The Birth Of a Nation is, by most accounts, an incendiary film about Nat Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion. When it premiered at Sundance earlier this year, Birth sparked a bidding war that Fox Searchlight won with a record-smashing $17M payout to creator Nate Parker. Despite Parker’s ongoing sexual assault controversy, the film itself looks quite powerful. So why is Fox Searchlight promoting it with a weak joke?
Earlier today, the studio tweeted a photoshopped image where the film’s title appears hidden in the word-soup backdrop from Monday night’s presidential debate. The font of those words is the same font used in promotional posters for The Birth of a Nation. If you’re wondering, it’s called Blackadder. The real question, though, is why make a cute font-based joke based on a topical event that’s actually relevant to this film?
During the debate, Trump was taken to task over his history of racism. He was the loudest voice in the birther movement, an odious attempt to delegitimize and diminish the first black president. He was sued by the federal government in the 1970s for real estate practices that included denying rentals to people of color. He refused to condemn an endorsement from former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke. And the list goes on, insane as that seems since we are talking about an actual formidable candidate for the presidency. When confronted with his birther legacy during the debate, though, Trump defended himself by citing a recent club he opened in Miami that doesn’t discriminate against African-Americans. Let that sink in. This person thinks the kind of common decency we should all take for granted is some kind of accomplishment, and he is running for president. If a movie about a slave rebellion wants to use our current troubling political landscape in its marketing, there must be a bolder more relevant way than font-jokes.
Considering all the troubles the movie is currently facing, though, it’s probably a net-positive if this tweet gets people talking about it for any other reason.