It Was Mother

It Was One

It Was One
Wayras Olivier

O NE THING NETWORK TV used to do is program black-and-white issues with color. For example, even Oprah and Donahue would invite baskets of deplorables onto their shows. Now and again, KKKs, neo-Nazis, and white nationalists could, as it were, speak their accursed nonsense and Oprah and Donahue could, in turn, forgo the obligatory evangelical denouncement without accusations made against them for promoting, legitimizing, or encouraging ‘hate speech.’ The shows, also, to be sure, did not manage the audience’s intelligence for them by making the rather self-evident conclusion for them—that the show’s guests were hateful simpletons.

Sometimes, and without a hint of sickening sentimentality the rare (repeat: rare) on-the-fence guest would undergo a conversion, if and when they came to see how their ancestored ideology multiplied. Their lived history would be renounced, leaving the said guest regretful and remorseful about how they, too, were ancestoring their noxious ideology to their children, little fanatics obsessed with division.

Missing from all this—as the guests who chose not to convert or recant on air, whilst for the hour, they were being broadcasted into millions of homes—was a specific American reaction: moral outrage. Viewers were transfixed, because they knew (or at least assumed they knew) a pernicious aspect about ‘the individual’ that yet again, Oprah or Donahue never had to explicitly broadcast to their viewers: the individual frequently succumbs to satanic-like tribalism when it is incapable of self-reflection.

Here, then, comes that essential, but oftentimes pretentious and self-righteous process that Oprah and Donahue had a knack for doing non-judgmentally on air—holding up a mirror.

One of the major junctures among several in Spike Lee’s 25th Hour is Edward Norton’s seemingly tolerant character submitting to his own reflection in a bathroom mirror. His expunged hostility, via an innervated reflection, becomes a transference directed towards all races in America in a rabid four-minute monologue. A searing Lee is considering and auditing the idea that tribalism is not grounded in economics or politics but rather elementary psychology. This bracing insight is revealed in its totality when Norton’s character’s tribalism is supplanted by the misanthropy which partially informs it, proof, by the inclusion in his verbal tirade of whites and members of his personal network, thus, the measure of his own self-contempt revealed.

Bravo, to the filmmakers of 25th Hour, for such a timeless and incisive and significant scene. But what a blunder, and discouraging act of timidity at this eleventh hour from Kevin Willmott, screenwriter of Lee’s most recent film, BlacKkKlansman, who said, in a recent interview in Salon, that he would decline, if asked, to screen it at the White House.