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Headscratchers / Roots (1977)

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  • I've heard people who have watched the series (notably, my eighth grade American History teacher) refer to Kunta as his slave name, Toby. What's the point of that? It might be easier for some to remember, but, come on!
    • Some people are slower to change than others. Numerous people still call Native Americans "Indians" rather than by their tribal names. Eventually those people change or they die off.
    • They share the same disrespect for him as those that tried to change his name.
    • Popcultural Osmosis might be to blame for this. The whipping scene, where Kunta loses his name to "Toby," is very iconic and well-known, even among people who've never actually seen the series, leading to people to assume he eventually accepts his name.
  • When Kunta Kinte saw the ocean from the deck of the slave ship, he said something like "I had no idea there could be this much water." From his earlier comments, it is shown that he had no concept of a body of water larger than a river. Here's the problem. He was captured by the crew of the slave ship, which was docked within walking distance of his village. Given that, it is barely believable that he never saw the ocean himself, and utterly unbelievable that he never heard about the ocean from somebody else.
    • Well, they didn't say how long the walk was, did they? Maybe it was like in The Book of Negroes and they walked for upwards of a month.
    • A lot of African tribes and kingdoms were well aware of the concept of the oceans and sea. But I think the implication is that Kunta had never really thought about just exactly how expansive it really was, since most Africans were not primarily sea farers. He more than likely has never traveled far into the waters more than he can swim.
  • Something that has always bugged me (and what may just be a case of the unreliable narrator) is how everyone (every single person) in Alex Haley's family tree is a fine, upstanding citizen with their worst qualities being that they are stubborn and hard-headed. None of them are liars, criminals, lazy, or even get a divorce. Otherwise, they're the finest human beings ever. Meanwhile, the white people, except for a few limited examples, are all evil, corrupt, liars, and thieves.
    • Well it is a Slave Narrative so you know the villains will be. But Chicken George is quite fleshed out with his tomcatting, and Haley's dad himself had two wives.
    • Well at least one of these things may be a case of Reality Is Unrealistic as believe it or not, there was a time in the past where African Americans had the lowest divorce rate in the nation.
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    • And Alex Haley himself is also divorced—the second miniseries shows him becoming an increasingly distant father and husband because of his obsession with his work.
    • Consider the sources. The family history is passed from generation to generation by the characters presented. Most people, when describing themselves to others, don't bring up their negative attributes and try to present themselves as generally good. It's not surprising that Kunta would paint himself in a good light when describing his history, as would Kizzy, Chicken George, etc.

Alternative Title(s): Roots


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