Nate Parker, whose The Birth of a Nation is one of the year's most widely anticipated and pre-acclaimed films, is doing an amazing job of promoting himself as a self-righteous, sexually stunted A-hole—but let's not leave homophobe off his résumé.
Parker was accused of sexual assault 17 years ago, along with his current collaborator Jean Celestin, while a college wrestler. Both were tried and Celestin—but not Parker—was convicted. The conviction was tossed.
The men were also accused of harassing and stalking the young woman, though their supporters denied this claim. She committed suicide in 2012—why, no one seems to know (which is not uncommon with suicide; there is no indication it was due to the events of 1999).
Last week, doing damage control, Parker instead did more damage, telling Variety the rape was all about him:
Seventeen years ago, I experienced a very painful moment in my life. 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, I can’t relive 17 years ago. All I can do is be the best man I can be now.
Variety also noted they'd heard Parker was entertaining the thought that this was part of a Hollywood conspiracy against him. Keeping a black man down? Hardly, when the core of the backlash is a true event. He was not convicted, so he deserves to live free. But being acquitted does not mean someone didn't do something heinous, and there's never been any sense that the woman lied—the prosecution simply couldn't get the jury to buy it as rape because she was inebriated when Parker and Celestin had sex with her.
Parker has never said nothing happened.
Charmingly, Parker also said he hadn't thought about the incident in the 17 years since it had occurred.
Regarding LGBTQ issues, Parker said in 2014 he would not play a gay character in order to “preserve the Black man.” In his opinion, Hollywood offers too many negative roles—he includes effeminate black men in the mix—so he would refuse to take any roles of “questionable sexuality.”
I find his sexuality questionable, though not in the way he's worried about.
Parker is a grown man making juvenile anti-gay generalizations (I was reminded of Denzel Washington coaching Will Smith—OF ALL PEOPLE—not to kiss a man onscreen in his movie debut because of the young men who looked up to him) in 2016, and he wants to drag his race in front of him to excuse it?
Meanwhile, Parker also seems incapable of connecting some pretty big dots. On the one hand, he is telling Ebony:
[The resurfacing of his assault case] is happening for a very specific reason. To be honest, my privilege as a male, I never thought about it. I’m walking around daring someone to say something or do something that I define is racist or holding us back, but never really thinking about male culture and the destructive effect it’s having on our community ... The crazy thing is a lot of people—a lot of men, if I’m just speaking for myself—don’t really start thinking about the effect of hyper-masculinity and false definitions of what it means to be a man until you get married or until you have kids. Because then all of sudden you have something to protect. In all actuality, we got to do better about preparing our men for their interactions with women.
On the other hand, he has yet to disavow his hyper-masculine reaction to the concept of playing a gay character in a movie.
All in all, he sounds like a smug and, yes, privileged man who is cloaking himself in victimhood. It will be interesting to see how Ava DuVernay (who has supported him so far) and Oprah Winfrey (also a booster, but a rape victim, too) will settle in their reaction to the highly controversial Parker and his film. Until then, I'm with Demetria Lucas D'Oyley and not with Cheryl Boone Isaacs. I think Hollywood has a long history of embracing scandal-tainted stars, though, so I would not count Parker out at Oscar time.
(Image via Fox Searchlight)