My Twitter feed exploded this afternoon when the creators of “Sleepy Hollow” appeared at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in Beverly Hills. A link to the Variety blog here. Everyone treated learning about season two of the show like the writer’s room from Breaking Bad or The Wire had had just emerged from Purgatory. My favorite quote came from Alex Kurtzman: “We were struck by how much people couldn’t quite figure out what we were when we first came out. We feel the key to that tone and balance is finding an emotional reality to what the characters are experiencing.” There’s nothing to figure out! It’s not a “concept show” it’s a nothing show. How the show’s “creators” have avoided a massive lawsuit from the creators of Assassin’s Creed is absolutely beyond me especially since the pilot is basically the teaser trailer for Assassin’s Creed III. The part of the show that really boggles my mind however is how the main character – who is from the eighteenth century – asserts absolutely zero of his white privilege despite “working” with an African-American woman. This is impossible. It just wouldn’t happen. Eighteenth century Americans were beyond racist – they were white supremacists – Thomas Jefferson even measured various body parts of his slaves so that he could compare them with other “exotic beasts.”
My issue is not solely with Sleepy Hollow however nor is it relegated to Hollywood alone. My issue is with entertainment in general. Why is this treated as creative gold? It’s not even well-written. Another gem of a quote: “Abbie and Crane need each other desperately… as a man out of time he needs her for guidance, and she’s been alone for such a long time… they have a deeper connection than even they understood. The level of intimacy has to be played for what it is.” What it is? It’s a story based on more fiction than I have time to go through and the historical is white-washed to such an extent it makes the 2011-2012 discussion we had about The Help look like a congenial discussion. For those who don’t remember the Help was a film that was “inspired by true events.” Many critics, myself included, took serious issue with the main moral takeaway of the story which was that African-Americans could only achieve equality through the voice of a white person. There are different theories on how to overcome prejudice, but submitting the idea that one race must be entirely beholden to another for salvation is simply ridiculous and insulting. Thankfully, we have been treated to stories of true empowerment over the last year. 2013 saw The Butler and 12 Years a Slave emerge at the box office and do well among critics as well. 12 Years a Slave won the Best Picture Oscar as well as several other prestigious awards and they were well-deserved. Not only were these films historically accurate, they pulled no punches with our nation’s troubled racial past, mainly that it is at best a very complex one. What shows like Sleepy Hollow do is say: “let’s not have a discussion about race in America, let’s have a car chase.” It is the obliteration of discussion by distraction and it’s what Hollywood is unabashedly good at nowadays.