Joey McFarland, the producer of Emancipation, is apologizing for an unsavory decision he made at the film’s premiere last week.
Back on Nov. 30, the highly-anticipated film was screened at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles, and Joey unveiled the original 19th-century photo that inspired the project: “Whipped Peter.”
The photo depicts the scarred back of a man named Peter, who escaped enslavement back in 1863. It notably “helped turn white Northerners against slavery,” according to History, and Emancipation chronicles Peter’s story.
Joey McFarland: “I’ve Been Collecting For A Very Long Time”
During a chat on the red carpet, Joey was asked how he “came to own the photo,” which he had on him.
“I have the photo. This is the original photograph from 1863, and I wanted it to be here tonight. I wanted a piece of Peter to be here tonight.”
He went on to share that he took on the personal project to “build a collection for future generations.”
“It’s [sad] to say so many artifacts and photographs have not been preserved or curated or respected. And I took it upon myself to curate and build a collection for future generations. I’ve been collecting for a very long time, my collection will be donated at the end of my life for educational purposes, and it’s something I just want to give back.”
#Emancipation producer Joey McFarland brought the original "scourged back" photo from 1863 to the film's premiere: "I wanted a piece of Peter to be here tonight." https://t.co/PUJ13jCFiD pic.twitter.com/kDJCndFJnM
— Variety (@Variety) December 1, 2022
Twitter Has All The Smoke For Joey
Once the aforementioned clip began to circulate, social media users were rather stunned by the whole situation.
Many expressed how odd it was for Joey to “own” a “collection” of this sort.
Why do you own the photograph? Why did you bring it to a movie premiere if the intent is to preserve it respectfully? You wanted “a piece of Peter” here? You collect slave memorabilia that will be donated upon your death? What do you do with it in the meantime? So many questions.
— Franklin Leonard (@franklinleonard) December 1, 2022
Seems quite tone deaf. The photograph of a man who suffered at the hands of white slavers shouldn’t be used by a white man as a red carpet prop. It’s uncomfortable in all the wrong ways.
“My collection” 😐
— Mara (@MGale90) December 2, 2022
This is why I have reservations about white producers of films of this nature because why? pic.twitter.com/A1tqpZPfGm
— Κyle is COZY (@kylexjordan) December 1, 2022
Why in theeeee helllll would he have that!!!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/0PRUE2S15X
— ℂ𝕖𝕝𝕖𝕤𝕥𝕖 (@Evie224) December 2, 2022
Some users even equated Joey’s vibe to that of Dean Armitage in Get Out.
— Jdayah (@oankalispy) December 1, 2022
The situation was also compared to the “Black Museum” episode of Black Mirror.
Reminds me of the Black mirror episode with Letitia Wright where white people could buy mementos of the last moments of Black people being executed and keep it as key rings. Black pain as cute entertainment. https://t.co/iUhAx7FE5W
— Lovette🌈 (@lovettejallow) December 3, 2022
Overall, the general consensus was that Joey should have kept his “collection” to himself.
And he took it to the premiere to show off!!!
— Carolyn -😏- Hinds 🇧🇧 (@CarrieCnh12) December 1, 2022
He couldn’t WAIT to pull it out his pocket at the red carpet. This is gross and performative and no matter how well this movie does or doesn’t do, him proudly displaying his ownership of a photo of an enslaved man unrelated to him will always be disgusting.
— David (@Dreams_on_Paper) December 2, 2022
I'm so sick of them acting like possessing the artifacts of Black people is something honorable or even respectful. Pure evil! 😡😡😡
— SweetBtchesBrewFilm (@SBBFilm) December 2, 2022
McFarland Apologizes Over “Whipped Peter” Controversy
After catching so much backlash, Joey issued an apology through Instagram on Sunday.
He started off by expressing his regrets and explaining his true intentions. Joey also shared that he hopes the controversy doesn’t “distract from the film’s message.”
“I wholeheartedly apologize to everyone I have offended by bringing a photograph of Peter tp the Emancipation premiere. My intent was to honor this remarkable man and to remind the general public that his image not only brought about change in 1863 but still resonates and promotes change today…I hope my actions don’t distract from the film’s message, Peter’s story and just how much impact he had on the world.”
McFarland went on to say the photo “belong[s] to the world,” and he always planned to “find the right permanent home” for his collection.
“These photographs, which existed before me, will be around long after I am gone; they belong to the world. My goal has always been to find the right permanent home and make sure they are accessible, to honor their significance. And most importantly, that the individuals depicted in the photographs are remembered and their stories are told with the greatest dignity and respect.”
We should add that Joey was sure to disable comments on the post.
What do you think about the situation involving the “Whipped Peter” photo, and are you planning on watching Emancipation?