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Patsey's Plea: Black Women's Survival in '12 Years A Slave'

by Nijla Mumin
November 6, 2013 1:04 PM
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You know a performance is powerful when you’re still thinking about it weeks after seeing the film. This is the case of the Lupita Nyong’o in Steve McQueen’s film adaptation of Solomon Northrup's 12 Years A Slave. She plays Patsey, an enslaved woman whom Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) meets after being sold to Edwin Epps’ New Orleans plantation.

While there is little comparison between the two films, 12 Years A Slave and Django Unchained both feature enslaved black women in rare cinematic representations. However, Twelve Years A Slave does something that Django Unchained was unable to. It portrays fully realized black women who lived during slavery, and who had voices. In Django Unchained, Kerry Washington’s character Broomhilda appears in numerous scenes, but never really says or feels anything beyond loud shrieks of pain, surprise, or fear. Her performance was intentionally limited by director Quentin Tarantino, who fashioned Django as her savior, or the only way she would escape her doomed fate.

There is a scene in 12 Years A Slave where Patsey, played beautifully by Nyong’o, makes an impassioned plea to sadistic plantation owner Edwin Epps that she be able to remain clean and receive soap after picking profuse amounts of cotton for him. There is a fragility and strength in her face, and a will of defiance despite his sudden brutality. There is no happy ending here. She will not ride off with Solomon on a horse as the plantation burns down.

Many have described Django Unchained as a love story, but after seeing the film, I wondered, “what love?” Love between Django and Dr. King Schultz? Love between Samuel L. Jackson's pathologically subservient Stephen and plantation owner Calvin Candie? These forms of love were a lot more palpable and developed than any love between Django and Broomhilda. A love story demands more of the cinematic form, and more of its characters. The relationship between Solomon and Patsey, while marred with suffering, is one of love but not the Hollywood, savior love. In one scene, Patsey asks Solomon to help end her life, an act that we must see as sacred, given the endless violence and potential death she faces at the hands of people who hate her.

Patsey, and other black female characters in 12 Years A Slave become human because they cannot be saved. They exist in the slave economy, and they find ways to survive within their given context. I thought about Patsey for a long time after seeing 12 Years A Slave. I thought about how she collapsed when Northrup finally rides off into his freedom, and her face, bloodied by Epps’ mixture of hatred and sexual obsession. I thought about the dolls she crafted, and how she might’ve lived for the rest of her life. I want to see a movie about Patsey.

There is a tendency in cinema to frame historical events from a patriarchal lens, connecting them with a man’s journey to fight or survive injustice. Women may be featured, but they don’t assume the role of the “hero.” Especially within films that address black history, there’s a dearth in gender inclusion when it comes to telling these stories. But after seeing the depth and beauty of Lupita Nyong’o in this role, I am reminded that there’s a need for these stories, told from black women’s perspectives, highlighting the distinct struggles that they faced.

These women do not have to be portrayed as the “hero,” for that model doesn’t always fit historical periods where so many people were suffering, but they need to be prominently featured and well developed. The stories and ideas are endless. There are the more well-known figures like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, and then there are those stories and women shrouded in mystery, waiting to be explored, similar to Northrup’s 12 Years A Slave, a book many didn’t know about until the film adaptation was made.

As 12 Years A Slave garners more Oscar season buzz, Solomon and Patsey will find their way into the hearts and minds of many. Their struggles will be associated with the horrors of American slavery, and not merely with that of genre event or spectacle. Hopefully, this is just the beginning.

Nijla Mu'min is a writer and filmmaker from the East Bay Area. Visit her website HERE.

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  • ami | July 28, 2014 2:54 PMReply

    Before writing an article, you should read the book the "movie"was based on. Shame on you. I did not watch 12 years a slave because I knew it was going to be filled with false scenes and storyline that never happened. And reading your article and numerous like it, I was correct. Patsey never asked Solomon to kill her after her flogging. She was just that strong in her soul. The movie did no justice to the book . You need to branch out farther then a Hollywood movie before writing an article. The movie depicts her as giving up when she asks to be killed. But in real life, she never gave up on life. Not once.

  • BENJAMIN | March 20, 2014 5:45 PMReply

    One book on slavery that I'd really love to see done on film is 'And the night hissed'. It's a nail-biting, heart pounding thriller set in the jungles of West Africa. It was recommended by a friend so I bought an e-copy from Authorhouse and was hooked! Movie material without a doubt. You guys should check it or sumtin.

