Monster of the Moment: South African Apartheid, as depicted in 2013’s ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’

Apartheid — South Africa’s former system of institutionalized racial segregation — is an unusual first choice for a movie monster, as it’s not a monster in the conventional sense. Some people will not like this entry for that reason, and I can somewhat see their point. It’s not a giant monster stomping on Japan, nor a supernatural slasher or some shark-infested tornado (though these monsters may be highlighted here later). No, this is a real monster, brought back to life for the film ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.’

So, what can be said about South African Apartheid? It was indeed a monstrous institution. Even though it’s not a conventionally entertaining movie, I still found myself thinking things I might while watching a conventional horror movie. For example, when the movie depicted an oppressive Judge, I found myself thinking, “Man, fuck that judge with a chainsaw!” It truly is amazing to think that racism was — and to some degree still is — formally “legitimized” in many parts of the world.  While Nelson Mandela did not battle the beast alone, he was definitely a powerful force against it.

Like any movie monster, this one has a particular way of functioning on the screen (and, I suppose, in real life). There is a method to its madness, and it goes something like this:

1. Create an underclass.
2. Demoralize them at every turn by calling them lazy, and generally embarrass and shame them.
3. Restrict movement, and make everyone carry around passes, so everyone feels like a criminal.
4. Utilize forced labor.
5. Don’t listen to alternate views.
6. Love cages.
7. “Your” violence is right, while “theirs” is wrong.
8. Make those you oppress angry, then punish them for their anger.
9. Prohibit political talk in prison – tell visitors that only family matters can be discussed.
10. Exaggerate differences between people, and downplay similarities.
11. Impose dependence, then lambaste those you oppress for their dependence.
12. Generally restrict freedom. Then, when you ease restrictions, you can claim you’ve given them freedom.

I can go on and on about this monster, and discuss how its main objective is to turn man against man, and divide and conquer. However, the main point is that, although such a monster can’t be totally slain everywhere that it appears, it can be held at bay and severely weakened.


Mandela ( Idris Elba) and others face a real monster.


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