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What Hollywood Doesn't Want You to Know about The Woman King

Author: Eden Estabrook

When the trailer for The Women King hit social media feeds every, it took no more than reading the title to know that this movie was going to be a shrine to progressive ideology. However, in this business, I couldn’t help but watch it. Not because I thought it would be good, but because I wanted to see how bad it would be.

As an avid literature buff, it’s ingrained in my DNA to compare movie remakes to their literature counterparts, and I can’t help but criticize the differences. After all, one of them came first and should be considered the North Star. With that background, it’s no surprise that the one part of the trailer that piqued my interest was the quick frame that read “Inspired by True Events.”

What are these true events? And, more importantly, how close to reality are they going to get?

The result of that research made me chuckle even more. Hollywood probably doesn’t want you to know the true roots of this story, because in doing so they go against many things that their ideologies stand for.

Let’s dive into it.

Setting the Scene

According to movie authority, IMDB, The Woman King is “a historical epic inspired by the true events that happened in The Kingdom of Dahomey, one of the most powerful states of Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries.” Great. Using this information, we know that our real events revolve around the Dahomey tribe in Africa. Let’s start there with a few interesting facts about the Dahomey tribe:

  • Contrary to 19th century gossip that portrayed the female soldiers as sexually voracious, Dahomey’s female soldiers were formally married to the king—and since he never actually had relations with any of them, marriage rendered them celibate. (Smithsonian)

  • The rise of the kingdom of Dahomey coincided with the growth of the slave trade in the area, and consequently has often served as a case study of the impact of the slave trade upon African societies. (Cambridge University Press)

  • The kingdom was a form of absolute monarchy unique in Africa. The king, surrounded by a magnificent retinue, was the unchallenged pinnacle of a rigidly stratified society of royalty, commoners, and slaves. (Brittanica)

It’s also worth noting, I tried to find historical pieces that were NOT published around the same time as the trailer of The Woman King, to find unbiased historical reports of the tribe itself. I aim to present facts, not opinion.

The Facts

From the top - bullet point one establishes the tribe as a monarchy with a KING. A male king who would historically marry these Amazons which doomed them to a sex-less life. Now, I haven’t seen the movie. So, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on this one and I’ll assume they didn’t portray Viola Davis’ character as an actual king. Maybe they took a little creative license with the movie title. As a career writer, I can respect that. I still think it’s misleading, but maybe she’s not a king in the movie.

Bullet points number two and three are where this gets juicy. According to Black History Month, the Dahomey tribe spans 300 years from around 1600 until 1904. considers a significant starting point to slavery in America to be 1619, spanning through the 17th and the 18th century before being abolished on January 1, 1863.

As historian Robin Law notes (via the Smithsonian), “Dahomey emerged as a key player in the trafficking of West Africans between the 1680s and early 1700s, selling its captives to European traders whose presence and demand fueled the industry—and, in turn, the monumental scale of Dahomey’s warfare.” (Smithsonian)

The above sounds drastically contrary to the below plot synopsis from IGN about the film:

“Nawi eventually joins the ranks of the Agojie as they prepare to battle a myriad of outside threats including the oppressive Oyo, who demand increased tribute prices in exchange for protection from transatlantic slave traders frequenting their local ports.”

Interesting that the Oyo were seeking protection from transatlantic slave traders. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation reports that like the Dahomey, the Oyo tribe also “grew during the eighteenth century, as it became more involved in slave trading. Oyo also maintained its traditional position as brokers and traders between Yorubas to the south and Hausas to the north. Enslaved laborers provided food for the empire from their work on Oyo royal farms. Surplus labor, when available, was sold to the Atlantic coast.”


I just through a lot of resource links and quotes at you. They all boil down to this – the heroic women portrayed in the film played a MAJOR role in the Atlantic slave trade, but Hollywood isn’t telling you that. The Woman King is being painted as a masterpiece of Black female representation. And, in essence, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that. But not accurately representing the history is questionable.

The tribes in question were undoubtedly pro-slavery and played a massive role in not only selling their own people but using it to grow their individual empires. Today, highlighting anyone who once stood for those values would call for the complete removal of their name. We’ve seen it in statues removed, schools and street names renamed, etc.

Yet here, it’s perfectly fine. Perhaps because they hid that part of history from the movie?

This is just my opinion, but if they’re looking to highlight a strong Black heroine, perhaps someone like Rosa Parks or someone from the King’s legacy would be a better candidate? History should be shared. But it should include the good, the bad, and the ugly. That’s how we learn, after all. Don’t hide the bad parts just to push a message.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of Resident Skeptics.

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