  • Sean Stout | March 15, 2014 6:36 AMReply

    People keep saying this woman, Lupita, is changing views on what is beautiful. They are so very very wrong!!! Lupita HAS changed the concept of beauty. He skin color is amazing. Her face, when not playing a slave, is stunning! She amazing in her poise and grace. She is the new face of Hollywood. So to the ones saying she is changing Hollywood, wakeup! She already has!

  • secret | March 7, 2014 4:11 PMReply

    wow perfection

  • Rahsaan | March 2, 2014 4:03 PMReply

    Aimee Garcia,
    Thank you. Perfect reply to FEDUP. Though, the one thing I'd be cautious about is calling imperislist Spain a mother country. The conquistadors and colonists were downright brutal and disgusting in their exploitation, abuse and marginalization of Native Americans, Africans, mulattos and mestizos. Spain under Vatican rule was more crazy ruler than nurturing mother. I get what you mean about language being what unifies Latinos, but I'd never call Spain "mother."

  • JBrickell | February 21, 2014 3:48 AMReply

    i wanted to see patsey get with the underground railroad .... hopefully she did

  • Trevor | February 13, 2014 9:04 AMReply

    sorry, Nijla Mu'min. did you even watch Django? What love? the love that takes place before the movie events.

  • Aimee Garcia | February 4, 2014 10:37 AMReply

    TO FEDUP: Zoe Saldana is NOT a "Hispanic woman pretending to be black." She IS a BLACK Hispanic woman. We, Hispanics come in all colors. Countries in South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and a country in North America (Mexico) were originally populated by indigenous indians. Then came the European Invasion (at first, mainly from Spain.) After that, there came the invasion of the African black slaves that were transported by the Europeans to work in the fields and as domestics (the native populations of these countries was not enough; more was needed so the black slaves were brought in.) Because of this mix, modern Hispanics from all Hispanic countries come in all colors. You name the skin color, Hispanics have it. Many American black people love to complaint about racism, but they, themselves are perfect examples of racists. YOU are one of them! How dare you write that actress Zoe Saldana was "pretending" to be black in the movie "Colombiana"? Zoe is the daughter of a dark black Dominican father and a "light" black Puerto Rican mother. Zoe IS a BLACK Hispanic. I happen to have very fair skin, green eyes and natural golden brown hair; I'm the product of a white Chilean father and a white Cuban mother: I'm a white Hispanic woman. The word "Hispanic" has NOTHING AT ALL to do with RACE. "Hispanian" is the Latin word for Spain, and all Hispanics though coming from different countries and having different customs, different skin colors and looking different from each other have the common denominator of a single language: Spanish from our "Mother" country, Spain. That's what unite us, our language, not our skin color! Our language comes from Spain (Hispanian), so we are Hispanics! Slavery was abolished in the USA a long, long time ago, but American blacks like you, FEDUP, will always be enslaved by the chains in your narrow, silly minds!

  • fedUP | February 4, 2014 3:22 AMReply

    Movies like 12 Years A Slave, The Butler, and The Help will always have a place in cinema. I've come to understand that these stories must be told. They remind us, they enlighten us, they challenge the very least they force us to step out of our "comfortable" lives for 120 minutes to take a peek at the gruesome things that happened to our ancestors not too long ago...

    But anyone that knows me is aware of my love-hate relationship with these type of films. Is the only time I can see a quality movie starring people that share my skin color when it's about slavery? Can a black actor (black actresses have had slightly more variety in this area) only be nominated for an oscar when he's playing a slave, crooked cop, or toothless-ship-hijacking pirate?

    I'm over it. And you know what? If I see another slave movie, it'll be too soon.

    I don't need a constant reminder. It's not like I'll forget.

    I'd like to see a legitimate movie about a black super-hero. A black spy (think Colombiana, but less revenge-y, and actually starring a black actress, not a Hispanic one pretending to be black) A sci-fi movie with a black cast, A psychological thriller with a black cast, heck, I'll even take a black Hangover as long as it's not saturated with black stereo-types and is grammatically correct.

    That's what I want to see. I don't always want to see Patsey. Instead, I want to see what Patsey's descendants have become. I want to actually SEE all this progress that we've supposedly made. And if white film makers aren't giving us the opportunities....then we need to create them AND support our own.

    I don't want to keep being reminded of what I once was...I want to see what I can soon become.

