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LOVING - Official Trailer from Mill Valley Film Festival on Vimeo.
|Courtesy Focus Films|
LOVING was the closing night film of the 39th Mill Valley Film Festival. Jeff Nichols is its writer/director. At 38 years old, born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Nichols is a master at breaking stereotypes about cultures, especially those below the Mason Dixon Line.
LOVING is based on the lives of Mildred and Richard Loving. The portrayals by Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton in the title roles is an exquisitely intimate, internal portrait. The main characters met young, fell in love in a poor rural neighbor of Virginia where races interacted socially. The love aspect of the story is prominent but the underclass nature of interracial life in the region is equally as strong. In 1958, the couple were forbidden to marry because their state was among many with anti-miscegenation laws.
Nichols’ LOVING is as much about class— working poor—as it is about race. As long as Mildred and Richard kept within the constraints of the geo-social ‘Bottoms’ the state powers would not care. They weren’t so much jailed because Mildred was Black while Richard White but because they dared want their love and children legitimated. Anti-miscegenation laws stemmed, above all else not from morality but economics—controlling who could own property, historically determined by parentage. The law they violated was a vestige of slavery in their state.
LOVING, the feature length fictional film, evolved from director Nichols’ admiration for a documentary made years before. Nichols LOVING defies the Hollywood Film industries tendency to make heroism only a characteristic of overtly “charismatic people.” LOVING is a work that celebrates that every day, ordinary people do the impossible.
The Lovings were interested in living their lives. Referred by Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s office to the American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU) at Mrs. Loving’s initiation, the couple left the lawyers to the legal job. While the Loving’s tended their own work, raising a family.
The ACLU fought and won Loving V Virginia in the supreme court in 1967 — near ten years after the birth of the couple’s first child. The case was won based on Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law being in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which, provides equal protection under the law — including the right to marry.
The Fourteenth Amendment was one of the Restoration amendments after the US Civil war. The Restoration Amendments among other things legally dismantled the economic system of slavery. The Loving case was fought nearly 100 years after the slavery emancipation proclamation.
Loving v Virginia was proceeded and followed by many other legal presidencies adjudicated by the supreme court and supported by The Fourteenth Amendment including, Brown v. Board of Education (1954) regarding racial school segregation, Roe v. Wade (1973) about abortion, Bush v. Gore (2000) regarding the 2000 presidential election, and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) regarding same-sex marriage.The foot prints of the Fourteen Amendment are also solidly ensconced in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its 16th Article —The right to marriage and Family.
Why is this film important to Bioethics? The Lovings predicament is a cautionary tell about historical abuse of scientific process in supporting anti-miscegenation practices. LOVING also identifies a victory for the strength of persistent struggle — particularly one having an influence on the understanding not only of humanity but the moral obligations of scientist to do good work, and to monitor its moral implications.
LOVING is a gentle film—not designed to be a blockbuster but one which will stand the test of time.
Loving (2016) Dir. Jeff Nichols http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4669986/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm T
Loving (2016) Trailer: https://youtu.be/9QYEwlzpa9A
Loving V. Virgina Interacial and Mixed documentary HBO Trailer https://youtu.be/h62ZBiHNJoM trailer
The Constitution of the United States http://constitutionus.com
Loving V. Virginal Ruling https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/388/1
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/declaration-human-rights/
|Photo Courtesy of Mill Valley Film Festival|
Long Before Jeff Nichols, writer/director, chose to make the film LOVING (2016), about a heroic couple of modest means striking a blow for the maintenance of humanity—by ending anti-miscegenation laws in the USA—The field of Eugenics had to be born and the term ‘miscegenation’ coined. Miscegenation laws were present in many states of the USA into the 1960s, in defiance of the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Human Rights.
Modern “bioethics” emerged from the documentation of the atrocities associated with both WWI and WWII, and the manipulation of science and technology to serve ‘evil’ rather than beneficence, autonomy and justice. The film Loving speaks to the need to carefully consider the obligations of science. There is no evil science, just bad science and immoral applications. In particular, scientist, and physicians (who are all ultimately researchers) should at least read the Nuremberg Code. The document is a page long with only ten points.
How did Anti- miscegenation laws come about? Let’s be clear, they were an economic mechanism to oppress slaves and other underclass people and prevent their owning property. This begs the question of how miscegenation became ‘a thing.’
Philosophy and the applied sciences used to be one school—and still were in the 1800s. Philosophy, was not separated from maths, astronomy, medicine and engineering. The footsteps of philosophy still drive scientific method —theory, hypothesis, proof and argument. Francis Galton was born into that time of interface and development of knowledge. Oddly Galton, a latter day Renaissance thinker in the model of Da’Vinci, is attributed with coining the words miscegenation and eugenics. And yes, Galton started out in Medicine, circa 1838.
In agriculture miscegenation was defined as the “interbreeding of two different species.” Galton’s Cousin Charles Darwin had published the Origin of the Species in the 1850s. Gregor Mendel an Austrian monk had observed variation in pea plants during the same period. Most biology students learned that Mendel is considered the father of genetics. From those works came Galton’s leap implying that human beings’ external appearance could make them different species.
Galton was a Sociologist, Psychologist, Scientist, Geographer, and Statistician. He looked for proof of the patterns of his cousin and the monk in other aspects of the world — looking for a primary pattern in nature which was repeated. That is what good science does. When you think of Galton, think—regression from the mean — that was among his many contributions or to some of us—tortures. The mathematical models of Mendel for peas and other plants were being extrapolated and converted into statistics applied to human beings.
What came first, racism or the science? The essence of scientific integrity is not only honesty in hypothesizing, recording and reporting but coming to unbiased conclusions. Galton began considering ‘lessor social' attributes to be apparent in people who looked one way and not another. The espousing that conclusion, for a statistician, had to be an unfounded extrapolation. But he likely knew that even then.
In 1863, the science of separation, and its conclusions espoused by Galton, was rejected by some as a political tool deciding who should receive the benefits of a society. The difference between animals and people was thought to be decided by humanist to be “the soul.” Perhaps the soul is a more nebulous concept than that ‘a scientific certainty’—but also one less likely to bastardize the scientific process. Nonetheless, it was the soul which ended slavery in the USA and many other parts of the world.
The post civil war Reconstruction Amendments to the United States Constitution, codified the belief that all “men” were created equal. That was adjusted in the 1900's to include women. The devil remains in the detail. However, it was the 14th amendment, which applied to the winning of Loving v. the State of Virginia, and the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This was generations after Galton, Mendel and Darwin.
What is the lesson? Bioethical conflicts often coincide with historically poor scientific understanding, or abuses. However, they coexist with equal and opposite reactions — leaps of moral and scientific process. Thinking about how the film LOVING, based on the lives of Mildred and Richard Loving,end of Anti-miscegenation laws in the United States. Remember, LOVING is a film not only about law, but about the debunking of archaic, if ever valid, science.
Loving (2016), Dir. Jeff Nichols http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4669986/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm
The Nuremberg Code, https://history.nih.gov/research/downloads/nuremberg.pdf
Galton Memories of My Life, https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=Galton+Memories+of+My+Life+(London:+Methuen,+1908),+pp.+22+-+47.&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8
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