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Why I Wont Watch 12 Years a Slave

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Ok, so I am one of the few people in the country who will pass on seeing the movie 12 Years a Slave. This blockbuster has won numerous awards culminating with prestigious Oscars for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. From the buzz, it appears that very few were surprised by, or not in total agreement with, all the favorable attention garnered.

I am somewhat of a movie buff and an amateur actor as well. As such, I love a good movie. I critically examine the acting, the cinematography; and I am also a sucker for a good plot and historically accurate depiction. From all the critical acclaim, it seems like Slave was a slam dunk in all those categories. That is why it won awards, not just in this country, but in Europe as well. But I will not be watching it.

In terms of accuracy and vivid depiction of a real story -- a free man captured and held in slavery for 12 years -- this movie is said to be unparalleled. It is brutally accurate, with vivid heart-wrenching depiction of pain, blood, whippings and cruelty. There is no doubt that the barbarism goes beyond garden variety dehumanization and shows the ease with which some human beings degraded others for years without qualm or conscience. All this makes for riveting viewing but I will pass on viewing it.

I believe that whatever we concentrate on, saturates our minds and seeps into our pores, poisoning not just our mind and body, but our very psyche. I came of age during the airing of the slavery-themed docu-series Roots . Even as a child I recalled the lingering anger and tears of the adults around me. They re-evaluated their self esteem and relationships with colleagues and coworkers. For many months conversations consisted mostly of repeated and obsessive re-analyses of the piece.

I do not need a history lesson to teach me about the reality of slavery. I certainly do not need to see another movie to remind me of atrocities beyond comprehension. I already know that trading in human flesh was a kind of casual commerce. I know that otherwise decent men justified owning, degrading and brutalizing their fellow man (and woman) even as they read their bibles and casually sipped whiskey or mint juleps.

I will not be drawn into debates about assigning relative weights to various human campaigns of horror. I do not wish to theorize whether some acts are more demeaning and dehumanizing than others. We are certainly shaped by our history and I am acutely aware that some, sadly, even look back wistfully at the bad old days. But I will not allow those thoughts to saturate my psyche. To suggest I do not want to face reality is to grossly misunderstand and minimize my choice. If that's what you think, this piece is not for you, because you will never understand my thesis.

Most agree that this movie is deserving of all the attention it has received. I just do not choose to stare at and reexamine the blood stain of slavery on the American fabric. I do not need to see this movie, however well-made, in order to learn history or to heighten my sensibilities. I will exercise my choice of what I allow into my consciousness. So I choose not to see this movie. No matter how many awards it has won.