  • bony | April 23, 2014 9:40 PM

    A hispanic pretending to be black?! Im sorry, but dont you know that in Latin America theres also black people? Or do you really believe the US is the only country with black population in the continent? Zoe is a black hispanic. As a matter of fact all hispanic contries together have much more black people than the US. Please get your facts right.
    Hispanic is not a race it just means that you come from a latin american country.

  • Sarah | January 27, 2014 4:37 PMReply

    I just watched this movie with my boyfriend and became obsessed with finding out more about Patsey. I know we'll never have her story because she didn't write a book, but it is extraordinary to think of her outworking every man on the plantation and then surviving brutal treatment from both owners. I work in sexuality and health and you see a lot where women are subjected to years of forced sex and they learn how to negotiate survival in these contexts all of the time. The sex can become part survival sex, part rape and part a very real demonstration of these women's strength, ability to survive and even agentive decisions in contexts where they have almost no power. I really, really, really want to find out what happened to her now, however. I just bought the book, but I'd love to find out if any historian ever tracked her story down.

  • DarB | March 3, 2014 10:40 AM

    FEDUP, you were never a slave, so you could never be reminded of what you once were. Just because someone's skin color is dark, that person could NEVER relate to how REAL slaves had to live. Get off your soap box, you're embarrassing yourself.

  • spiggot | January 21, 2014 4:08 PMReply

    Patsey is freed at most after another 12 years (1865). It took hundred of thousands of deaths in the Civil War to achieve it. Some people criticize the American Constitution for including slavery. Its a fact, however, that there would have been no Constitution without slavery because of the insistence of the Southern States. This flaw was corrected "four score and seven years" later but its effects lingered, and even now Jim Crow flaps his feathers.

  • Shack | January 18, 2014 2:33 PMReply

    In the final analysis, it's all about collectively making your own movies and creating your own award venues.

  • Annan | January 15, 2014 1:08 AMReply

    Way too many defensive attacks here got what is a well structured and valid argument.

    It's fair to say that for the majority of viewers, Patsey is the character that stays I'm the mind more searingly, than even the main character.

    It's also valid to say that the whole film could easily have been carried by that character. The scene when the men return from the Judges cane fields and pass Patsey weeding, and we see more scars, bruises and her freshly bloodied eye - most of the audience gasped here in London, " look at what brutality has been done to her whilst we've been gone", we cared. We wanted her out of there so desperately.

    This is not that common a reaction for such films and it's also valid of the writer of the above article to state that these films (about the slave trade) have never featured as their main protagonist a woman.

    Well written, articulately put salient points on the matter.

  • Annan | January 15, 2014 1:13 AM

    Apologies: first line should read " on what is...", rather than "got".

  • Alvin Grimes | January 12, 2014 9:01 PMReply

    Django unchained was the story of a man who was willing to pass thru the gates of hell to rescue his woman. It was as stated in the movie, the story of Siegfried and Brunhilda, or any mythical story as the hero rescuing a damsel in distress. Its a drug that white men have fed themselves for thousands of years and it was taken from us during slavery because you can't make slaves out of warriors. It tells them again and again that there is nothing that they can't do and as a result believe it. I enjoyed seeing a man defying all odds to save the black woman that he loved. It was such an empowering film and such a refreshing change from the "b@#$h better have my money" madness that we continuously feed ourselves under the dream killing dogma of "keepin it real."

  • Whatever | January 1, 2014 4:36 PMReply

    The Help, The Butler, Precious, The Blind Side and all the slave movies that have come out pander to the white liberals in Hollywood. Nothing will change until we stop acting in these films. Fed up of us acting like the victims and white people being treated as our saviours -- mental slavery still continues...

  • sean | March 15, 2014 7:17 AM

    So,Whatever,you are say that we should never again speak of slavery? White guilt? None here. Never owned a slave, but when you forget/bury the past, you are destined to repeat it. And yes,any part can be played by a black person, but only black person can play a slave, unless you want a whity in blackface playing the parts. Shut up, stop b*tching, and get off you ducking soapbox! Imagine, Black person b*tching because another black person is working! How dare you! HOW DARE YOU! You don't like it, don't see it! Or better by yet you write a script. You are are a bigger racist than most, and you should be ashamed! At least she is working, are you? Comma bitch. Every generation needs to be reminded of what the white man did to the African's, Native Americans, Asians,and everyone else. To do otherwise is a path to our own end! Think
    Before you speak. It will help you in the future, maybe.

