Now that the trailer for Viola Davis’ next big project The female king has been released, Redditors are reacting strongly to this first look at the historic war epic. Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball), the film will follow the Dahomey Amazons, an all-female black army within the West African kingdom of Dahomey.
Viola Davis produced the film and stars alongside Thuso Mbedu (The Underground Railroad) and John Boyega (star wars), which makes for a terrific cast. The following reactions reflect what moviegoers are saying in response to the first trailer for The female king.
The trailer looks like 300
Some moviegoers might have expected a more high-profile historical epic given the involvement of multi-award winner Viola Davis. However, Reddit users are quick to point out that the film is more like a new take on crowd-pleasing trade war epics like 300.
Editor Animehimmler makes this direct comparison by saying “it’s the same as 300 really. Sounds cool, but there’s no way we’re getting a nuanced biopic about an African empire, unfortunately.” 300 was less of a historical narrative and more about stylized, over-the-top fight sequences. If this Redditor is correct, then The female king likely won’t be the prize contender many thought.
The representation of Dahomey is inaccurate
Many Reddit users were passionate in their criticism of the film’s depiction of the Dahomey Amazons. SimulationsWithBob explains that “Dahomey was one of the largest African slave-trading states. Their economy was built on the conquest [neighbors]enslaving adults and children, then reselling them to Europeans for commodities.”
This revelation encompasses the bulk of online criticism of The female king. While historical accuracy is always a talking point with movies (a great example is the recent biopic Elvis)the omission of this information about the controversial Dahomey Amazons from the trailer seems deliberately misleading.
Empowerment talk replaces nuance
There are several shots in the trailer showing Viola Davis, also known for her role in DC comics as Amanda Waller, and her almighty army impressively performing intense action sequences on lines of dialogue that read like stimulating mantras for a more contemporary audience. While these sequences look thrilling and thrilling, there’s a surprising lack of nuance and depth here.
User Effective-Ad3060 articulates this point by saying “this is EXACTLY what people were afraid of [The Woman King] was going to be…when the reality is far *much* more nuanced and convoluted.” This user then goes on to describe Dahomey’s involvement in the slave trade. Style rather than substance seems to be a common criticism of this strip -announcement.
The talk of freedom is hypocritical
There is significant use of the word “freedom” in the trailer for The female king. At the very beginning of the First look, a voice-over character states that “an evil is coming that threatens our realm…our freedom”. The rest of the trailer seems to suggest that Dahomey fought for the freedom of all of Africa from the Europeans.
Redditors responded to the misinformation and found the curious overuse of the word “freedom” to be particularly hypocritical. Vandergrif says it best: “the number of times they talk about freedom in this trailer…while fighting for slaveryThe lack of accountability for how Dahomey defines the word freedom has clearly infuriated Redditors.
The Amazons of Dahomey were not victorious
The trailer of The female king asks audiences to prepare for the “most exceptional female warriors to ever live”. This statement might be slightly hyperbolic given that ultimately the Dahomey Amazons were not victorious against the French.
A Editor artfully pointed out that “this trailer gives the impression that the Amazons of Dahomey were killing left and right…when in reality…the French barely lost any troops while Dahomey was slaughtered”. Maybe the movie addresses this defeat or maybe the movie’s battles take place earlier in the story. Audiences won’t know how inaccurate the depiction is until the movie is released.
It’s unfair to hold this movie more accountable
While the discourse on the historical accuracy of The female king seems to lean on a more critical side, there are a number of fans who have come to the film’s defense. A Editor asked rhetorically, “when has a historical action piece been 100% accurate on the subject?”
There’s also an argument to be made that a female-led war epic featuring a mostly black ensemble (including the ever-excellent John Boyega) shouldn’t be immediately dismissed based on a trailer. Rarely does a big-budget historical war epic feature a diverse cast of performers and artists. This material must therefore be supported fairly.
Propaganda accusations are wrong
Some of the discussions surrounding The female king address that any criticism of revisionist propaganda and history is hypocritical given the history of American cinema. Salute to the antisociety128 analyzes how a “military propaganda film [Top Gun: Maverick] is one of the highest-grossing movies in the world right now…we encourage people we shouldn’t all the time.”
This commentary touches on a wide range of difficult topics in the relationship between Superior gun and military propaganda to unfair criticism of black-led films. One element of the conversation that remains certain, however, is that cinema has a long history of purifying its protagonists for the sake of simplicity and flavor.
The movie is not out yet!
The trailer, which is set to a song by Beyoncé, paints a picture of Dahomey’s Amazons as fierce and righteous warriors protecting their land and freedom, and there’s reason to believe the film isn’t about the historical inaccuracies of this image.
However, it is too early to cancel The female king because it hasn’t even come out yet. Like a Editor said, “the movie hasn’t been released yet, so we can’t know exactly how they’ll tell the story or how nuanced it will be.” Moviegoers can quickly judge movies by their trailers, so it’s worth noting that all of this debate surrounding the film is premature at this time.
There should be more films shot in Africa
Editor The_Senate_69 explains how difficult it can be for period films set in Africa: “I’ve always wanted to see films set in a more medieval Africa…but they just spoil it because they don’t want to portray [African culture and history] in a bad light.”
That sentiment carries a ton of truth when it comes to the level of care that goes into these genres of period films. The_Senate_69 values accuracy and truth above all else, even if that means portraying a piece of history complicates how a contemporary audience should interpret it.
Anyway, the female king looks fun
Discussions surrounding historical accuracy, unfair reviews, and rewriting history on film are important topics to dissect. However, as Cyanoblamine said, “Historical revisionism aside, this movie looks entertaining. Lots of silly action scenes and unintentionally funny writing/plot points.”
It is important to remember that ultimately, The female king is entertainment. It’s clearly not marketed to a historically hip audience, but rather The female king seems to be more about crowd-pleasing action than anything else. Even though people keep pointing out inaccuracies that need to be corrected, they can still fully enjoy the experience of the movie itself.
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