Monday, August 19, 2013

Blog-a-long 19/30 - Lee Daniel's The Butler

Forrest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines - The Butler

On Saturday I went to see the movie The Butler.  It was the first time I have ever gone to see a movie on opening weekend.  So when the numbers were listed this morning that it had topped the Box office with $25 million dollars I was proud to be a part of it winning the number one spot for the weekend.

Let me start by saying I love Forrest Whitaker.  He is an excellent actor with the most expressive face which was a great asset for this movie.

The Butler covers a period spanning from 1926 to 2008.  Cecil Gaines was a young boy working in the cotton fields of Macon, Georgia (my family is from this area). The son of the owner of the cotton farm raped Cecil's mother on a regular basis.  When his father tried to speak up for his wife, the owner's son killed him, and his mother had a nervous breakdown.  The owner's wife took Cecil to the main house and taught him to serve.  Her main lesson was to tell him that he must learn to be invisible, the guests must never know he was in the room.  He called upon this lesson often when he became a butler in the White House.

This movie was very emotional for me.  In addition to chronicling the life of Mr. Gaines, it also showed very eloquently the struggle between the African-American generation of the 20's and 30's who were taught to be seen and not heard and the young African Americans of the late 50's and 60's who wanted to be seen and heard during the Civil Rights Movement.  I remember my father not allowing me to wear an Afro hair style in 1969.  As long as I lived in his house I had to follow his rules. I also remember being told that in order to get promotions and be taken seriously on my job I had to stop wearing my big Afro.

This movie was a reality gut check for me.  It brought tears to my eyes and left me feeling very somber.  As an African American I can never forget where I come from and that I am very proud to be who I am.

 After serving eight  Presidents Cecil Gaines retired.  He campaigned for President Obama as best he could given his advanced age and went to the Inauguration.  He echoed what many felt, never in my lifetime could I have dreamed we would have an African American President. 

Cecil Gaines was  man of dignity and strength.  In his own humble way he was a Civil Rights Pioneer.  The movie the Butler made me very proud.


Rene said...

I think all I should say is Wow! But I can't limit it to that.
I lived alongside you, and had parents active in the Civil Rights movement, and they gave money to the NAACP, but I did NOT live in the same world. Only intellectually.

My mother grew up in a time when immigrants were treated like trash, and her people of her ethnicity were burned out of a town in the midwest, but her people did not have as much institutional and long lasting mistreatment. Yet in my childhood, my mother wouldn't let me learn Greek and wouldn't take me to the Greek church.
She wanted me to be 100% American, as she was taught to define it: English language for all things, even church, Betty Crocker and Campbells soup on the table except for rare occasions, no "weird" music in the house when people visited.....and yet, when I returned for my HS reunion, I was told that my classmates remembered my mother and how foreign she was.

Greeks were lumped in with Italians and now are the silent minority with changed names and no trace of an accent. You can only tell us by our eyeliner. Otherwise we pass.

It's only by looking back that I can even get a glimpse of another reality. I hope there are more "people of less color" who see this movie. Your post moved me deeply.

The worlds of Asians, LGBT people, Hispanics, and yes, even Jews are invisible to anyone not of those groups. I adopted an Asian daughter and converted to Judaism and my eyes were opened.

We are not a melting pot, are we?

Glenda Hoagland said...

Rene, what a beautiful comment. We are indeed a melting pot. We need to be proud of our heritage, for we all are a mixture of our environment. Thank you so much for reading my post.

The Creative Beast said...

I have been wanting to see this movie because, like you Glenda, I am a big fan of Mr. Whitaker's acting work.

I certainly enjoyed reading the comment left by Rene, as I have had a somewhat similar experience, in regards to not learning the language of my father who came from Central America. However, I have strangely experienced more bigotry from fellow Hispanics due to this lack of Spanish language in my life, and because of this, I am acutely aware of the pitfalls of 'internal racism' which occurs in Hispanic culture due to skin color or nationality, as well as African American culture for skin color.

I say HOORAY to the generation who insisted on being SEEN and HEARD - they have paved the way for us all to feel safer to speak up for what we believe in and by speaking up, we can continue to make positive changes in our world =-)

Glenda Hoagland said...

Well said Monica.

Karen Stewart Elliott said...

I have not seen this movie but have heard wonderful things about it, including your post here. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the importance of this movie.

Angella Dee said...

this post gave me goosebumps Glenda. very moving!