Being a woman and being of multiracial descent (black and white) turns out to be an experience that gives a double burden, including for Dido (Belle). In England circa 1769, a time when the issue of racial discrimination and slavery was still thick, the reality of multiracial descent was clearly debatable. Dido (Belle) or whose full name is Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay, did not escape the debate. Moreover, when he was raised by William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, his relative who held the position of chief justice in England at that time. The film Belle (2013) adopted Dido’s life story to the small screen. The film was written by a black woman (Misan Sagay), and directed by a black woman (Amma Asante).
Belle Film Review (2013)
The film Belle (2013) was adapted from the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay (1761-1804), focusing on multiracial issues in the midst of a time when black slavery was still rampant in England. This multiracial issue becomes the main core of the story, which is highlighted through the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay or who is familiarly called Dido. Dido is a Mulatta,a racial classification term referring to people of mixed white and black ancestry. He was born to a white father and black mother. Of course, Dido’s identity as a multiracial descendant was a problem at that time. Having several white bloodlines does not necessarily make Dido have the privilege of white people, moreover he himself was born with black skin, inheriting his mother’s genes which may be more dominant. Skin color cannot be hidden.
Belle (2013) begins with a short story about a child Dido who meets his father on a boat. He is no longer with his mother, because her mother has died. He was saved by his father from slavery. His father brought Dido back to his family home in the suburbs (Kenwood House). Dido entrusted to his uncle, William Murray 1 st Earl of Mansfield, and his wife, Elizabeth Murray-who do not have children. His father could not bring Dido to sail and fight. Ships and oceans were too dangerous, unsafe, especially with the reality of black slavery at that time.
In the care of William Murray 1 st Earl of Mansfied and his wife, Dido grew up well. He grew up with his cousin, Lady Elisabeth Murray, a niece who was also raised by William Murray and his wife. Dido’s father died on a voyage, leaving a huge legacy that only went to him. Suddenly, in an instant, Dido became a very rich Mulatta . But as a good note, from the outset, this film seems to be careful about presenting the dilemmatic dimension of Dido’s identity as a Mulatta —as the main core of this film’s story.
Dimensions of the dilemma is told slowly in the film. Like how Dido initially never ate at the table together with his family, nor his family guests (despite being treated very well as part of the family, and eventually being able to eat at the table together too). Then, the dimension of the dilemma becomes more complicated and dilemmatic when it begins to intersect with matters of matchmaking and marriage. As a Mulatta and as a woman, Dido bears a double burden. However, she had other privileges, because in fact she was a very wealthy Mulatta woman —a fact that was able to attract noble white men to propose to her, especially men who did not have the great inheritance privilege of being the not the firstborn of the family.
Dimensions of the dilemma collided with the case of the Zong Ship (1783). The Zong Ship case was being handled by William Murray 1 st Earl of Mansfield, as chief high court judge at the time. This case awakens and raises awareness of Dido’s identity as a Mulatta,which has been hidden deep in his heart. The case of the Zong Ship is indeed tragic, because there was a mass murder of 130 black people who were slaves at that time. Excusing the shortage of drinking water, the 130 blacks were thrown into the sea from the British Slave Ship Zong. However, this case reached the British court, because of complicated insurance issues. In those days, it was considered natural to insure slaves in the same way as insuring cargo. The insurance company refused to pay the claim from the ship owner, so an appeal was filed in court. Dido, who remembers that his mother is also a black woman who was enslaved, feels cut to realize the reality that black human life is considered no different from cargo. That is, it can be removed from the ship,
Dido also investigates and follows the case, with the help and assistance of John Davinier—who also develops a romantic interest with Dido. John Davinier in the film Belle (2013) is told as the son of a white priest who studies law. He became acquainted with Dido, while studying at William Murray 1 st Earl of Mansfield. In the film Belle (2013), it is narrated that Dido and John Davinier played a role in giving consideration to William Murray 1 st Earl of Mansfield for his decision regarding the Zong Ship case. However, this part is a fictional story added to the film—John Davinier didn’t actually study law, even though he was adapted from the original character, Dido’s husband.
Listening to the film Belle (2013) is like a good experience to participate in listening to multiracial issues in the European renaissance century. If the multiracial issue in the current era of globalization and modernization is an issue that is actually raised and campaigned well, the multiracial issue at that time had to deal with the bitter opposite. The film Belle (2013) is also a film that is very smart in packaging and elevating the reality of privilege. How privilege is a concept that is not simple, because it contains so many sides and aspects. Dido, is the proof. When she has no privilege because of her identity as a Mulatta woman ,he also has great privelege because of his father’s inheritance which made him rich. Still, the reality remains bitter: a Mulatta woman at that time had to have material-financial privileges to ensure her social status in a society that was still so discriminatory against race.