  • Ruby | January 27, 2014 3:39 PM

    I hated this movie with a passion!! All of a sudden all these slavery epics! Why? So that Blacks will remember their 'place' or what? So unnecessary and disgusting. I thought The Help was bad enough and I saw '12 Years..' The only respite was that it was a true story and it ended with Solomon at least getting his freedom. As he said in the narrative, there is a day of reckoning... if not here then certainly in the Hereafter.

  • Mino Warrior | December 23, 2013 4:22 PMReply

    Some of Kerry Washington's performance was left on the cutting room floor after test audiences found her seasoning process unpleasant. If her scenes are put back in she may seem less like a cardboard cut out.

  • Eustress | December 21, 2013 5:36 PMReply

    If you want to know what Patsy's life was like after Solomon left, watch the 12 Years a Slave again because I'm sure it didn't change. Better yet, watch Mandingo or Roots. There's nothing new about the brutality of slavery.

    Your optimism is quite charming...

  • Mamuwalde | December 13, 2013 1:48 AMReply


    Only white-supremacist enslaved minds would look at the Patsy character as one of depth for a Black woman to play. The role was as 2-dimensional as rice paper, only made full by the superb performance of Lupita Nyong'o.

    These are the type of roles white Hollywood loves to see Black folks & people of color in. If someone makes a story about Nanni of the Jamaican Maroons, Nzingah of Angola, Harriet Tubman, Nefertiti, etc. we'll see if it gets all this praise (not likely).

    For Precious Colored Girls with The Help of The Butler for 12 Years A Slave Unchained...

  • DebNBrooklyn | January 21, 2014 2:56 PM

    2 things I appreciated with the Patsey character : showing the black female as rape victim AND field hand. Too many believe that enslaved women who were raped by plantation owners received some special treatment. Also, the role of the white female was more accurate than the lie of her as an equally oppressed ally rather than one who benefitted and directly contributed to the degradation of black females and males. Very important in relation to interracial hookups as well as "feminist" agendas.

  • Sonia | December 16, 2013 10:52 PM


    These are the types of roles Hollywood loves to see Black folks & people of color in...

    **I would add especially women.

  • Li Ling | December 12, 2013 3:11 PMReply

    No doubt she is an excellent performer. I couldn't forget the secen when she was raped by a white man. Her helpless voice was like a dying lamb. There was no happyness for black women at that time. I kept thinking her character for days, only can feel horrible and frigtened. No dignity and freedom. Her pain was endless.

  • AFRICIATE! | December 9, 2013 10:55 AMReply

    I felt the same way! I kept on thinking about Patsey days after the film was over. I like how we followed her story independent of Solomon. Lupita gave such a great performance. And now that you mentioned it, I am so thirsty to know how she lived her life. The final scene on the plantation when Solomon leaves was so heartbreaking. You could literally feel and see her pain jumping out of the screen. I felt so sad for her. Telling black history stories from women's perspectives is also a great idea, it adds a breath of fresh air to the experience. I loved the movie, and its commitment to telling the truth about slavery. It deserves all the great things that comes its way.

  • Bren | December 7, 2013 6:04 PMReply

    This is not the first time this story has been made into a film. Please remember, the PBS version starring "Avery Brooks," 1984.

    However, this new theater version is certainly closer --in my opinion-- to the truth as far as how Northup said "Patsey" was treated. And, I do mean closer since, from what I remember, Northup's autobiography suggests she suffered permanent damage to the point, she was never the same again.

  • Mino Warrior | December 23, 2013 4:18 PM

    The TV movie was disgraceful, fictional revision of Patsey's story. They made it a love story complete with Massa taking her riding on horseback. It was disgusting. I fumed for days after seeing it.

  • moviegoer90 | December 2, 2013 11:04 PMReply

    I am definitely interested in seeing more of Patsey's story. To be honest I often times felt myself sympathizing more with Patsey rather than Solomon. Her journey speaks volumes about the mental state of women in slavery, and how they managed to survive with no end in sight. I wanted more than anything to witness Patsey's redemption, but I understand that in order to continue forward in the authenticity of the film, Patsey couldn't be saved. I agree that more stories about women like Patsey need to be seen and supported.

  • Barbara hampton-Barclay | December 1, 2013 7:57 PMReply

    Django is farce. You cannot possibly compare it with "12 years a Slave" a drama based on a true story. Django is supposed to be funny, sad, horrifying, ridiculous. 12 years is supposed to challenge your beliefs, reach your soul, stir your empathy, change your perceptions abotu slavery and GWTW.
    Please do not compare the two. Do not insult the directors or the actors.

