Orginal Publication Date
Ethnic Studies Review
The first Hollywood blockbuster, The Birth of a Nation, did more than establish cinematic conventions of camera techniques and movie distribution, for it also established a conventional storyline whereby white, patriarchal power is re-established through violence led by a white savior. This storyline can be traced throughout the history of major blockbusters such as Gone with the Wind of 1939, the cavalry trilogy by John Ford in the 1940s, The Omega Man from 1971, and The Outlaw Josie Wales from 1976. A quandary thus arises as to why The Birth of a Nation is held in such infamy and disdain when subsequent films that employ the same storyline are held in such high regard? I pose one explanation of this double standard in judgment as being caused by what I call “social distance by layering.” The larger issue is this storyline normalizes white male gun violence against blacks, liberals, and feminists.