“The Woman King” film has received rave reviews from critics and so has its lead star, award-winning actress Viola Davis. However, some members of the Black community see the film as insulting due to its focus on the all-female warriors who defended the ancient West African Dahomey Kingdom (now Benin) – which attained much of its wealth from being slave traders.
In a recent interview, Davis expressed a different point of view. Davis said if people don’t turn out to watch the film, it will send a message to Hollywood that “Black women can’t lead the box office globally.”
Davis made the comments during an interview with Etalks’ Tyrone Edwards at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Edwards asked Davis how she felt about her Woman King co-star Lashana Lynch’s statement in which she said she didn’t want impactful Black movies to “just be a moment.”
“I completely, 100 percent agree. … It will just be a moment if people don’t come see the movie because you’re sending a very clear message to a machine called Hollywood; a machine called Hollywood is interested in green. It just is,” Davis said.
“It is what I do, so if you don’t come see it then you’re sending a message that Black women cannot lead the box office globally; that you are supporting that narrative,” Davis continued. “And if you want to normalize it, come see it the same way you would ‘Black Panther,’ ‘Iron Man,’ ‘Spiderman,’ or any other movie that doesn’t have any of us in it or one or two of us in it.”
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Many on Black Twitter disagreed with Davis’ comments and stood by their assessment that a film celebrating the Dahomey empire was not worthy of support. Others expressed their love for Davis as an actress but said they couldn’t support The Woman King.
“This #WomanKing movie about the King of Benin and Dahomey women warriors that traded our ancestors into the transatlantic slave trade should have never been made. — We all should #boycottwomanking movie,” attorney and activist Antonio Moore tweeted.
“Yes @violadavis Black American descendants do need to send a clear message to Hollywood, that we will not glorify, celebrate, or uplift the slave traders who captured & sold us into slavery. Hard Pass on #WomanKing,” @bakara_j wrote.
“Black Family who’s going to see this movie?? Why would they try to make women KINGS another way to push the agenda of white supremacy regarding the MASCULINITY OF OUR BLACK MEN,” @bgrheadquarters tweeted.
“Hollywood would not dare make a film called #NaziKing to glorify the Jewish Holocaust but #WomanKing is okay to glorify the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade Holocaust disguised as fantasy entertainment? #LineageReparations over #Exploitation #AfricaTownAL,” reparations activist Friday Jones tweeted.
“’You people sold yourselves into slavery!’ How many times have we heard that from white folks?! In an era of ‘wokeness,’ “Hollywood cleverly throws this in the mix. Interesting tactic,” @MountTheodore72 wrote.
“The Dahomey weren’t heroes. They were slαve traders whose entire kingdom became rich from selling ppl they captured,” @whisperwatch tweeted.
“This is unfair Ms. Viola. Some of us simply do not want to see a movie about Slave traders masquerading as heroes,” @FavoriteTeach11 responded. In response to someone who replied to her first tweet, @FavoriteTeach11 added, “Viola is amazing! The movie is being advertised as non-fiction.”
“Awesome actor, but this movie,” @PatrickAleksan1 tweeted.
One user encouraged people to avoid rushing to judgment.
“That is so intellectually inaccurate,” @theyounggastro wrote. “It’s 100% true that this tribe participated in the slave trade but to frame this as ‘they made a movie about Black women being involved in the slave trade’ is grossly inaccurate. The movie will tell a complex story.”