So, I just got through watching Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained for the first time. I may be biased(and whose writing is not these days?), and my initial angst regarding the film might have tainted my ability to appreciate any portion of it, but, I did feel it was lackluster. The story of a slave named Django, played by comic turned singer turned dramatic actor Jamie Foxx, bound by love for his wife and purchased by a wayward and whimsical bounty hunter, while interesting, it just did not live up to the hype. The usual cinematic cosmetics that have made Tarantino respected as an artist as opposed to just a guy that obviously needs psychiatric help were not here. In place of the more interesting cinematography, we have a melange of hip hop and western tunes to help convey the idea that this is antebellum Texas and Mississippi. The overuse of the term “nigga” notwithstanding, and I suppose after sitting through all of Quentin’s prior works, I have become somewhat numbed by his liberties. This time around, he hides his quaint hobby of dropping the n-word behind the film’s supposed era — never mind the fifty odd anachronisms that crop up throughout the script.
I was not captured at all by the character of Broomhilda, played by Scandal star Kerry Washington. I am not sure if it was the sheer incredulity of a German speaking slave or just her almost callow and infantile mannerisms after surviving as an escaped slave and an obviously disobedient one. I expected at least a few inspired bits of Shola from Sankofa, no, I’m lying, I knew Tarantino wouldn’t be as accurate or as intrepid as to present a strong Black woman as a romantic interest. The writhing, wailing, and weak character reminded me of the stereotypical tragic mulatto role, not sure if they were going for that, however. But alas, I really don’t want to focus so much on the film as much as the impact of a film that really did not deserve as much fanfare.
Initially, Spike Lee’s comments of honoring our Ancestors seemed fairly harmless as he mentions in those comments that he is only speaking for him self. Michael Eric Dyson would take Spike to task on the December 27, 2012 episode of Ed Shultz’s show labeling Spike’s comments as dismissive after a lengthy segment of lathering the film in complimentary spittle(which was not quite as frothy as the foaming of his other Black male MSNBC personality– Toure– regarding the movie,but it was quite noticeable). Interesting enough, as impact, Dr. James Peterson, director of Africana studies and associate professor of English at Lehigh University predicts that the movie could possibly become a classic. It would seem that this reaction from Black men would be further extended throughout the national dialogue about this film. At the time of this writing, no Black women in the media have spoken about the film, I expected to hear from our good friend at #NerdLand, Melissa Harris-Perry, but alas…not a damn thing. Even our favorite token negro writer over at The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a subtly congratulatory piece about Django Unchained while disparaging the history of Harriet Tubman. It seems that it is redemptive for Black men to watch Jamie Foxx ride away from a cage of Black slaves to save his wife, but a legend based on actual events of the woman that would have saved those slaves that, according to the plot, helped to save him, is not worthy of the hyperbole that is the entirety of Django Unchained. In fact, the movie was not even original, I could almost see Tarantino on the couch with Robert Freeman and Uncle Ruckus giving his version of the Catcher Freeman story.
So, I do question the overall impact of a movie such as this. It is the Barack moment all over again. A national euphoria for Black men now swimmingly smacking hands around barbershops and blunt ciphers as if they had killed George Zimmerman, Chicago Police Det. Dante Servin, Johannes Mehserle, or any of the hundreds of White men responsible for modern day lynching. I was asked on Twitter why I cared what the White response to the film was because the person asking the question, a Black man, was tired of us having to ask white people what they think. As if Quentin Tarantino’s input into the movie was not the thinking of a white man. At best, Tarantino’s Django Unchained is a slave thematic. It is not a movie about slavery, just one that exploits its horrors in an effort to sell to a Black audience. It is not a redemptive piece as no media format could ever be enough to redeem anyone from the extended effects of the US Black Holocaust– the term “holocaust” is not even enough to package the degree of repulsive human abomination our Ancestors were met with in the founding of this nation. Due to the lack of nobility on the part of the character of Django in dealing with other Blacks in the movie, I can only fathom that Black men felt appeased by Tarantino’s quaint Trojan Horse due to the degree of bloodshed, that– given Tarantino’s repertoire and the US slavery theme– was not even as sensationalistic as it was billed. In fact, the Germans should feel more redeemed by the movie than the US Blacks.
In closing, if Django Unchained — a White Man named Quentin Tarantino production no matter how many Blacks were utilized — is that shining moment of redemption for Black men in the United States of America where Malcolm X was gunned down in front of his own wife and children, then I think CoIntelPro worked a lot better than most assumed it would.