Nate Parker’s future appeared to be whatever he wanted it to be. He’s become a respected actor who was about to break into the next phase of his career as a director and producer of the highly-publicized film “The Birth of A Nation” that shocked audiences at Sundance and was quickly bought up by a major distributor. Then an ugly part of his past became public and raised major doubts about him and his project.
Parker’s come under major scrutiny over the past few days once the public caught wind of a very dark spot in his past. In 1999, Parker and his college roommate, Jean Celestin, who he also co-wrote the movie with, were accused of raping a young woman while in college.
The 18-year-old woman claimed that she was unconscious and didn’t consent to having sexual intercourse with either of them. Parker admit to having sex but claimed it was consensual. She also accused both men of stalking and harassing her after she came forward.
Then student-athlete, Parker was cut from Penn State’s wrestling team and transferred to a school in Oklahoma. In 2001, he was acquitted based on a testimony that he and the woman had consensual sex in the past, but his roommate was found guilty. Celestin later won his appeal in 2005 when the woman chose not to testify.
“Seventeen years ago, I experienced a very painful moment in my life. It resulted in it being litigated. I was cleared of it. That’s that,” Parker told Variety. “Seventeen years later, I’m a filmmaker. I have a family. I have five beautiful daughters. I have a lovely wife. I get it. The reality is” — he took a long silence — “I can’t relive 17 years ago. All I can do is be the best man I can be now.”
The revelation of Parker’s past involvement in the case is already concerning for many who had never heard of it before. But his choice to lean on the “That was a long time ago” defense is also a great concern. From the information given, everything about the case is an example of what makes rape trials so frustrating.
How was Parker found innocent just because he and the woman had sex before while his roommate was found guilty? Having sex with someone once isn’t an automatic pass to do so whenever and however you please moving forward. And the fact that Celestin was only acquitted because the victim chose not to testify is also problematic.
Many fans are debating how they’ll support “The Birth of a Nation,” if at all, given this new revelation. Whispers from Hollywood suggest that Fox Searchlight executives are considering taking Parker off of the press run entirely until the film is released in October to avoid damaging what was initially though to be an Oscar front-runner. Others suggest that he get media training and try and get ahead of the situation soon enough for everything to blow over by October.
Feel free to let us know if this new information affects your perception of Parker or his work in the comments below.
Photo Credit: YouTube