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“The Woman King” is already earning rave reviews from most critics, but even some left-wing outlets are being forced to admit that the writers completely rewrote history by painting the Agojie warrior women as abolitionists.
The historical drama’s description calls it “the remarkable story of the Agojie, the all-female unit of warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s with skills and a fierceness unlike anything the world has ever seen.”
It goes on to say this story, “inspired by true events,” depicts the General Nanisca (Viola Davis) as she “trains the next generation of recruits and readies them for battle against an enemy determined to destroy their way of life.”
The movie, which premiered Friday, currently has a 96% critic rating and 99% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, even among the glowing praise of this “true story” of female empowerment, there are some mainstream outlets admitting that parts of the story are not accurate.
It’s true that in the kingdom of Dahomey, women stepped outside their typical social roles to serve as warriors. The film could have solely focused on that truth and remained mostly accurate. However, Nanisca is portrayed as anti-slavery, when in reality, the Agojie warriors had no moral qualms about enslaving neighboring tribes and profiting from the African slave trade. This practice continued until the British Empire ended the slave trade in the region.
To their credit, the reviewer from The New Yorker calls out this historical error. “If the scriptwriters had wanted, ‘The Woman King’ could have been an amoral epic about swordplay and statecraft,” the reviewer writes.
“But ‘The Woman King’ chooses to make resistance to slavery its moral compass, then misrepresents a kingdom that trafficked tens of thousands as a vanguard in the struggle against it.”
The Wall Street Journal also notes the inaccuracy.
“The central problem with the movie—call it the #MeToo ‘Black Panther’—is that in reality Dahomey notoriously built its wealth on capturing local people and selling them into slavery,” the reviewer writes. “Characters in ‘The Woman King’ blame enslavement in Dahomey on the economic meddling of white traders although it was well-established in West Africa before the Europeans got involved.”
“Historical inaccuracy never troubled Hollywood before, so why shouldn’t the ladies help themselves to some of it? Fair question, but there’s a difference between stretching the truth and presenting the opposite of it,” the WSJ review concludes.
Despite these critical assessments, most reviews praise the film for being “powerful” and “ferocious.” Peter Travers from ABC News wrote that it “reminds us how truly inspiring it is to see these brave sisters doing it for themselves.”
“The Woman King” is currently playing in theaters.