Pacifists We're Loathe to Like
Alyssa Rosenberg is put off by the trailer for the new Ron Maxwell film, Copperheads:
The trailer for the upcoming Civil War drama Copperhead conveniently doesn’t mention that the movement its titular characters were affiliated with wanted the Union to make a peace with the Confederacy that would allow for the preservation of slavery, and that it was naive enough to believe the Confederacy would come back to the Union on its own terms. But given the pop culture trope of the sympathetic or victimize Confederate, I’m not actually surprised that a Civil War setting is one of the few ways we could get a movie about people who have been dramatically marginalized in our political conversations and even in civil society: war resisters.
Jordan Bloom responds:
I have a hard time understanding the ideology that demands road signs in film trailers denoting whether or not the people depicted stood on the right or wrong side of history. Having seen the movie several times now, my impression of its portrayal of slavery, or rather of what people in a small hamlet in upstate New York thought of it, since there is neither a slave nor a battle anywhere in the film, is that it’s appropriately nuanced. The (perhaps misplaced) belief in peaceful reunification is addressed in a pretty smart way, for example. I think it’s fair on the whole—though Rosenberg will have to see the movie to judge that—but it definitely wouldn’t have fit into a two-minute trailer.
More from Bloom:
I’m suspicious that what Rosenberg describes as the “the pop culture trope of the sympathetic or victimize [sic] Confederate” these days more often means the politically correct objection to portraying Confederates as anything other than bug-eyed Calvin Candie sadists. This is the mentality that got Maxwell, who hails from New Jersey, dubbed a “neo-Confederate” by the SPLC for portraying Confederate officers as honorable people in “Gods and Generals,” a movie that, for all its faults, was a long way from moonlight-and-magnolias nostalgia.
I fully expect the same slur to come out in relation to “Copperhead.” Though I hope she revisits her opinion once she’s seen the movie, Rosenberg’s reflexive take certainly sets the tone. We like movies about pacifists, but not movies about pacifists who opposed wars we support.