“To date, America’s most defining chapter, slavery—with all of its complexity, contradictions, and endless fictional and true narrative possibilities—has been under-treated by Hollywood. The recent visibility of films such as the Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave, Nate Parker’s record-breaking Birth of a Nation, the intriguing, savvy WGN series Underground, and Django Unchained, Tarantino’s fantastical slave era-cowboy hero flick—might make it appear otherwise. (BET’s unusual but laudable 2015 effort, The Book of Negroes miniseries, failed to widely engage American viewers.)
A&E’s Roots confronts this distorted but popular belief that the subject of slavery has not only been covered, but done well, done enough, or even done too much. There continues to be a deep-seated American cultural discomfort with slavery, and neither the financial success of Birth of a Nation at Sundance nor the critical success of Twelve Years a Slave and Underground has yet led to a sustained national discussion and interrogation of this discomfort. "