‘Roots’ Remake — Viewer Responses The Day After

Roots, the remake of a 1977 television miniseries of the same name, stirred controversy even before the first episode aired last night (Monday). It is based on the novel by Alex Haley called Roots, The Saga of and American Family. In advance of airing, Snoop Dogg came out strongly opposing the series, saying that he does not watch anything dealing with slavery. On the other hand, people involved in the production are convinced it is important to provide quality programming on the subject. Cast members told Examiner.com that the Roots remake is an important reminder to all Americans of this difficult chapter in U.S. history.

How Did Viewers React the Day After the First Episode of Roots?

Twitter posts provide some indication of the discussion arising from the Roots remake. Many potential viewers announced that they agreed with Snoop Dogg and decided not to watch. They supported their decision with statements attesting to the fact that slavery is not all there is to black heritage.

Others suggested that these are the very people who should have been watching the remake of this classic miniseries.

At the same time, many viewers talked about the perpetuation of the victim role that is inherent in television programs such as Roots.

Viewers posted interesting reflections related to various aspects of the story, such as whether or not this is a story that should be retold by a white-dominated industry, the role of women, victimhood, the need to learn from history, and emotional responses to the Roots remake.

Rather than just object to telling black history as if it began with slavery, this viewer tweeted there are other stories to tell. Talk-back commenters on a Huffington Post article also argue that black history began before the slave trade, and those stories are more likely to inspire today’s young people.

Roots tells the story of the whites and not just the blacks.

A viewer was struck by the horror of the actions of white women.

Viewers shared their emotional reactions to watching the first episode of Roots. Some seemed overwhelmed.

And this viewer will not watch Roots because he is still traumatized by a visit to the sites mentioned in the original miniseries.

One viewer expressed despair.

Other viewers were inspired by Roots.

And some women expressed pride in the strength of the black woman.

In contrast, some talk-back commenters on the Huffington Post article about the strong black women in the Roots remake express dismay. They argue that such a portrayal of the black woman robs her of her sensitivity and femininity.

Some viewers debated the value of Roots as a lesson for today.

History of slavery expert Dr. Daina Ramey Berry of the University of Texas at Austin explained to Ebony that the Roots remake is classified as TV-14 because there are scenes, vital to the telling of the story, that can be overwhelming for younger people. While many Twitter posters expressed their distress at the violence and evil perpetrated against the blacks, they understood the importance of not watering down the portrayal of what happened.

Dr. Berry said that the remake is even more authentic than the original miniseries because research of the past two decades has disclosed more knowledge about Mandinka culture and the location from which Kunte Kinte and other slaves were abducted, including traditional dress, their horses, the tobacco they smoked, and their homes. It does not avoid the difficult subject of blacks helping abduct other blacks for the slave traders. These are topics not reflected in the Twitter discussions.

In interviews with Examiner.com, cast members spoke of the importance of the Roots remake. Mark Wolper, producer and son of the producer of the original Roots miniseries, said that his children found it hard to relate to the original. They said that the music and make-up, for example, were old-fashioned and made it hard for them to relate to the story. The cast found this to be a strong argument in favor of going ahead with the remake. Older cast members who saw the original version decades ago talked about the impact Roots had had on their lives. All actors described performing in the remake as a powerful and painful experience.

Roots remake cast
‘Roots’ cast at screening at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on May 23, 2016 in New York City. [Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images]
The original miniseries surpassed all expectations by attracting massive audiences. It was probably instrumental in promoting civil rights in the United States. It brought attention to Africa, leading to increased tourism to West Africa. That had a positive impact on local economies but reportedly lead to creative “rewriting” of local history in order to attract more tourists. South Africa did not approve airing of Roots, a logical decision in view of their desire to maintain apartheid. However, the American Embassy screened the series at various venues in the country.

Do you agree with this Roots viewer?

Is this our most powerful human story?

[Image via History Channel]

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