Viewpoints: Should moviegoers boycott Nate Parker’s “Birth of a Nation” ?

Moviegoers protest with purpose

By Kelly Wong

Staff editor

Although critics praised the film, many moviegoers plan on boycotting Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation” to make a political statement. Parker was charged and acquitted of rape in 1999, but there is overwhelming evidence that Parker and Jean McGianni Celestin, his roommate and co-writer of the film, are guilty of rape. A boycott is necessary in speaking out against rape and insufficient measures that are in place to ensure that rapists receive the punishment they deserve.

According to the Uniform Crime Reporting program, rape is any form of penetration by any body part or object without the consent of the victim. In a phone call with the victim, Parker revealed that the two had intercourse, but he claimed that it was consensual. The victim, who wished to remain anonymous, did not consent to sex, but agreed to sleep over at Parker’s place because she was too intoxicated to get home.

“I just remember opening my eyes and seeing Nate having intercourse with me. It was just a split second,” stated the victim in her trial.

Parker defended himself by claiming that the victim was intoxicated and showed interest in him. This tactic is commonly used among many accused rapists to redirect the blame on the victim for flirting or wearing revealing clothing. According to British tabloid The Daily Mail, 24 percent of women between the ages of 18-24 believe that victims were partially responsible for their rape if they accepted a drink, wore skimpy clothing, or held a conversation with the rapist. It is unjust for victims to feel as if they were responsible for their rape by engaging in conversation or wearing certain articles of clothing.

If and when rapists are punished, they are not punished harshly. Although his conviction was later overturned, Celestin was originally convicted and sentenced to six-to-twelve months, even though Pennsylvania’s minimum sexual assault sentence is three to six years. In the infamous Stanford rape case, Brock Turner was sentenced to six months in jail, but only served three. These light sentences are examples of how lightly rape cases are viewed despite the strong impressions they leave on rape victims. The victim of Parker’s case attempted suicide twice after the rape and took her own life in 2012.

As Americans, we have a responsibility to keep our country and fellow citizens safe. Parker’s case illustrates how that safety is threatened by the presence of rape and society’s tendency to turn a blind eye towards it. Boycotting Parker’s film provides an opportunity to make a stand against rape and bring offenders to justice.

Film gives viewers an education

By Kaylin Tran

World editor

Nathaniel Parker’s movie “Birth of a Nation,” set to be released next Friday, has been surrounded in controversy, and it is easy to see why. Former fans have been quick to judge and have wrongly taken to boycotting the movie after details of Park-
er’s past resurfaced.

According to People Magazine, Parker was a student at Pennsylvania State University, and in 1999, he and his roommate Jean McGianni Celestin were accused of raping an intoxicated and unconscious student who also attended Penn State. Parker was acquitted; however, Celestin was convicted and was sentenced to six months to a year in prison. The charges against Parker were dropped, but the allegations were never forgotten.

Those who boycott the movie seem to completely disregard its importance, and instead, are quick to make assumptions about Parker.

“Birth of a Nation” is a story about Nat Turner, an enslaved African American who led one of the largest slave uprisings in America. It highlights the prominent issues of racism, prejudice, and rape – problems that, unfortunately, are still at large today.

It is also part of a movement that educates the masses about recurring issues in modern society, and to ignore this monumental message because of Parker’s history is denying revolutionists like Nat Turner and the many victims of rape, sexual assault, misogyny, and racial prejudice the proper recognition they deserve. Not only that, but as people begin to rally against Parker, they also ignore the phrase: “innocent until proven guilty”. Parker was acquitted in 2001, and although Celestin was convicted, he later won an appeal, and the prosecutor decided not to press the case.

“This isn’t the Nate Parker story. This is the Nat Turner story,” stated Penelope Ann Miller, who plays the wife of the plantation owner in the movie. Parker’s personal life has nothing to do with the film, and it is important that those who negate it know so. His message and the work he put into creating this film should not be devalued or tainted by the events of his past. Rather, moviegoers should approach Parker’s film with an open mind and view it as his chance at redemption.

Fox Searchlight showed its support by featuring the movie in the 2016 Sundance Film Festival hosted in January.

Boycotting ‘Birth of a Nation’ would be an injustice to those affected by these issues which have only become more frequent in society – one of many lessons that history has yet to learn from.

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