In Defense of “Django Unchained”

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I just walked back into Soul In Stereo Studios after watching Quentin Tarantino’s highly anticipated “Django Unchained,” the story of a former slave searching for his lost love. Yeah, I’m a little late making it to the theater but I have to work for a living. Those Keith Sweat albums aren’t cheap, you know.

Anyway, my friends’ opinions of the movie have been all over the map, from calling it the best film of Tarantino’s career to saying the film spits in the face of black history. Spike Lee, who has somehow become the voice for black filmmaking (sorry, Madea), called the film “disrespectful to (his) ancestors” and vowing not to see it.

Here are two thoughts for Spike:

1) How can you diss a movie you haven’t even seen?

2) You missed out on a great movie, playa.

I think a lot of the confusion over “Django” comes from early reports that cast it as some sort of historical piece. That couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a love story, plain and simple, not something students should write book reports on – and honestly, it was never presented that way in the first place. If you go into the film expecting “Roots” you’ll be highly disappointed.

“Django” is a Tarantino movie so of course it’s over the top. In one particular scene, an overseer’s blood stains the lily-white cotton fields. People get shot and fly into ridiculous backflips like the Power Rangers used to do back in the day. And oh, yeah, have I mentioned the blood? It flows as wild and freely as hot sauce at Rick Rawsessss’s house.

There’s especially been a lot of complaints about the frequent use of the dreaded N word. People, it’s the 1880s. Do you really think slaveowners said, “excuse me, African-American, please work a little faster.” Playa please.

Still, Tarantino does a great job of not cheapening the horrors of slavery. When slaves are beaten and even mangled, it’s not played for laughs. It correctly conveys the horror, fear and helplessness blacks faced. No, Django as he’s portrayed on screen isn’t historically accurate but that horrific part of our history is very real.

Instead of thinking of “Django” as a historical piece, it’s more accurate to look at it as new-age blacksploitation. It’s wild, entertaining and humorous, but look deep and it’s a great narrative about black culture. And judging by a conversation between a teen and her mom sitting behind me, that message is reaching younger generations. It’s just in time too – 2013 marks 50 years since the civil-rights movement. It’s important to foster these conversations with our kids. Just remind them that Django wasn’t some real-life mix of Kunta-Kinte and Shaft.

If you don’t like “Django,” that’s fine. I think Elle Varner sounds like a crow being strangled and y’all are quick to come to her defense. The beauty of art is truly in the eye of the beholder. Criticize “Django” if you must, but don’t dislike it for what you think it should have been. Examine it for what it is.

And if you ask me, it’s a really good movie.

1 Comments

  1. First off I’m mad my comment didn’t post from earlier.

    But my thoughts on the movie:

    I thought it was OK. And i only say OK cause I’m not a Tarantino fan. I don’t like the over the top thing. And I always hate the music in his movies. However, the movie was not bad at all. I was very entertained and I of course didn’t see it as a mockery of slavery.

    Do you remember the part where Leo cut his hand? I’m pretty sure he didn’t do that on purpose and he played it off so well.

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