  • rievans57 | November 26, 2013 5:31 PMReply

    I'm sorry hers was not a great performance. The character of Patsey was merely a prop for the director to dramatize violence.

  • Solaam | December 1, 2013 2:17 PM

    Right, and all of the male characters/victims had these extremely detailed characters.
    Lupita's performance was superb and worthy of award recognition.
    Also, McQueen's "dramatized violence" was an accurate display of the atrocities of slavery.

  • dl | November 17, 2013 5:44 AMReply

    I'd love a film about nanny of the maroons; the jamaican equivalent of harriet tubman. It would have been great if steve had done this considering he is of west indian decent but I understand why he choose this story- more people can relate to it.

  • Deb | November 15, 2013 4:33 PMReply

    I loved the depiction of Patsey as rape victim as well as field slave. Some, particularly some black males, ignore the fact that this was the case for most enslaved women. The misinformation that those who were raped were somehow "favored" is so false. As the film showed, enslaved women had no protection and no ability to even protect themselves, especially against the white female who did the followup abuse.

  • Draya | January 2, 2014 2:41 AM

    @ Solaam We hear that when some black men call those women "negro bed wenches". Like their positions were at will.

  • Troy | December 28, 2013 11:01 AM

    Us versus them mentality. She feels black women had it worse so more appreciation and gratitude should be showed to black women today for the sacrifices they don't and have to make. You cause for black males she may feel life is relative easy when you have a penis.

  • Solaam | December 1, 2013 2:23 PM

    Where do you hear of black males ignoring the fact that black women were rape victims? Or that those who were raped were "favored"?

  • Lisa | November 14, 2013 3:45 PMReply

    More strong, experienced, nuanced female characters for the win!

    I would love to see a movie about Aminata - The book of Negroes.

    What a fantastic, emotional read.

  • Guest | January 3, 2014 10:51 PM

    The Book of Negroes will be adapted in Canada for television. It was a compelling read.

  • Risa | November 12, 2013 12:02 PMReply

    I was reminded of Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice which was probably the finest/saddest movie made about the Holocaust. I have never forgotten her and when she was forced to choose which of her two children should live or die. The ultimate cruelty is the forced separation of people who love each other, who are innocent, have done no wrong and their only crime is that they are not of the same blood as their oppressors. I understand this as the daughter-in-law of Holocaust survivors. My children are proof that humanity and love will prevail.

    We do need more films with oppressed women as the main character. Sometimes I don't think the story is about race. I think it is about the physical power of men over women and the territorial imperative.

    I will never forget the tragedy of Patsey watching Solomon being driven away. And, I know he was haunted by her and those who were enslaved with him for the rest of his life.

    I am haunted by inhumanity because I don't understand it.

  • Troy | December 28, 2013 11:09 AM

    We need more movies. I would argue for original stories over satirized true stories never the less more stories should be told. Their are women dictators, crime lords, sexual predators, white collar criminal, women who exploit their entire families, sociopaths, and many forms of heroes. Oppressed victim as a hero is the most women character of all. Thinking that could somehow make you a hero if you continue to endure. The people that praise their mother's for going through stuff they never had to. When a child endures through oppression because he/she feels powerless we still suggest they speak up and fight back. When a single mother does it she is a hero for allowing her children to live in squalor just so her family can be together. For me that is a challenging concept. Maybe you can make I movie that might change my viewpoint of a women enduring through shame and fear of humiliation eventually being seen as a hero because she made the hard decisions.

  • Jan | November 9, 2013 2:00 PMReply

    I would like to see more about Patsey, her story and others like it. The part was played well, and the story compelling. She sticks in your mind. The tremendous strength and courage of these women and others like her needs to be portrayed. Of course I wanted to see her find her way out of her difficulties, Northrup to come back and save her, but that was not likely the reality.

  • Bforreal | November 7, 2013 11:23 PMReply

    Best and fairest article about 12 Years a Slave I've seen on this site. I agree that it's time to see films about the struggles and lives of women like Patsy. I have thought about her character a lot since seeing the film 3 weeks ago.

  • Monie | November 7, 2013 8:42 AMReply

    Do you truly not get that "Django Unchained" was just a "spaghetti western?" Seriously, it should not be compared to anything EXCEPT other spaghetti westerns. It was a fantasy film in the same genre of the Clint Eastwood classics of the same genre. The only difference is that Tarantino (love it or hate it) used the fantasy of a triumphal slave, as opposed to a triumphal cowboy.

