Weiter zum Inhalt

Fugitive Fever Screening: Plantation Preoccupations, Screens of Subjection, and Freedom Dreaming in "Antebellum" and "The Underground Railroad"

Lee A. Flamand

Seiten 133 - 152

DOI https://doi.org/10.33675/AMST/2024/2/5


This publication is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0.

Creative Commons License

American films have long preoccupied themselves with the plantation as a site for staging scenes of subjection and problematic dramas of emancipation. They are usually less invested in historical accuracy than in constructing barely veiled commentaries on contemporary racial politics. As such, uncomfortable questions of spectatorship, complicity, and liberation are often either deflected or sublimated. This work compares two recent iterations in this genealogy, "Antebellum" (2020) and "The Underground Railroad" (2021), within the context of the digital streaming platforms through which their consumption is most commonly mediated. While the former treats the plantation as a violent space of exception that erupts inexplicably upon the present and relies heavily on reproducing lurid spectacles in order to service conventional and often perversely comforting genre expectations, the latter maps out pervasive permutations of the plantation while developing a speculative Black aesthetic which contributes to radical traditions of freedom dreaming. Both remain captive to the opportunistic logics of platform capitalism: the most recent iteration of the plantation’s permutations.

Key Words: plantation; slavery; spectatorship; American film and television; "Antebellum"; "The Underground Railroad"; streaming platforms

1 12 Years a Slave. Dir. Steve McQueen. Fox Searchlight, 2013. Film.

2 Amistad. Dir. Steven Spielberg. DreamWorks, 1997. Film.

3 Antebellum. Dir. Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz. Perf. Jonelle Monáe. Lionsgate, 2020. Amazon Prime. Web. 6 Jan. 2023. https://www.amazon.de/gp/video/detail/B08M4J9QJ1/ref=atv_dl_rdr?autoplay=1.

4 “Antebellum (2020 Movie) Official Teaser.” antebellum.movie. Web. 6 Jan. 2023. https://antebellum.movie/videos/antebellum-2020-movie-official-teaser-janelle-monae.

5 Band of Angels. Dir. Raoul Walsh. Warner Bros., 1957. Film.

6 The Birth of a Nation. Dir. D. W. Griffith. Epoch Production Co., 1915. Film.

7 The Birth of a Nation. Dir. Nate Parker. Fox Searchlight, 2016. Film.

8 Bogle, Donald. Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films. London: Bloomsbury, 2016. Print.

9 Butler, Octavia E. Kindred. New York: Doubleday, 1979. Print.

10 Da Costa, Cassie. “‘Antebellum’ Turns the Horrors of Slavery into Hollywood Tragedy Porn.” Daily Beast. 2 Sept. 2022. Web. 27 July 2023. https://www.thedailybeast.com/antebellum-turns-the-horrors-of-slavery-into-hollywood-entertainment.

11 Davis, Natalie Zemon. Slaves on Screen: Film and Historical Vision. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2000. Print.

12 Drum. Dir. Steve Carver. United Artists, 1976. Film.

13 Ferreira da Silva, Denise. Unpayable Debt. New York: Sternberg, 2022. Print.

14 Gillespie, Michael Boyce, Samantha N. Sheppard, Walton M. Muyumba, and Kristin J. Warner. “Thinking about The Underground Railroad.” Film Quarterly 75.2 (2021): 19-26. Web. 10 Jan. 2024. https://online.ucpress.edu/fq/article/75/2/19/119058/Thinking-about-The-Underground-RailroadWith-Walton.

15 Get Out. Dir. Jordan Peele. Universal, 2017. Film.

16 Glory. Dir. Edward Zwick. TriStar, 1989. Film.

17 Gone with the Wind. Dir. Victor Flemming. Loew’s, 1939. Film.

18 Haraway, Donna, et al. “Anthropologists Are Talking—About the Anthropocene.” Ethnos 81.3 (2016): 535-64. Web. 10 Jan. 2024. https://doi.org/10.1080/00141844.2015.1105838.

19 Hartman, Saidiya V. Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America. New York: Oxford UP, 1997. Print.

20 Kaisary, Philip. “The Slave Narrative and Filmic Aesthetics: Steven McQueen, Solomon Northrup, and Colonial Violence.” Melus 42.2 (2017): 94-114. JSTOR. Web. 10 Jan. 2024. https://www.jstor.org/stable/44384169.

