March 26, 2023

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

The Good Lord Bird “Mister Fred”

OK, if you somehow thought this mini-series was going to be nothing but respectful to Frederick Douglass and not treat him like, oh, every other notable historic character in this story, you may have been a little naïve.

That said, casting Daveed Diggs as Douglass was a stroke of genius.

See, ol’ John Brown has ideas.  He knows there’s a bounty on his head.  JEB Stuart told him as much, that the governor of Kansas put up a few thousand dollars and President Buchanan tossed in another $250.


Brown then puts a bounty on Buchanan of all the money he has ($2.50), and it’s a good thing this is way too early to do stuff like that or Brown would be getting a call from the Secret Service, have his name put on a list, the whole shebang.  But instead, he can just howl things out like a madman and let Stuart ride off alone rather than go with the seemingly nice young cavalry officer who has a bad premonition of what will happen should Brown and Stuart cross paths again.

Historic foreshadowing much?

It doesn’t much matter.  Brown knows his army needs soldiers and opts to go see the man he calls the King of the…you know what?  I can’t write that last word.  Regardless, Onion gets to go along and meet Frederick Douglass.

Douglass, fresh off giving his famous Fourth of July speech, sure is a magnetic speaker, and ol’ John Brown is welcome to stay at Douglass’s large house so long as Brown stops pulling pistols whenever the fireworks go off.  Now, the historic Frederick Douglass did have two wives.  The first one was black, and the second one was white.  He did not have them at the same time.  He married the white woman after the death of his first wife.

On this show, he’s married to both of them at the same time, they both seem aware of it with varying degrees of minding the situation, and that still doesn’t stop Douglass from plying Onion, a recovering alcoholic by now, with more booze for what was probably nefarious purposes.

Or, you know, Onion can stay with that crazy ol’ John Brown, passed out on the couch in a sitting room.

Now, Douglass and Brown do both believe in abolition, but the key thing here is, well, how do they want go about it?  Brown wants an army of African Americans to fight back with.  Douglass isn’t inclined to go that route.  He’s more a politician than a soldier, and it does appear that there will not be any agreement made between those two as a result.  Still, we see this through Onion’s eyes.  Onion, seeing a big city for the first time (Rochester, New York) may not see as much as the audience does in some respects, but he sees a hell of a lot more than Brown, Douglass, or any of the others, and that seems to be a lot of people with a lot to say fighting for a noble cause and making only questionable progress, if any.

That feels like a metaphor of some kind, now that I think about it.

But as much as I found this Douglass a fascinating character in his own right, this is still Onion telling the story of ol’ John Brown.  And there ain’t much that will distract away from ol’ John Brown.

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