Whereas politicians battle important race principle, the progressive dogma and its offshoot, the New York Occasions’ 1619 Undertaking, have already taken maintain in Hollywood. This week’s instance is the Barry Jenkins collection The Underground Railroad, now streaming on Amazon and warping America’s racial historical past for anybody who watches it. This ten-episode program is a big-ticket merchandise meant to verify Jenkins’s seriousness during which he dramatizes the efforts by two slaves, Cora (Thuso Mbedu) and Caesar (Aaron Pierre), to flee Southern tyranny and go north, the place their wrestle continues. Jenkins’s convoluted opus is bankrolled by an trade that already hailed his movie Moonlight (2016), an intersectional race-gender conceit of almost laughable preciousness. The Underground Railroad continues that conceit from its opening: Slo-mo pictures of a black couple falling down a pit (a sunken place) alongside an infinite ladder. Extra slo-mo photographs of the girl and a homosexual male operating in reverse by way of a area. Subsequent, a subterranean locomotive on railroad tracks. Then huddling slave girls encompass a bloody afterbirth plopped onto a cabin flooring. And eventually, the beleaguered younger black girl lamenting: “The primary and final thing my mama gave me was apology.” Jenkins, in his first 5 minutes, can’t wait to show the black slave expertise into poetry. However the issue is that it’s a third-rate model of cinematic “poetry,” so ornamental and refined that the historical past of black struggling and perseverance turns into a fantasy of racial oppression, but ignores info of social development. It appears conjured out of the indulgence of a privileged era that has to think about struggling — a flippant tackle Nina Simone’s “I Want I Knew How It Would Really feel to Be Free” (just like Jenkins’s plodding, obtuse movie adaptation of James Baldwin’s If Beale Avenue Might Discuss). In The Underground Railroad, Jenkins’s shamelessness meets that of novelist Colson Whitehead, who printed his complementary literary conceit and bowdlerization of black historical past the identical yr as Moonlight. Jenkins and Whitehead use id politics — id poetics — for race-baiting. Their streaming-series collaboration appeals to the lip-smacking delectation of liberals who’ve purchased into the race-gender historic conceit of the 1619 Undertaking and important race principle. Each Jenkins and Whitehead epitomize the brand new media commerce. They ship the immiseration anticipated of black media employees, which is ultimately lauded with Oscars and literary prizes, just like the work of their British counterpart, Steve McQueen. This apparent sense of patronage defines The Underground Railroad as one other within the proliferating collection of applications that trivialize the historical past of U.S. slavery and oppression. Jenkins’s artsy results embody glamorized portraits (representations) of blacks; not the period-realism that accounted for the depiction of slavery in Roots (1977). This recollects Julie Sprint’s Daughters of the Mud somewhat than Haile Gerima’s Sankofa, as a result of Jenkins’s race fantasy substitutes model for expertise, and 1619 Undertaking mythology for historical past. His pretense is a type of sophistry. The Underground Railroad speaks to an viewers educated in important race principle that makes them topic to specious manipulation. Word an early alternate between white slave grasp and black overseer: “I knew you let your slaves have revels, however I didn’t know they had been so extravagant.” One extravagance features a slave little one’s reciting the Declaration of Independence simply to incite a slaver’s anger. In one other showpiece, a runaway slave is whipped and immolated, the savagery adopted by fiddle music and whites dancing. That is witnessed by a gathering of the plantation slaves — little question Jenkins’s metaphor for the critical-race-theory viewers compelled to look at brutal dramatizations of racism, meant to incite them politically. But it surely’s an unhelpful metaphor, identical to Whitehead’s perverse symbolism, which misinterprets the “underground railroad” concept. The precise, secretly organized complicated of protected homes and roads that escaped slaves took to the North and Canada was named metaphorically, coded to evade the scrutiny of white slave homeowners. However Whitehead literalized the metaphor, and Jenkins corroborates that pomposity, neglecting black spirituality, blunting any poetic, salvific great thing about liberation. The whole lot right here seems to be identical to Us, Lovecraft Nation, Watchmen, and Them — sci-fi fodder. Jenkins’s overrefined sense of black historical past — a pageant of fabulous nightmares — is the actual extravagance in The Underground Railroad. (A sexual subtheme consists of slave-master voyeurism together with Caesar’s penchant to “sneak and go across the swamp with different males in your again” as an alternative of procreating.) By appropriating an OutKast hip-hop tune for the top credit, that is worse than dumbed-down. It proves how up to date black popular culture participates in its personal corruption, misunderstood as inventive liberation. This confusion has change into the language by way of which black artists comparable to Jenkins talk with the trade’s white liberal moguls. The Underground Railroad isn’t actually about historical past. It’s white exploitation that teaches blacks to mistrust and hate whites, and whites to mistrust and hate themselves.