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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Good Lord Bird is a comedy-drama miniseries about the abolitionist John Brown and the events leading up to the 1859 raid on Harper's Ferry that started the American Civil War. It's based on the 2013 novel by James McBride of the same name. This fictionalized version of real events is often very funny without making light of slavery. Brown is depicted as violent, erratic, and unhinged in his fight to end slavery, even though he has the moral high ground. Gun violence and battles between militia are consistently part of the story. There are other incidents of violence throughout, including a man getting beheaded and a man getting hanged. Racism also plays a major part in the series, and pro-slavery characters often use what would now be considered hate speech and commit what would now be considered hate crimes. The "N" word is used frequently, as is "f--k," "s--t," "damn," "hell," etc. Because of the mix of racism and comedy, it's important for younger viewers to understand the historical context in which The Good Lord Bird takes place.
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What's the story?
Based on the 2013 novel of the same name, THE GOOD LORD BIRD is a fictional version of the abolitionist crusade of John Brown and the events leading up to the 1859 raid on Harper's Ferry that preceded the Civil War. Young Henry Shackleford (Joshua Caleb Johnson) loses his father in a violent skirmish between Brown (Ethan Hawke) and the pro-slavery Dutch Henry (David Morse). Mistaken for a young girl, Henry -- now Henrietta -- joins the small abolitionist army led by Brown and his four sons.
Is it any good?
Turning a key player in pre-Civil War America into a comic figure is obviously a dicey proposition. Yet The Good Lord Bird does just that, and without losing any of the gravity of the event's historical context. Ethan Hawke's John Brown is a loose cannon prone to violent outbursts and mangled bible verses, but The Good Lord Bird uses him as an entry point to understanding the Northern-Southern conflict. This darkly comic take of the seminal raid on Harpers Ferry gives viewers a modern, enlightened pesrpective and shows how the fight for change can be messy and righteous at the same time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about John Brown. What did you know about the abolitionist John Brown before watching the show? How does The Good Lord Bird's Brown compare to the real life Brown?
What is Brown fighting for? How does he go about trying to reach his goal? Do you think his methods are justified by his cause?
Why would someone make a comedy about slavery? What does the audience experience when watching The Good Lord Bird that would be different from a typical Civil War-era drama? Does the show's tone make you view history from a different perspective? How so?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love civil war dramas
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