    Why in the world would you compare two such totally different films / genres?

  • Troy | December 28, 2013 11:14 AM

    A dodgeball is three dimensional and so is a Rubick's Cube. What 3 complexities did you see from the black women of 12 Years a slave. They showed three different emotions? The showed different reactions to men? What drove them? What action did they lead and how did it guide the storyline.

  • Randy | December 1, 2013 11:07 AM

    Recognizing that "Django Unchained" is an homage to spaghetti westerns doesn't let the movie, or its director, off the hook for recycling yet another superficial Hollywood "love story" involving yet another weak and submissive female character. It's a fair and valid criticism, especially considering that "Django" is not "just" a spaghetti western. Tarantino is deliberately tweaking the conventions of the spaghetti western, most obviously by presenting an enslaved black protagonist. He clearly expects us to feel empowered when Django gets his vengeance. As long as he's tweaking traditional Hollywood conventions, he could tweak the tradition of the male-dominated narrative of westerns. Instead he gives us the same old same old. Just because you liked the movie doesn't mean other people can't criticize it for this or other reasons.

    And the reasons for comparing (and contrasting!) the two movies are self-evident. How many other movies with Oscar buzz have you seen with enslaved black protagonists? For that matter, how many other movies have you seen with enslaved black protagonists at all? They are a rare commodity indeed. "Django" is far preferable to most of the vapid nonsense coming out of the American film industry, but "12 Years a Slave" has A LOT more to offer, not least of which are its compelling three-dimensional black female characters.

  • Lisa | November 14, 2013 3:46 PM

    Exactly! Poor comparison.

  • Rhy | November 11, 2013 4:31 AM

    I totally agree with you Monie: A GREAT spaghetti western, is a great spaghetti western. Let's recogdnize Jango Unchained as just that...

  • PATSEY | November 7, 2013 1:46 AMReply

    I just saw 12 Years A Slave today. Very touching yet disturbing movie. I haven't seen DJango or any other slavery movie that I can recall of. I agree with this article. There needs to be more female protagonists, even if they're not the hero, but more about their stories. I learned about women in slavery when I took a African American history class last semester and I understood why black women are more rebels, even in modern day society. Some women consented to sex with the masters just to get by, also getting their heads shaved to remove their individuality. I'm not sure how society would take another slavery movie, but it's worth seeing a woman's point of view as the main characters.

  • Lakisha May | November 7, 2013 1:01 AMReply

    I remember seeing something on Shadow and Act about Dolen Perkins Valdez book, "Wench" becoming a film. I wonder if that is still being considered. I hope so because this book is like a book of Patsys, but the women assert their power and the story is centered on them solely. Its a powerful and necessary novel.

  • Donella | November 6, 2013 4:11 PMReply

    Well said. I was dismayed at how the role of Broomhilda was written, but relieved that Solomon Northrup and then John Ridley and then Steve McQueen focused on the voice of Black women. Not just one, but three in memorable roles! Lupita has moved to the front position of Oscar buzz and I hope she wins.

    Wishful thinking, I like to think that Patsy eventually escaped Epps either through flight North or through an early death. In the movie, it seemed like Patsy's time as Epps's toy/pummel bag was nearly up since Fassbender's character was paying a little too much attention to the next little girl in line.

    Also, I truly hope Northrup was able to assist other slaves from Epps farm if they ever made it up to his Underground Railroad station. Understandably, Northrup kept specific details quiet about his life and work after the events of the story.

  • dancelover51 | November 6, 2013 3:24 PMReply

    "Patsey, and other black female characters in 12 Years A Slave become human because they cannot be saved." This statement is so true and so heart wrenching because Patsey's story is the story of millions of women who were enslaved in the Americas.

    Eliza's story is more compelling in the book but a two hour movie does not give you enough time to develop everyone.

  • Mira | November 6, 2013 2:43 PMReply

    This is a great commentary. Nyong-o was amazing in this role and because of her commitment to it- I am haunted by her Patsey. I have thought about Patsey often since I saw the film. And I have thought about Eliza, also. I was left with a feeling of narrative and emotional incompleteness, because, as the writer suggests, the patriarchal lens is not enough for me. I have wondered about Patsey's aspirations (her art, her turned up pinky) and her death (did she die still brutalized?). I, like the writer, am ready to see more about women like Patsey-moved from the margins to the center.

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