Slavery and Sleepy Hollow: A Revisionist Revolution

10 thoughts on “Slavery and Sleepy Hollow: A Revisionist Revolution”

  1. Thanks for the post. Can’t watch it without thinking about the contradictions and realities which lay in the grey areas of G vs. E. But, as so it must go.
    BTW, I do get annoyed by the gloss over argument that if the white male patriarch has a black wife or concubine, he can’t be all that bad. He must be enlightened. As if her place as a woman in a patriarchal society is erased or inconsequential.

    1. you’re welcome! thanks for reading. i think its often like that with a lot of speculative fiction when you’re a PoC–you watch it and try to ignore the contradictions and grey areas. SH however has managed to deflect some of this by featuring a diverse cast. props for that, but imho not enough. on the Sally Hemings and Jefferson thing… yeah, I get that the show was trying to actually give Hemings a voice and purpose beyond a mistress. there was a movie that tried to do the same, claiming Hemings worked to help runaway slaves. all of that is purely speculative. in this case, Hemings is given some agency as a possible leverage towards Jefferson regarding abolition. but that is built atop a misreading/misreporting of Jefferson’s motive. it was like they wanted to bring him down the Earth, but wanted to still keep him perched on his pedestal by revising him as an abolitionist. some have found praiseworthy to me, it just came off as exploitative.

  2. I don’t even know if America is ‘ready’ for that. If they went full-tilt, they might be afraid to lose some of their audience. But it would certainly be worth it.

    AND! The idea of black body/beauty as persuasion of humanity has always irked me. You need dangly bits to realize an entire people should be free? Or you just want to be free to get some? Hmph.

    1. no. likely we aren’t. not sure we ever will be. but i’m not even asking for them to go “full-tilt” and include all those contours. my larger point is that they’ve managed to go “full-tilt” in the *other* direction–by evoking dualist themes of good and evil, and imbuing the Revolution with a stark morality. a more moderate and realistic stance would have allowed them to do something more cutting edge. but if Georgie is leading the forces of God to stop the Apocalypse…well…not too much room for nuance there. slavery will almost always have to be revised, whitewashed or (when a kernel of truth is tossed out) a convenient awkward punchline. it’s an almost 1950s take on American history (albeit, with monsters) for a show that touts itself as an example of 21st century progress. the paradox is just kinda glaring. waiting for Abbie or Jenny to point out to Crane when he goes into his mantras of freedom and liberty–“dude, your blues ain’t exactly like mine.”

  3. I love the show too, but I’m glad someone is calling it on the revisionist slant it’s using. Almost everytime there’s a scene where abolisionism and class equality are passed as the norm (like the part where Ichabod and his not yet wife are chatting at a society event), I grate my teeth. Not only is it a bad narrative to be building, but it fuels the already terribly crafted and often erroneous narratives surrounding the American Revolution and its players.

    1. Thanks for the comment. You hit some of those revisionist issues (of class, gender, etc) head on. There’s something off-putting, almost “jingoistic” in the tone the show sets when it comes to retelling American history. Be interesting to see where they take it in the end.

      1. You’re quite correct, the show is jingoistic. Every part of the show that has to do with history, with the notable exception of the museum scene about Paul Revere, has very carefully tread a revisionist and heavily biased line. While I understand its fiction, the unfortunate blowback is that it will act towards confirmation bias for a lot of viewers.

        What I’m curious about is how they’ll handle Loyalists, the events with freed slaves you mention, and the other less savoury and less heroic parts of the American Revolution and the resulting aftermath. I’m surprised that Washington’s orders about Loyalist First Nations villages and lands hasn’t come up yet, or his less than flatters nickname Conotocaurious, “town burner”.

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