FILM

Why Kristen Stewart Is Reviving an Actress Who Supported the Black Panthers

In Seberg, Kristen Stewart portrays film legend Jean Seberg, whose support of the BPP led to a horrific FBI harassment

Yahoo

Actress Jean Seberg began her acting career at the age of 18 with a starring role as Joan of Arc in 1957's Saint Joan.

Director Otto Preminger selected her from over 18,000 entrants in a talent search for the role of the teenage martyr—burned at the stake for fighting for her beliefs. Seberg would later earn a reputation in French New Wave cinema as possibly "the best actress in Europe," but by the 1970s Seberg's career would end in much the way it began: martyrdom. Kristen Stewart's new film, Seberg, seeks to tell that story.

Seberg was 40 years old when she disappeared from her home in Paris in August of 1979. It took Parisian authorities more than a week to discover her body decomposing in the backseat of her parked car with a note that read, "Forgive me. I can no longer live with my nerves." Her death was deemed a probable suicide—the proximate cause being a potent mix of barbiturates and alcohol—but many have traced her downfall to events that preceded her disappearance by more than a decade. Events that involved FBI surveillance and a chance meeting with a member of the Black Panther Party.

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It was on a flight to Los Angeles in October of 1968 that Jean Seberg first met Hakim Jamal—a prominent member of the Black Power Movement. They were both married, but Seberg was drawn to progressive causes and figures of revolutionary struggle more so than she was constrained by monogamy. She and Jamal began a short-lived love affair that reportedly ended when Jamal's wife placed a phone call to Seberg's father in Iowa. But Seberg's connection to the Black Panthers was already established.

She would go on to provide the movement with thousands of dollars in funding and was even arrested on misdemeanor charges thought to be connected to "running guns" for the BPP—not long after then-California Governor Ronald Reagan passed gun-control legislation that targeted the Panthers' open-carry protests (a style of protest that is now popular among gun rights advocates who hold Reagan in the highest regard). This is how Jean Seberg ended up on the wrong side of the FBI's COINTELPRO operations.

Jean Seberg

If you're wondering why anyone would make a movie celebrating a woman who supported a violent terrorist organization, you too have been made the victim of the FBI's smear campaign—though not as acutely as Jean Seberg and the Black Panthers. Along with blackmailing Martin Luther King Jr. and encouraging him to kill himself, the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover sought to quash dissent within the American populace by infiltrating "subversive" organizations to promote infighting and discredit their causes. While those subversive groups included the likes of the KKK, they were not limited to that ilk. Hoover's megalomania would direct the FBI COINTELPRO (short for Counter Intelligence Program) against movements supporting feminist, racial justice, environmental, and anti-war causes.

Whatever became of the Black Panther Party's various chapters—as COINTELPRO encouraged internal schisms and violence—it's important to consider how the organization started. Black communities around the country were being neglected and harassed by the institutions that nominally served them. Poverty was destroying families, and the police often did more harm than good in ways that our country continues to reckon with. The Black Panthers set out to serve their communities with both charitable programs and vigilante groups that were intended to provide the benevolent protection that municipal police forces did not. Jean Seberg's first donation to the organization was in support of the Black Panther's free breakfast program.

Not long after the FBI worked with Chicago PD to drug and assassinate prominent BPP member Fred Hampton in his own home, they decided to take down Seberg with a smear campaign intended to "cause her embarrassment and serve to cheapen her image with the public." It was around this time that Seberg stopped being offered serious roles in Hollywood, likely as a result of being secretly blacklisted—along with Jane Fonda and others who supported the BPP. But the truly hateful attack came in 1970 in the form of a story that the FBI managed to get published in Newsweek, claiming that Seberg—who was pregnant at the time—was carrying the child of a Black Panther. This libelous story and negative attention that came with it purportedly caused Seberg so much distress that it triggered premature labor. She gave birth to a tiny daughter who died two days later.

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Seberg spent the rest of her life in and out of depressive episodes and under continual surveillance by US intelligence services as she traveled Europe. She was the target of wiretapping, stalking, and burglaries, all at the behest of the US intelligence apparatus. Is it any wonder she had issues with her "nerves?"

Seberg attempted suicide on numerous occasions before her death, though there are circumstances that make her death suspicious. Kristen Stewart's efforts to capture her spirit in Seberg—including shot-for-shot recreations of Seberg's iconic performance in Breathless (1960)—have received praise, while some have criticized the film's treatment of historical events as "superficial." Regardless of the film's success in telling this story, it's important for all of us to maintain a cultural memory of martyrs like Jean Seberg.

