Glory, the movie, ostensibly about a black regiment in the Civil War, could have reached the glorious heights of the actual historical events if it had not faltered in its courage to share with us not only the Glory of the moment, but the shame of the time.
Glory’s deliberately superficial treatment of the dynamics of white racism in this shared adventure of black & white Americans, suppresses the heightened cinematic dramatic impact that is inherent in the actual historical events. Dramatic embellishments of historical incidents to serve the object of entertainment are generic to the art of the cinema. But in Glory, the self-conscious historical compromises made by the producers, writers, and the director of the film in order to accommodate the imagined sensibilities of a white audience, produces a perverse inverse wherein the actual history is filled with more drama and is more entertaining than the film’s account. Glory missed an excellent opportunity to offer both superior entertainment and rare historical enlightenment while
educating us on the fatalistic consequences of our nation’s racist legacy.
A French philosopher (Maurice Merleau Ponty) made this observation on the nature of history: “History takes still more from those who have lost everything, and gives yet more to those who have taken everything, its sweeping judgments acquit the unjust and dismiss the pleas of its victims, history never apologizes”.
In those rare instances where American art and literature explore the darker side of our history, we must not only be exposed to what has been ignored, but we must confront what has been denied. In History’s telling we must not only be moved to reflect, but urged to think. Yet, the shortcomings in Glory treatment of this chapter in African-American history provide us with chilling insights into how subconscious Euro-centric racism manifests itself in our society and contemporary popular culture. Glory provides us with a sobering model of how the metaphysical truth of the myopic Euro-centric minds eye focuses on an astigmatic historical reality.
Rock Creek Park Nature Center
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