And the Award for Dumbest Controversies Goes to…


Kayla Carden

Dr. King will stand as a beacon of light in today’s endless ventures in missing the point.

Kayla Carden, Writer

It’s awards season, and the time is ripe for a few stragglers in the industry to take potshots at the lineup. Curiously, historical dramas are rather popular contenders this year – it appears Hollywood is being taken over by the history nerds.

Ava DuVernay is apparently one of those nerds, as her latest film, Selma, focuses on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches led by famous civil rights figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis in the hopes of forcing President Lyndon B. Johnson to dismantle the voter disenfranchisement of blacks in the South.

So it’s been nominated for a few awards. So it has a heart-wrenching script with a talented cast that portrays raw, genuinely human characters so rarely seen in film today. So what? We could talk about the resonating theme that people can take hold of their oppressed lot in life and gain power through a connected community—but where’s the mindless pizazz in that?

With a powerful portrayal of the many dynamics of race relations, there’s only one conversation Selma brings to mind: what dramatic controversy can we make out of this movie?

Much of the filming for Selma really did take place in Alabama. You must be wondering what’s so wrong with a critically acclaimed major film production being filmed in Alabama. You probably think that these kind of endeavors are good for bringing in new projects to enrich our culture, or that it means we’re making progress on admitting to the faults of our past. And sure, it probably does all of that.

But what you don’t understand is that the Alabama Film Office used money from the Education Trust Fund just to get the whole crew to film in town. Those Hollywood leeches are sucking our banks dry! Wait, the officials said there’s no net loss in money for the state? Oh. But still, we can’t afford to spend money invested in our education toward a movie with historically educational events and a story with enough literary merit to awe any English teacher.  Also, some Alabama superintendents have denied their students permission to see the film on field trips.  The F-word strikes again.

The biggest controversy by far has to be the nationwide debate over President Johnson’s characterization in the movie. This must be the first instance of a great historical movie getting a few facts wrong in the entire history of film!

We all know from those elementary history classes that Johnson was a saint and not at all the rather complicated man Selma depicts. Instead of making Johnson a morally complex man who symbolized the stagnation of the American government during these pushes for equality, DuVernay could’ve just made him the white savior, cut down on any agency the black protestors held, and shaved down about an hour of film time. Now we’ll just have to stick with a minor, questionable inaccuracy.

My fellow Alabamians, I invite you to revel in this drama by going to see Selma yourself. You may be struck by thoughts of how Dr. King’s mission is not yet over (the Limestone vandalism case, the Supreme Court’s recent tampering with the Voting Rights Act, and how black leaders have spoken recently about progress yet to be made) or may even feel inspired enough to go to the 50th Anniversary march. But stay strong! You must throw away these desires to look more introspectively at our history as a state and enjoy a great plot, and you have to look at what’s really important: the petty controversies.