Homework #3: Birth of a Nation and Controversial Films

Poster for first showing of Birth of a Nation in Seattle, c. 1915
Poster for first showing of Birth of a Nation in Seattle, c. 1915

At home and in class, we screen excerpts of D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation in class, a movie that was first screened 100 years ago. The racist content of the film invoked protest across the nation, led primarily by the newly formed National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The combination of Griffith’s remarkable artistry, distorted historical accounts, and overt racism produced sickening propaganda for the Ku Klux Klan. Listen to a short NPR report on the legacy of the Birth of a Nation. For an example of the impact of Griffith’s film on a recent movie, see Henry Louis Gates’ interview of Quentin Tarantino on Django Unchained (2012)

NPR report on Birth of  a Nation

Gates’ interview with Quentin Tarantino

Share with your classmates other examples of controversial films that have evoked protests in the past. Do you know of movies that have caused similar demonstrations or complaints about content?

To complete this homework assignment, note whether you Post or Comment. For Homework #3, Clubs and Hearts will submit a Post and Diamonds and Spades will Comment (choose any of your classmates’ posts to comment on).

Homework #3 is DUE by Thursday September 24th.
 Clubs and Hearts Post, Diamonds and Spades Comment, note your blog group! Email me if you forget.


13 thoughts on “Homework #3: Birth of a Nation and Controversial Films”

  1. There have been several movies that caused controversy. To name a few “Dirty Harry”, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, and even “Do The Right Thing”. One controversial movie that did stick out to me was “The Passion of The Christ” directed by Mel Gibson, released in February of 2004. This movie was criticized for it’s violence/gore. However, was mostly attacked by Jews because they felt the movie portrayed them as a blood thirsty group of people. They also felt that the movie blamed them for the crucifixion of Christ while others just questioned the movies accuracy. To me I always wondered why in 2004 people would have a problem with violence/gore when so many other movies released before this one did the same.

    1. You are completely right when you ask “why in 2004 people would have a problem with violence/gore” if I remember correctly in 2004 there were a lot of movies that involved violence such as war movies of ancient Greece and England which in my opinion were brutal. Mel Gibson on the other hand is quite the director, he has this thing that when he directs something he is more than slightly off in some facts. Heck, that’s part of being a director; doing what ever you want. I think mainly why it raised some controversy was that society is so protective of religion and some directors have to be careful on how they portrait different types of people. Now a days we have movies that involve Muslim people as extremist, Seriously? Movies have a lot of power and they should be used in a smarter way in my opinion.

    2. I agree moreover i heard that when the movie was in theaters some of the people who was watching it had to leave in the middle of the movie. Due to the fact as you said there was to much violence and gore for people to watch. Personally i think it was because the movie main theme was religious and people tend to try not to think or get involve when it is portrayed that way.

    3. I thought as well how many people thought the Passion of the Christ was portrayed. I feel that in every religion we all blame someone else for having a different belief and especially in movies, it turns out to be that people end up getting offended. I think people need to realize that whether it is movies or books, regardless, they were written by man and not a god. Humans are not perfect beings and everyone interprets what they believe in many ways.

  2. There been many movies with controversial that brought many problems to all of us. One of the movies was called Summer of Sam. It was director by Spike Lee. The movie was about a serial killer known as Son of Sam. The Son of Sam terrorised New York City. It mostly focus on Italian Americans. They all live in the Bronx. But most of the real killing was in Queens.This all happened when New York City had a blackout in July of 1977. Son of Sam wrote a famous letter, that which is quoted in the film. ” I love to hunt. Prowling the streets looking for fair game -tasty meat. The women of Queens are z prettiest of all.” But in the movie after on of the murders, it was left at the site! The killer was a postal man that worked everyday and had a mean black labrador. He thought the dog was a demon. When he howls, that was a sign to kill. Most of the movie played disco music too. Spike Lee change the name and twisted things around. It was a big problem, because of what was going on in these times. It was skillfully made and a pictured of New York City was born!

  3. Controversial movies are prob one of the best things to bring up to make conversation. One of my favorite movies is Silence of the Lambs directed by Jonathan Demme. The Hannibal Lecter story
    is about a psychopathic serial killer named Buffalo Bill. This character kills women across the midwest and skins them alive to create himself more like a woman. The movie had several accusations of transphobia after the film was released. Let me remind you that this movie was made is 1991 where the LGBT was still disregarded and not supported as in todays age. Several viewers took this as a bad image for those who are transgendered.

  4. The Interview, which came out in 2014, directed by and starring Seth Rogan and James Franco caused much controversy. The movie was supposed to be aired in theaters until Sony was hacked by an angry supporter of North Korea. It is believed that North Korea was most likely behind the attack on Sony. The hacker threatened that if the movie was released, there would be consequences. Fearing these consequences, (terrorism, mass murder, etc.) the movie was no longer released into theaters but instead was available on demand channels and programs like Netflix. The movie is a comedic take on an obviously fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jung Yun. Kim Jung Yun, however, is not a fictional leader. I can only imagine how America would react if North Korea had made a similar movie about the fictional assassination of one of our presidents. Therefore, the large amount of controversy this film caused is not surprising.

