Django: Unchained is finally here. Django, pronounced jayn-go (where the “D” is silent) has kicked quite the hornet’s nest in it’s timely Christmas, post-Newtown, pre-gun debate release. It’s being seen by the masses and being perceived as mocking all that African American’s ancestors went through as non-willing participants of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. And while it’s a play on its 1966 predecessor Django, it’s taking ALL the heat for being its own brand of offensive.
When the assertion was recently made that it merely mocked slavery I had to ask myself, “Does it merely DEPICT what our ancestors went through or does it go as far as to MOCK what our ancestors went through.”
I actually thought it was pretty accurate from what I’ve read of slavery up to this point. The profuse and frequent use of nigger and nigga, the whippings, the demoralizing depiction of slaves – all hallmarks not of slave films but of slave life. In fact, the only thing obviously missing was an actual hanging which I (ironically) didn’t see. Even I wouldn’t expect the movie to be any less absurd as the real thing.
In fact, and sadly, the only unrealistic thing about the film was the main slave character actually being freed specifically to exact retribution on his former oppressors. That never happened in real life o_O.
For the film’s many critics, one has certainly stood out as the most lambasting – that of cinema legend Spike Lee (who I adore). Spike Lee blasts Tarantino’s resurrection of the franchise saying, “Slavery was not a Spaghetti Western”.
In his summary of the film, that he has conveniently not seen yet) the line “Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western” practically shouted at me. I thought “maybe not Sergio Leone but the original was directed by Sergio Corbucci.” Ironic to say the least but I get his point. To satirize in any way a subject like slavery is far from digestible. However, considering the triumph and war waged against the oppressors in the 2012 film, I would consider the thorn in Spike’s butt collateral damage.
So Spike, is it the violence? Is it the slavery? Is it the n-word? Is it Tarantino’s draw of non African American viewers that has you all bent out of shape? I’m just not sure why my seeing it disrespects our ancestors?
“I’m not gonna see it” – Lee
Although I’m sure he’s read the script I’m a bit confused as to why Spike would utter a word on a film about slavery without actually having EVER released a movie on the topic. Say it witcha chest Spike! Or put it on wax as my hip-hop brethren would say.
[humming] He’s made a movie dealing with the holocaust thooough…
Do humor and slavery mix? They are certainly not good company. No doubt. Although there is comedy in most “film” films so I would assume a modicum of humor in a slavery film. But only in as much as there is comedy in life. Where I concur with criticism of the film is whenever it feels like slavery is not taken seriously… eg: Steven, the blue suit, the obvious blood baths,etc.
Were it not for those over-the-top parts it felt like any other “slave” movie – disgusting, upsetting & outrageous…
As for the repeated use of nigger & nigga… Oh, I see “slaves” were never actually called niggers in real life. That was just THIS movie. Got it. I’m being sarcastic.
On the whole, (not to split hairs) but “slavery” did not appear to be made fun of in this film. Oppressors seem to bare the brunt of most of the satire. ALL those who condoned “slavery” were satirized. It was them that were “victims” of this film in my eyes. I actually left feeling sorry for the foolishness and ignorance of the poor slave owners … and Steven.
You say “slavery” wasn’t made fun of in this film…? Do you remember the part when…
Again most of the humor was reserved for anyone who thought any less than ridiculous the thought of slavery. And pound for pound tit for tat the context wrapped around each facetious scene was the buffoonery and inept nature of a pre-Civil War slave mentality. As a modern-day fly on a 1858 wall, there would be only 1 person in the room that would be looked down on – and it wasn’t the help.
In the same way Inglourious Basterds was an overplayed fantasy look at the desired assassination of Hitler, Django: Unchained took a similar approach to slavery. Quentin Tarantino’s only married the 1966 original antagonist, the KKK, with the KKK’s actual enemy rather than using Mexicans as Sergio did – even though I understand Sergio’s reasoning.
Ponder this: What if everything every slave wanted to happen to slave owners actually happened…? Think Nat Turner… but on a smaller scale… and with a attempt at humor to boot… That’s what this movie was about.
In Inglorious Basterds, also directed by Quentin Tarantino, Shoshanna after having her family slaughtered exacted revenge on an entire theater of Nazi Germans. Her family having been hunted like rats and their bodies pelted with bullets through a floorboard wasn’t funny, was totally outrageous and not at all pleasurable. But it laid the foundation for her revenge. I’m sure advocates took no pleasure in watching the beginning of the film or hearing Goebbels rhetoric but it certainly set the stage for a gruesome retribution. Who paid the price in that film: Nazi Germans.
If there was a victim in Django – it was oppressors.
I consider the slave era a FAR cry from the likes of the holocaust. And while both are evil, they live on separate ends of that spectrum. One born of one man’s disgusting hate for himself and the other born of an entire region’s filth and greed.
“Things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other.”~ Euclid
In this regard, I can see how the film’s critics conflate the nature of the film with that of “lampooning” our nation’s greatest atrocity. This subject is not light nor should it be taken lightly. Again I feel Spike’s pain in that we may never see the holocaust satirized in this way… Well actually we just did… by the same director.
This film and most other “slave” films (none of which you’ve ever seen directed by Spike Lee but that’s a different thread) depict slave owners as heartless, participants in slavery depicted as weak.
But it is the system of slavery that comes out on top in most films. That was not the case here. Everyone complicit in slavery in this film had revenge exacted upon them. This did NOT happen in real life. In real life there was no Django (sans Nat Turner). There was no revenge per se. Slavery just won in real life.
In the same way that I would encourage any of my brothers & sisters to read Hitler’s book or Atlas Shrugged I would encourage reviewing this film – to add to your own narrative. To continue to shape, in your own mind, what our history is and how it’s perceived by others.
Do I applaud slavery? H*ll naw. Does this film defend slavery – no. Is there comedy in this film – yes.
I am cursed with enjoying nearly ALL movies I watch. Maybe it’s my impeccable taste in trailers or maybe its that I don’t actually have taste buds. But I typically end up measuring a film’s dopeness by whether or not I’d see it again.
Django was a highly unconventional love/revenge story set in the pre-Civil War South. Tarantino was definitely Tarantino with a very sensitive subject matter: slavery. Can’t say it went down smooth but it was interesting to see at least 2 freed slaves finally win in the end… Well 3 if you count obviously affected slave as Django rode off for his last hoorah.
No bravos from me just yet… I think I’ll just have to watch it again.