21 La La Land. Dir. Damien Chazelle. Lionsgate, 2016. Film.

22 Long, Katherine Anne. “Amazon’s Workforce Split Sharply along the Lines of Race and Gender, New Data Indicates.” The Seattle Times. Blethen, 23 Sept. 2023. Web. 7 July 2023. https://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon/amazons-workforce-split-sharply-along-the-lines-of-race-gender-and-pay-new-data-indicates/.

23 Mandingo. Dir. Richard Fleischer. Paramount, 1975. Film.

24 Moonlight. Dir. Barry Jenkins. A24, 2016. Film.

25 Obenson, Tambay. “‘Antebellum’: This Movie Polarizes Audiences and for the Directors, That’s the Point.” IndieWire. Penske Media, 27 Sept. 2020. Web 7 July 2023. https://www.indiewire.com/2020/09/antebellum-gerard-bush-christopher-renz-1234579708.

26 Poll, Ryan. “Can One ‘Get Out?’ The Aesthetics of Afro-Pessimism.” The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association 51.2 (2018): 69-102. JSTOR. Web. 10 Jan. 2024. https://www.jstor.org/stable/45151156.

27 Roots. Dir. Alex Haley. ABC, 1977. TV.

28 Sankofa. Dir. Haile Gerima. Mypheduh, 1993. Film.

29 Sargent, Andrew. “Representing Prison Rape: Race, Masculinity, and Incarceration in Donald Goines’s ‘White Man’s Justice, Black Man’s Grief.’” Melus 35.3 (2010): 131-55. Project Muse. Web. 10 Jan. 2024. doi.org/10.1353/mel.2010.0000.

30 Sexton, Jared. Black Masculinity and the Cinema of Policing. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. Print.

31 Sharpe, Christina. In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2016. Print.

32 Spillers, Hortense J. “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book.” Diacritics 17.2 (1987): 64-81. JSTOR. Web. 10 Jan. 2024. https://doi.org/10.2307/464747.

33 St. Félix, Doreen. “The Achievements of Barry Jenkins’s The Underground Railroad.” The New Yorker. Condé Nast, 14 May 2021. Web. 24 July 2023. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/05/24/the-achievement-of-barry-jenkins-the-underground-railroad.

34 Stevenson, Brenda E. “Filming Black Voices and Stories: Slavery on America’s Screens.” Journal of the Civil War Era 8.3 (2018): 488-520. JSTOR. Web. 10 Jan. 2024. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26483636.

35 Stokes, Melvyn. “From Uncle Tom to Nat Turner: An Overview of Slavery in American Film, 1903-2016.” Transatlantica 1 (2018): n. pag. Web. 11 Jan. 2024. https://doi.org/10.4000/transatlantica.12814.

36 The Underground Railroad. Dir. Barry Jenkins. Perf. Thuso Mbedu. Season 1. Amazon Prime, 2021. Web. https://www.amazon.de/-/en/dp/B08XC4PMQX/ref=sr_1_1?crid=24D77DO7H7QYE&keywords=unterirdische+eisenbahn&qid=1672936729&s=instant-video&sprefix=Underground%2Cinstant-video%2C160&sr=1-1.

37 ---. “Georgia.” The Underground Railroad. Season 1, episode 1. Amazon Prime, 2021.

38 ---. “Indiana Autumn.” The Underground Railroad. Season 1, episode 8. Amazon Prime, 2021.

39 ---. “Indiana Winter.” The Underground Railroad. Season 1, episode 9. Amazon Prime, 2021.

40 ---. “Mabel.” The Underground Railroad. Season 1, episode 10. Amazon Prime, 2021.

41 ---. “South Carolina.” The Underground Railroad. Season 1, episode 2. Amazon Prime, 2021.

42 Weheliye, Alexander G. Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2014. Print.

43 Wilderson III, Frank B. “Social Death and Narrative Aporia in 12 Years a Slave.” Black Camera 7.1 (2015): 134-49. JSTOR. Web. 10 Jan. 2024. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/blackcamera.7.1.134.

44 Zuboff, Shoshana. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. New York: Public Affairs, 2019. Print.


Export Citation