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We must never forget the lengths that entrenched power will go to in undermining any threat to their position. They will use petty differences and disinformation to turn us against one another. Only in solidarity can we achieve revolutionary change. Seberg, starring Kristen Stewart and directed by Benedict Andrews, is out now in select theaters.

FILM

Is “Hamilton” Sexist?

The hit musical will drop on Disney+ July 3rd.

Lin Manuel-Miranda's Hamilton has taken the theater world by storm since its 2015 Broadway premiere.

A hip-hop musical about America's founding fathers doesn't sound immediately appealing, but Manuel-Miranda's brilliant song writing and diverse casting not only captured the attention of audiences, but proved that major change is possible within an art form as encumbered by traditions as musical theater.

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CULTURE

"Captain Marvel 2" Is Slated to Trigger Low-Performing Dudes All Over Again

Low-performing men are no longer "the real fans" of comic book movies.

Disney

It's impossible to read anything related to Brie Larson's Captain Marvel without tripping over hives of low-performing Internet men.

You know the ones––the kind of men who genuinely believe they're entitled to debates, who pretend to love facts and logic while simultaneously believing everything they hear on YouTube, who couch their racism and sexism in poorly constructed jokes and then rage about how nobody has a sense of humor anymore when everyone else wants them to go away. They're everywhere, swarming the comment sections of every YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook post even mildly related to the character, whining and crying and soiling their britches. It's almost like these low-performing Internet men have nothing better to do than breathlessly scan social media for mentions of Brie Larson so they can regurgitate something akin to, "REEE BRIE LARSON BAD!"

Thankfully, their furor has died down quite a bit since Captain Marvel's release. They still show up in the Rotten Tomatoes Audience Reviews every now and again to leave thoughtful commentary like, "10yrs of a good job destroyed for PC reasons" with no punctuation, but by and large, they've moved on to actively hating other women elsewhere. But as comic books have taught us time and time again, peace can only last so long for a superhero.

Captain Marvel short hair This image really upsets low-performing dudes.Disney

Now that Captain Marvel 2 is officially in development, one thing is certain: Low-performing Internet dudes are going to get triggered all over again.

Collective triggering of the world's least eligible bachelors can largely be traced back to Brie Larson's speech at the 2018 Crystal + Lucy Awards (an awards show for women in communications and media). There, Larson spoke out against the lack of diversity amongst film reporters and critics, the majority of whom are white and male.

"I don't want to hear what a white man has to say about 'A Wrinkle in Time,' said Larson. "I want to hear what a woman of color, a biracial woman has to say about the film. I want to hear what teenagers think about the film."

Naturally, the suggestion that their opinions didn't matter––"they" being the specific variety of men who would hear a statement like that and get vein-poppingly red about it––triggered these dudes so hard that their moms probably wished they could get postnatal abortions. These men were so angry that they made it their mission to virtually follow Brie Larson around like the lowest-performing heat seeking missiles, screeching their bad takes whenever and wherever they could.

Brie Larson Speech Women In Film 2018 Crystal and Lucy Awards - Show, Beverly Hills, USA - 13 Jun 2018 Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Of course, Brie Larson was right to say what she said. White men have been the primary cultural tastemakers throughout the entire history of Western media. It's only recently that fresh, non-white, non-male voices have started to gain major traction on such a global scale.

The biggest problem for a lot of the men who are angry at Brie Larson is that they've spent their entire lives massively overestimating the value of their own opinions. To be clear, even the most entitled, low-performing Internet men are welcome to hold whatever opinions they want on absolutely anything. But many of them, for the first time ever, are being faced with a collective cultural dismissal of the value those opinions hold. In other words, these men are facing the same exact thing that they've been telling underrepresented people since the beginning of time: Nobody actually cares what they think.

And it's true. The opinions of angry Internet men, especially the ones who have a tendency to refer to themselves with phrases like "the real fans," don't matter nearly as much as they used to. Captain Marvel was the 9th highest-grossing movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the 11th highest-grossing superhero movie ever made. Regardless of whether or not these men made good on their words and stayed home from the theaters (if they would have even gone in the first place), Captain Marvel was an objective box office hit.

Captain Marvel 2 Disney

As marketing efforts for Captain Marvel 2 begin to ramp up, so too will the vitriol of low-performing dudes. But at some point, assuming they really do love facts and logic as much as they claim, they'll need to stop denying reality and face the truth. Captain Marvel 2 will be another hit for Marvel because low-performing men are no longer "the real fans" of comic book movies. They're just voices screaming into a void like everyone else, and their box office dollars are insignificant to the brands they once worshipped.

Like it or not, their opinions have already been canceled.