The Woman King surprised industry analysts when it topped the weekend box office after hauling in $19 million. However, some moviegoers and historians look askance at the film because it doesn’t explore the Dahomey Kingdom – where the film was based – and its role in the slave trade.
Davis and her husband took the advice of director Gina Prince-Bythewood – who is best known for directing the all-time classic Love & Basketball – regarding the futility of getting into verbal clashes with social media users.
“First of all, I agree with Gina Prince-Bythewood’s saying ‘you’re not going to win an argument on Twitter,'” Davis told Variety magazine. “We entered the story where the kingdom was in flux, at a crossroads. They were looking to find some way to keep their civilization and kingdom alive. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that they were decimated. Most of the story is fictionalized. It has to be.”
Tennon, a renowned Hollywood producer, backed up his wife and said the filmmakers took creative liberties in order to attract folks to the theaters.
“We are now what we call ‘edu-tainment.’ It’s history but we have to take license. We have to entertain people. If we just told a history lesson, which we very well could have, that would be a documentary. Unfortunately, people wouldn’t be in the theaters doing the same thing we saw this weekend. We didn’t want to shy away from the truth. The history is massive and there are truths on that that are there. If people want to learn more, they can investigate more.”
Davis, Tennon and Prince-Bythewood said their goal of bringing awareness of this little known kingdom to new generations has been accomplished.
“Part of the story that hit me as an artist was these women were unwanted,” Davis continued. “They were recruited between the ages of eight and 14. They were the women who were not considered desirable. No one wanted to marry them. They were unruly. They were recruited by the King to fight for the kingdom of Dahomey. They were not allowed to marry or have children. The ones who refused the call were beheaded. That’s also a part of the story. People really are being emotionally shifted. I saw a TikTok video today of women in a bathroom of an AMC theater, and I don’t think they knew each other. They were all chanting and ruminating. That cannot be quantified by words.”