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YMMV / Roots (1977)

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  • Fair for Its Day: Sam Harvey is generally a decent man. He clearly views his slaves as property and would prefer to keep them that way. However, he treats them as people and is not mean to them. He basically treats them as employees, rather than pack animals as some of the other masters do. When the slaves are freed after the war, he wants the former slaves to stay on and work for him, except he can't afford to pay them. He offers a sharecropping system to them, which they accept. (He is a rather poor businessman, as he neglects to have anything drawn up legally. This is horrible for the sharecroppers, as he loses his farm and the former slaves are stuck owing a ton that they can't afford to pay. This is taken advantage of by some racists with a grudge against Tom, and by extension, the rest of the black sharecroppers.) As he is leaving the farm, he is referred to as "better than most of them".
  • First Installment Wins: The nearly unanimous opinion of critics and viewers regarding the two miniseries. While the second one is excellent in its own right, it's generally regarded as lesser than the first.
    • Roots: The Gift and Queen don't fare as well with critics.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: The sequel series being titled "The Next Generations" after the original introduced us to Levar Burton of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Tom Moore crosses this the moment he appears onscreen when he rapes Kizzy. Strangely, he has a few Pet the Dog moments afterwards
  • Narm:
    • The telegraph employee enthusiastically yelling "IT'S WAR!" in an excruciatingly high-pitched voice.
    • 33 year old Leslie Uggams is embarrassingly hard to watch as the teenage Kizzy. Luckily, she improves significantly while playing her real age.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Marlon Brando as George Lincoln Rockwell in The Next Generations.
  • Retroactive Recognition: The actors who weren't yet famous when they filmed this became so afterwards—Todd Bridges of Different Strokes, Debbie Morgan of All My Children, Kristoff St. John of The Young and the Restless, etc.
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  • Signature Scene: The whipping scene.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: This was the first time the slave trade was dramaticized onscreen in all its horrors.
  • Special Effect Failure: The "old" makeup.
  • Tear Jerker: Among the most memorable sad sequences are when Kunta is whipped in front if the other slaves until he accepts his name is now Toby, and when after finding out that Kizzy is literate, and helped forge freedom papers for another slave, Dr. Reynolds sells her to Tom Moore, while Kunta and Bell watch helplessly as their daughter is taken from them.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: In more recent years the series has been knocked a bit for expecting us to sympathize with Captain Davies just for feeling kind of bad about propagating the slave trade, but not enough to actually do anything about it.
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  • Values Dissonance: The horrors of slavery go without saying. But that aside, Chicken George gets his name and makes his way as a gamecock trainer—as in cockfighting. He winds up being so highly valued by his master, Tom Moore, that he is cheated out of his occasional chances at freedom because of it. Cockfighting is viewed as a sleazy, cruel pastime in this era and only takes place at underground illegal dives.
  • What an Idiot!: In the penultimate episode, one slave character discovers a thief in a food storage shed who messed the place up and runs off when discovered.
    You'd expect: "Virgil" to go to his masters and tell them about the thief to minimize the risk of being beaten when the thief runs off.
    Instead: Virgil nonchalantly tries to clean up the mess whereupon his masters come across the scene seconds later. They don't believe him when he tells them about the thief and he is promptly used as a punching bag by his handlers.


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