knew what he aspired to achieve and he knew that he could only achieve it by being someone who was vocal about his discontent.
His father on the other hand, had grown up seeing brutalities based on race and as such he learnt that his coping mechanism should be one that includes a lot of yeses. His place was never to ask the why questions or dream of aspiring for more. Now, with father and son looking at race relations through different points of views,  home life was a battle zone since they both believed that their way was best. 

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