When You Make a Movie Just as the Culture Evolves and You Still Have to Try and Market it

So this horrific thing was made in 2000. Here is how they initially tried to market it:

For them what don’t know, Sally Hemings was one of Jefferson’s slaves. Sally Hemings was enslaved by her own father to serve her own sister, who married Jefferson and then died. When she was 14 and he was 44, she was then was forced into a sexual relationship with him, her brother-in-law, because she reportedly bore a strong resemblance to his deceased wife. This master/slave rape “relationship” produced children who were enslaved to their father/uncle. Despite the sappy “freed by love” stuff, she was never freed by Jefferson, though her children were and she was oh-so-graciously allowed to live with them after his death. His exploitation of her lasted for 38 years.

There was a time (let’s say 22 years ago) when a legion of writers, producers, actors, and directors could look at such source material and somehow convince themselves, “That right there is one hell of a love story! Let’s greenlight, film, edit, and release this and expect to make a fortune off of it! Everybody will love this story!”

And so this film was actually made (some of my readers didn’t believe it and had to go look it up to see for sure it was not some kind of sick satire). No. It’s real and you can rent it for 10 bucks on Amazon where you can read terrifying reviews like, “My students loved it!” (And the MAGA dolts wonder why anybody advocates Critical Race Theory.)

Meanwhile, however, the culture has changed rather sharply (in non-MAGA regions, including Hollywood). As a result, this Hallmark Channel Marketing campaign has been deep-sixed and the film has been retitled:

It’s the same thing as before. But now, instead of calling it JEFFERSON: AMERICAN RAPIST or some other more honest title, the creators of the film can market it for “scandal” (and link the word to her name, not his) instead of Hallmark moosh and still make money off the misbegotten project.

Star-spangled capitalism: white washing centuries of grave evil–for centuries!


8 Responses

  1. All true. But Hollywood has done this for years, putting a romantic veneer on a rotten frame. GONE WITH THE WIND anyone? SONG OF THE SOUTH? THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON? SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON? Or we could just saw pretty much every onscreen portrayal of American Indians prior to the late ’60s.

    What’s really amazing is that the above movie was made in 2000. Seriously. Who thought that was a good idea???

  2. I’m still amazed that the us public adores game of thrones, the sopranos, breaking bad. And elected trump. When that sinks in nothing else can amaze me, it’s used up.

  3. Maybe it should be re-edited to include a story line about the late Mr. Epstein and re-titled A Tale of Two Jeffs!

    The only man alive who is capable of giving the Sally and Tom story it’s proper perspective, it’s Seth McFarlane!

  4. Um, I’m trying to remember why I’m supposed to be disgusted by Gone With the Wind. I loved that book when I was a teenager. Is it the depiction of slaves as happy?

    As for the Jefferson film, my immediate reaction was to wonder if the default mode for men –without the Spirit of God is … pervert. I don’t want to think that–and seven of my favorite people in the world are men…but it’s been a hard decade. I guess most of the women perverts don’t make it to the headlines.

    1. I’m a pervert, and own the label proudly.

      That is not the same as being a predator or an excuse for it. I suppose most predators are men, although there is a steady stream of stories these days about female teachers getting involved with young male students.

  5. Remembering as well as I can back to what we thought back then, I think it was seen as a “love against prejudice” type of story. I didn’t know she was 14. My first exposure to it was an episode of “Head of the Class” with the black female character doing a presentation in class on the love story of her ancestor and Jefferson. Amazing how perspectives can change in just a few decades.

    1. Same. The initial cultural presentation of the situation was of a Founding Father in a forbidden but loving interracial relationship that produced Black descendants who could claim as exalted an American ancestry as any Daughter of the American Revolution. I believe there were issues with Jefferson’s white descendants not wanting to acknowledge their cousins, and the emphasis was on the spirit of reconciliation that could accompany the recognition of Jefferson’s Black family.

      It is comparatively recently (at least among white audiences) that the key facts that Jefferson still legally owned Hemings, and that sex with an enslaved person cannot be consensual (which makes it rape), became the most emphasized parts of the narrative about the two.

      So I can totally see a movie about the “romance” being made a couple decades ago.

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