Dominic Alessio, Yaffa Caswell, Charlie Klucker, Yeats McDonald, and Emma Nourry
Richmond, the American International University of London
Please note: this article is a co-production with undergraduate history and film students at Richmond, the American International University of London. It was written in a time of COVID as an experiment in alternate assessment forms when regular classes and seminars were not always an option. It was also a useful way for students to apply the lessons of theory and history to the present.
Please also note that there are spoilers below.
In 2020 Netflix produced Ares (directors Giancarlo Sanchez & Michiel ten Horn), its first Dutch horror series. The eight episodes in the series deal with the story of Rosa (Jade Olieberg), an Amsterdam university student of mixed ethnicity and working-class/lower middle-class background, who is invited to join a wealthy and powerful secret society called Ares. Apart from Rosa the other members of Ares appear entirely European and extremely rich and well-connected.
The secret fraternity Ares can be read as a metaphor for how white Dutch society continues to clandestinely benefit economically, politically, and socially from the country’s history of colonialism and slavery. We also believe that the Netflix production was especially prescient given that 2020 was also the year of the year of Black Lives Matter and that this series followed upon growing calls for the Netherlands to address various postcolonial lacunae in its academic curriculum, namely: its need to address the atrocities committed during the heyday of its imperial rule (Doolan 2016); its late and shameful late abolition of the institution of slavery in 1863; and the fact that the country had “failed to acknowledge the continuing influence of its colonial legacies” (Pattynama 2012: 176). [continue reading at the Imperial & Global Forum]