Dido is a Mulatta woman . As the only Mulatta in his community, Dido knows very well how much his social status is being questioned just because of his ineligible racial identity. Which humans can choose the color of their skin before birth. However, Dido can be considered lucky. He was brought back by his father, surviving slavery after his mother died. Until growing up, he could live in peace and abundance under the care of his father’s uncle who was a judge and held a high social status, William Murray 1 st Earl of Mansfied. In terms of education and capability, he can’t be doubted. When his father died, Dido also became the sole heir to his father’s wealth—became a womanA rich mulatta . Privelege that ‘more or less’ saves his social status, in the film Belle (2013).
Even though there is actually no complete record of Dido’s life story and the historical accuracy of this film is slightly biased—the figure of Dido in Belle (2013) is still interesting, in an effort to create a picture of a woman who is re-questioning the issue of racial discrimination in relation to identity. and existence itself as a human being. In the film Belle (2013), the character Dido is told to open himself to re-examine his identity as a multiracial descendant, after being exposed to the reality of the outside world that has rarely been touched by the reach of his eyes and heart. Not in a hurry, but sure. Dido is a woman who dares to question her own privilege.
Talking about privilege in this film is indeed strange. Once again, many realities are clashed as deep reflections. One of them, when Dido met another black woman who worked as a maid at Kenwood House. The beautiful scene illustrates how awkward Dido is in front of Mabel, the black female servant: confused about how to act. He is aware that he too has inherited his mother’s black skin which means he is not much different from Mabel’s identity, but nevertheless he remembers that he is part of the family that lives and owns the house. The awkwardness subsided after Mabel offered to help Dido comb his hair, which is naturally kinky hair and needs special handling —like black women in general. The next day, Dido asked William Murray 1 st Earl of Mansfied, about the status of Mabel, the maidservant—whether she was a slave or not. When William Murray replied that Mabel was a free man and under the protection of their family, Dido mumbled, “ oh, like me. ”
The reality of this clash of privileges is more highlighted in Dido’s relationship with his cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray. Lady Elizabeth Murray, or more familiarly called Beth, was raised by William Murray after her mother died and her father (William Murray’s sister) remarried. Unfortunately, his father went bankrupt and he left the rest of his wealth only to his son from his second wife. Beth did not receive a penny from her father’s inheritance, placing her in a difficult position that went awry in the social status of the British aristocratic family at the time. Beth and Dido become a pair of cousins who are like heaven and earth: Beth is white and Dido is black, but Beth has no inheritance while Dido is rich because of his father’s inheritance. Still, both of them had a difficult position in the aristocratic circle: Dido,Mulatta and Beth, because of her status as a woman without property. Again, the implicit emphasis on how easy it would be if they were a rich white woman. Of course, it would be even easier, if they were men, than women.
Yes, since the beginning of the film, the issue of gender equality is also slowly-but-certainly implicit-slowly-become-explicitly collided with the main issue, the overall issue of racism against blacks. The climax is around 38 minutes where Beth says to Dido, trying to wake him up, “ Aren’t you quietly relieved that you shan’t be at the caprice of some silly sir and his fortune?We are but their property. ”
Dido’s character development in the film Belle(2013) is gradual, but solid. Through Dido, two identities are juxtaposed in the unequal reality of social life: being a woman and being black. Implicitly and explicitly, it is emphasized that being ‘second class’ for women as well as for black people is a complicated thing, with social class rules that apply. Implicitly and explicitly, it is juxtaposed that women who marry and then only become the property of their husbands, are no different from black people who are white slaves. Regarding marriage, Dido is also described as canceling his answer to Oliver Ashford’s proposal—when he can clearly see that his future in-laws only see the privilege of his inheritance as a plus,Mulatta.
Finally, historical facts about Dido & Beth’s paintings are important. This painting is what makes Dido’s story come to the fore. At that time, in paintings that became a mainstay because photography technology had not yet been invented, black people were always positioned under white people. Symbolizing the reality of slavery and racial discrimination that still occurs. However, in the painting initiated by William Murray and painted by David Martin (1779), Dido and Beth are not painted that way. Dido is placed on an equal footing with Beth, his white cousin. There are other details in the painting that can be interpreted further. The painting is still in Scone Palace, Scotland, belonging to the family of the Earl of Mansfield to this day. In this film, the painting is repainted showing the two actresses who played Dido &
The figure of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay in the film Belle (2013) represents every woman of multiracial descent, especially those of mixed white and black descent, who still experience discrimination because of race and skin color. Representing also every woman who dares to question her own privilege, every woman who learns that privilege is a complex privilege that should not be an excuse to be overly exalted—but on the contrary, to see a much wider reality and a far more civilized humanity. The figure of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay in the film Belle (2013) represents every woman of multiracial descent who proves that diversity is more beautiful than uniform.