“The Butler” Article by Sharon Abella

August 10, 2013 § Leave a comment


You have probably already seen the commercials, or maybe Robin Williams on Jay Leno last night, or President Obama on Wednesday night, or Lenny Kravitz on Jimmy Fallon last week? Regardless, the film will open in one week from today, Friday, August 16, 2013.

If the White House walls could talk? Well now they can, and they do.

From Dwight D. Eisenhower through Ronald Reagan, “The Butler” is inspired by the true story based on the real life of Eugene Allen, a humble man with no formal education, who worked in the cotton fields as a young boy, and managed to work his way up to becoming a head butler serving over 8 presidential terms of White House Presidents from 1952 to 1986.

The opening scene begins with symphony music, and Cecil Gaines, played by Forest Whitaker, as an older man, sitting in a chair in what appears to be the White House. The scene flashes back to two people being hanged, and a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

It’s 1926, Macon, Georgia, and a young Cecil states, “all I knew was cotton.” He observes his mom and dad struggle and suffer, and his mom wanted nothing more than for Cecil to leave the plantation, even though change was hard and there were no good jobs, food, or places to sleep outside of those cotton fields. “The law was not on ‘our’ side.”

Jump to 1957, and Cecil reminisces about his fancy job as a butler, where he was instructed to never react to conversation, and how the room should feel empty, how he met his wife, Gloria Gaines (played by Oprah Winfrey), who was a maid at a hotel and is now a housewife raising their 2 sons. Cecil makes sure his two sons, Louis and Charlie, never laid eyes on a cotton field.

Like anyone who is first at paving the way, whether it be breaking color barriers, exploring new lands, or getting married, ie. Jackie Robinson, Christopher Columbus, or gay rights activists, you have to admire those who had the courage, confidence, and bravery to take the risks and face the consequences. They should be thought of as heros, and not criminals. They are fighting to save souls.

Cecil’s son, Louis Gaines, was one of those pavers, and one of the first of many emotional scenes in the film. Cecil and Gloria are sending their oldest son off to college. Louis reminds his parents that he wants to attend “Fisk University” in Nashville, Tennesse, and NOT Howard University, “because it is a school far away,” while Cecil reminds his son, that “he’s the first” to attend school.”

Throughout the rest of the film, you will see the struggles that this young civil rights activist faced, from the youth movement that challenged racial inequality in the South brought on by the Woolworth Lunch Counter incident on February 1, 1960, when four African American college students sat down at a lunch counter in Greensboro, NC. They were not only denied service, but refused to leave, and were berated until they lost their tempers.

The film also touches on the Freedom Riders, the discrimination in voting and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Black Panther Party.

I am sure many are familiar with the civil rights movement and American History, however, here is a refresher.

The Freedom Riders rode interstate buses into the segregated Southern United States in 1961. When the Southern states had ignored the rulings that segregated public buses were unconstitutional, and the federal government did nothing to enforce them, the Freedom Riders left Washington, D.C., on May 4, 1961, and were scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17th to demonstrate their challenges.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a landmark piece of national legislation in the United States that prohibits discrimination in voting. Echoing the language of the 15th Amendment, the Act prohibits states and local governments from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”The Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had earlier signed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law.-Wikipedia

The Black Panther Party or BPP (originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) was a black revolutionary socialist organization active in the United States from 1966 until 1982. The Black Panther Party achieved national and international notoriety through its involvement in the Black Power movement and U.S. politics of the 1960s and 1970s.-Wikipedia

The film also brings you through major events during the Presidential terms, from the Johnson Administration, the assassination of JFK, the Nixon years, and, of course, the Vietnam war, right up to the Reagan administration.

Strong performances by the entire cast.

Incredible film. Tear jearker. Bring tissues.

President Obama turned down a cameo appearance in the film.

Article by Sharon Abella

One World Cinema

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