So I avoided and swore off Fox Network’s Sleepy Hallow, starring Nicole Beharie. Why? Because her co-star is a white man from a time period where Black women are enslaved. Nothing good can come out of that.
Then I watched Sleepy Hollow this week anyway to see if I was right to avoid it. Yes, I gave it a chance.
Tim Mison’s portrayal of Ichabod Crane has similar characterization to Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the character in Tim Burton’s 1999 film, which I appreciated and thought was adorable. Awkward, clever, and well-mannered.
Other than that, its occult themes, and the fact that there is a Black woman as a main character, I am not feeling the show and stopped watching at Episode 7 “The Midnight Ride”.
The show includes an assortment of actual historical figures such as U.S. presidents rendered in its fictionalized occultist story line. Which is probably the problem. Most of American history is an especially messed up time for First Peoples, Black people, other non-whites, and women. Whenever white writers (and their friends) in a white dominated media get some deluded idea in their head and want to jump in the literary DeLorean or TARDIS and present the world with some “clever” re-write of American history that includes vampires, demons, zombies, and aliens, that oppressive, violent history is still the same messed up history for everyone who isn’t white or white and male. It can’t be rewritten, revised, or dusted off. It remains the same for me as a Black woman and a Black writer. What was a fun or romanticized time in history for whites was not the same for us, it is a trauma and a scar on the face of our race.
This is where Sleepy Hollow lost me instantly: They started talking about Sally Hemings. Casually, too.
I refuse to entertain a romance with a (white) slave owner in an era where Black women were enslaved. And that’s most of American history where Black people were in chains and treated like a lesser life form by whites and those who shared their views, traded, and allied with them. I refuse to entertain the idea that it was “love” between a slaver owner and a Black woman who had no rights and no freedom in this country. I WILL NOT romanticize the situation. I don’t care even if there was some way to know that Hemings loved Jefferson even in such a twisted reality under those circumstances. I DO NOT accept revisionist or apologist versions of history, fictional or otherwise.
In Episode 6 “The Sin Eater”, there’s an entire scene that reeks of Ichabod Crane being absolved of sins against freed slave, Arthur Bernard. Because we all need to take a moment to make white people feel better for helping enslave and oppress people who aren’t white. Bernard wasn’t just being detained, beaten, and interrogated because the British suspected he was Cicero. Just being Black in those days was enough for whites to somehow uphold practices of extreme violence and cruelty and even murder.
Let’s not forget Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) spouting all that American melting pot bullshit over baseball. Behind her badge and inflated, totally contrived sense of American patriotism, Abigail Mills is a white-washed, white-owned, white-inspired character parading around in brown skin. End of story.
And that’s why I told myself never to watch Sleepy Hollow. I saw it coming. That’s American television for you.