Can 'The Birth of a Nation' viewers look past the Nate Parker controversy?

q's pop culture panel weighs in on the worthy, contentious, and mind-boggling stories from the week in arts and entertainment.
Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation was expected to be one of the year's most important, but now rape allegations against the director have changed the focal point. (Willy Sanjuan/Invision/Associated Press)

q's pop culture panel weighs in on the worthy, contentious, and mind-boggling stories from the week in arts and entertainment. Opinionated and irreverent, our panel takes pop culture seriously (but not too seriously).

Today's panellists are Rachel Giese, editor-at-large for Chatelaine, Esquire columnist Stephen Marche, and Naila Keleta-Mae, Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Waterloo. Up for discussion: 

  • Nate Parker Scandal. Opinions abound about filmmaker Nate Parker, who has been accused of a rape  linked to a woman's suicide. His upcoming movie The Birth of a Nation was generating Oscar buzz until the alarming allegations slowed his rising star. We discuss the complexities of the case, and the perennial challenges of separating the artist from the art. Keleta-Mae says that putting Parker in context would require a wider conversation about Woody AllenRoman Polanski and the thorny matter of high-profile allegations. "What about all the other artists whose victims we just don't know about?" she says. "Those stories are not welcome."

  • Lou Pearlman's death. NSYNC, Backstreet Boys creator Lou Pearlman has died in prison, while serving a 25-year prison sentence for defrauding banks and investors out of over $300 million U.S. We explore the legacy of this 90s boy band pop Svengali-turned fraudster, the music he created, and the difficult end to his story. "I think his importance has been exaggerated," says Marche, who characterized the producer as little more than a "hustler."

  • Frank Ocean's new record. What is the importance of Frank Ocean's Blonde and how does it push pop boundaries? "He's interesting because he's so genre-busting and wildly creative," says Giese. "He doesn't want to be categorized or defined as an artist or a person." Keleta-Mae adds that Ocean's visual album is a worthy follow to Beyonce's headline-generating Lemonade earlier this year. "He's moving through space in an interesting way." Marche is the least impressed. "Are we going to be listening to this in two weeks? I don't think so." 



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