    1. comment-Diamond

      I would agree that, the comedic film “The interview” did cause controversy. It was most likely the most controversial thing that happen at the end of 2014 year. I saw this movie about three times in about a week span with my friends. It was a pretty funny movie since it actors are two of the funniest guys in comedy films. It’s true that the movie main plot of the movie was to kill North Korea supreme leader. If that’s the case, then that would have mostly likely caused controversy for the film. Since around 2014 and still present, there is still bad relations between North Korea and America/other countries. The film in the states is probably just a funny film nothing else. But to the leader and higher up ranks in North Korea, it could have been a threat to them. Since it prompted the assassination of their beloved leader. Most of the people view their leaders as god like figure. Also they could have felt disrespected on how the film shows the way North Korea lives. So the movie is a controversial film, because it could have invoke real life problems. One of them is the Sony hackers. But it maybe could of lead to an act of aggression by America. Yes the film did cause controversy, which it travel to the oval office ears. In which Obama makes a speech, in which could have been based on the film and problems the interview aroused. The movie was great and really funny.

    2. Totally agree. Like I said before to someone talking about Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ, some directors have gone out of their way and need to be careful on how they portrait different types of people. We see today different types of movies including Muslims as extremist people and it is totally not like that. I too wonder how Americans would feel if another country made a movie making fun of Americans. Furthermore although the movie was a comedy I feel like it wasn’t as good as people were hyping about it.

  5. One of the most controversial movies that I know of and that comes to mind is 1974’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre by D. Tobe Hooper. The title pretty much explains itself , but the movie is basically about a killer in a kind of side of the highway town in rural america. The controversy came about in review of the movies some critics liked how these rural America towns were depicted and some critics didn’t. Some critics and people were offended and was not to fond of the slasher mentality and crude heartless behavior. The movie was so bad in that sense that it was banned twice in France for inciting violence and it was also banned for about 25 years in the UK. This movie was a low budget one with the budget only being 300,000 but going on to make around 31 million. There was a lot of blood and gruesome scenes in this movie and not everyone responded positively to it.

  6. One of the most controversial movies I have ever seen was a film called “life”. Released on April 3rd, 1999, this film caught the eyes of many. The title pretty much explains itself, but the movie is about to men who get locked up for life because of a cops word. One night they were really drunk at the bar and got into a dispute with the cops. The cop recognized the character Ray Gibson as an suspect to a crime. This was around the time when slavery was still being publicized and more popular. There was almost little to no discussion at court and they were obligated to do a life sentence. There was a lot of controversy over this film. Star actors in the film, such as Martin Lawrence, Eddie Murphy, and Bernie Mac disputed that the film, even as African American felt that the film was very exceptional and mind opening to everyday activity.

  7. One movie of controversy that came to mind was United 93. United 93 is about the flight that was targeted for the White House on 9/11. Flight 93’s hijacked mission was terminated before it could reach it’s destination by the brave American passengers aboard. This film was extremely detailed, graphic, and devastating. Many people argued it was way to soon to expose the terrifying battle those people faced. This film was presented in 2006. Another controversial film would have to be A Time To Kill. A Time To Kill takes place in the year 1984 and battles the racism struggles that still occurred in the south at that time. An American American male seeked revenge on the two caucasian males that raped and hanged his 10 year old daughter, nearly killing her. He knew the two men would walk away free because they were white and his daughter was just an African American. To seek justice for his daughter, he murdered the two men. Throughout the film, we follow through his trial and the obstacles he faces as he tries to convince the innocence and justification behind the murders. The racism experienced in this film is almost sickening and the comments that followed were even worse. Because the man walks away freely after his justification many people argued the acceptance of murder in this film. Others just felt this movie represented hope. More people had very racist and ignorant comments to follow.

  8. The most controversial film as of late has been Sony’s “The Interview” The scale on which the movie shook things up has been straight up unprecedented. The controversy is because the North Koreans did not appreciate how the North Korean dictator was presented in the film. As opposed to SNL’s idiotic dictator’s approach, The Interview chose to present him as a goofy guy way in over his head overwhelmed by the responsibilities left to him by his father. But the North Korean targeted Sony instead of SNL.

    And all hell broke loose.

    Suddenly every is in fear of nuclear attack. And then they kinda did the world a favor in the form of allegedly hacking Sony’s email. By exposing the mess behind Sony’s film division we not only saw all their dirty laundry and how celebrities interact with the studios. We also saw Sony’s mess with the Spider-Man franchise. We saw horrible ideas for spin-off as they tried to compete with Marvel’s massive franchise And the internet collectively said “nope”. Ideas of an Aunt May prequel about her teenage years was thrown around and other really dumb ideas. But everyone’s reaction of “nope” really forced Sony to reeavulate their position of “They’re gonna have to pry him away from our cold dead hands” a quote from Amy Pascal, the woman in charge of Spidey and so they struck a deal to introduce him into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and potentially make him an Avenger. So that’s how a comedy movie by Hollywood’s greatest bromance led to Spider-Man joining the Avengers and appearing in Captain America: Civil War next year. It’s gonna be glorious next year. I’m gonna go broke.

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