UPDATE: Fox Searchlight Pictures is scrambling to figure out a new strategy around Birth of a Nation amid the fury over Nate Parker’s rape allegation. Variety reported on Tuesday that his alleged victim committed suicide in 2012.
Fox Searchlight has launched a highly crafted campaign to explain why they gave $20 million to actor Nate Parker for a film he scripted, directed and stars in, Birth of a Nation, despite the fact that he allegedly played a role in a high profile gang rape case during his time as a student at Penn State University.
In addition, the co-writer of the film was CONVICTED in the case and only got off because the victim refused to testify during a re-trial after she tried to commit suicide. The trial transcript paints him as a predator and a person of low character. Now the production company that bought the rights to their film is worried about the movie’s status as an Oscar contender.
Having become fully aware of those old charges in the months since it bought the film, Fox Searchlight has been looking to pre-empt any late-season bombshells that might land while voters have ballots in hand. Deadline
How did Fox Searchlight not know this about Parker before they gave him $20 million? What arrogance that he would think they wouldn’t want to know that his co-writer had been convicted of raping a woman and he’d barely gotten off? Who did the due diligence on researching this film and its creators? How did they think teaming up with TWO alleged sexual predators was going to play out?
Times have changed and the views on consent and sexual violence on college campuses have changed in the 17 years since Parker’s alleged crimes.
Fox Searchlight has reached the point in their promotional campaign where they try to convince the American people and OSCAR voters that the fact that Parker may have participated in what many would consider to be a gang rape does not preclude us from buying a movie ticket or nominating Parker for an OSCAR.
To be honest, OSCAR voters don’t have a problem voting for sexual predators. They’ve done it repeatedly in the past. (Refer to any of Woody Allen‘s movies, for example.)
The problem is that the marketing for Birth of a Nation relies almost entirely on sanctimony and Parker’s moral authority. He has no moral authority, not only because of what he did 17 years ago, but how he has decided to tap dance around the allegations as part of this public relations campaign.
Seventeen years ago, I experienced a very painful moment in my life,” Parker told Variety. “It resulted in it being litigated. I was cleared of it. That’s that. Seventeen years later, I’m a filmmaker. I have a family. I have five beautiful daughters. I have a lovely wife. I get it. The reality is” — he took a long silence — “I can’t relive 17 years ago. All I can do is be the best man I can be now.” — Nate Parker in an interview with Variety two days ago.
He’s brought his mother into this. He’s hiding behind is daughters. He’s hiding being his wife. He’s using mealy mouth language to dance around the fact that he did things that many people would find morally repugnant even if a court of law decided that a prosecutor didn’t meet the burden of establishing criminality. He’s doing everything but apologizing to his alleged victim and attempting to make amends.
Now Parker’s defenders are attacking Black women who have a problem with Parker’s failure to accept responsibility for his alleged bad acts and failure to directly address his treatment of the victim in his case by calling us a “mob.” As if we have no reason to be disturbed by a man that waves his friends over so that they can engage is sex acts with an unconscious woman who eventually attempted suicide.
Parker’s defenders would have us to believe that HE is the victim!!!
Don’t fall for this mess!
Here is your response to Parker’s deluded supporters:
NOPE! We don’t don’t have to prove his guilt. NOPE. We’re consumers in the marketplace. We can choose to support or not support whomever we choose for whatever reason, or no reason at all. If Parker wants my money he needs to prove something to me. He’s got it twisted — this is not a court of law, this is the court of public opinion.
I find his response to what happened troubling. I find his language manipulative and deceitful. As a result, I have decided not to patronize his work as is my choice because the last time I checked, I’m a free woman who can do with my dollars what-EVER I please. There is no mob. Nate Parker is a powerful, well-connected C-list actor making a ton of money and being feted by Hollywood elites. Fox Searchlight gave him $20 million. He’s not helpless.
I remind you that HIS DISTRIBUTION COMPANY decided to make this a topic of conversation not US.
They chose to give Nate Parker $20 million dollars knowing about these allegations. Just because they bought his story doesn’t mean we have to.
And I’m offended that they are attempting to cast Parker as a victim. Are you serious? A girl attempted to kill herself after what he and his friends allegedly did to her. His life ended up just fine. He should be grateful and have the common sense to just apologize profusely and make amends.
Fox Searchlight should just save money on running this public reputation rehabilitation campaign for Parker by cutting Parker’s alleged victim a fat check along with investing in sexual assault awareness and assistance for victims. We want to see an apology and personal responsibility. The fact that Fox Searchlight is avoiding that tells you something about the intelligence and the character of the people who run the company.
Fox Searchlight executives are arrogant to think that they could market a film using “moral authority” with a director and lead with no moral authority. And if Fox Searchlight didn’t know about Parker’s past prior to giving him $20 million, someone needs to be fired for not doing due diligence in researching his background.
Gina McCauley is a lawyer, founder of What About Our Daughters & the annual Blogging While Brown Conference. She also chairs the Black Web Blog Awards. She writes for Medium where this column first appeared. It is republished here with permission from the author.