Sunday, January 13, 2013

Django: “Unchained” and still Biting

I walked into the movie theatre with the highest of expectations: I was looking forward to viewing a movie that would bring light to a social unionism for this New Year.  Yet, instead, Django Unleashed not only gashed its jagged teeth into a delicate, aching wound of the nation, but it also perpetuated the same hegemonic discourse, the same oppressive culture, that activists from the 1860s (even earlier) to today are fighting to change and re-direct. 

Yes, it was probably Tarantino’s agenda to use and repeat negative stereotypes, which he did so magnificently as he portrayed enslaved African Americans as passive, helpless and obedient, even after they just witnessed an uproar, for example, in one of the beginning scenes where Dr. Schultz shoots the slave owners and hands the enslaved African Americans the key to their freedom (literally), all five of them, including Django, appeared dense as they robotically obeyed the counsel of the white doctor.  And again at the end of the film, when Django himself murders the slave tradesmen in front of the sculpted, strong (yet cowardly and dumbfounded?!) dark brown men gawking wide-eyed in the cage of a wagon.  Adding fuel to the fire does nothing to rehabilitate, Quentin.  

After a couple of years in a liberal arts college, where students are taught all of the sides of history, not just the majority’s “reality”, I am left shocked and disturbed, and I demand more from Tarantino and from all modern cinema.  Time and time again humans have proven to be resilient and daring in the face of evil, and regurgitating enslaved African Americans as absent to this force is a profound insult to history, as if white supremacy outweighs Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, William Still, Samuel D. Burris, Abraham Shadd, Sojourner Truth, and David Ruggles – to name only a few. 

Instead of using film as a weapon, a means of revenge, anger and anguish, what if we use it to instigate solidarity, a revival of humankind?  The movie I want to see is individuals coming together and resisting the social norm, collaboratively taking action, as equals, not some white guy or black guy with a game plan.  A hero is not one person, but rather a collection of people.  It is time that media loses its “sensationalism” and morbid nature, and starts taking advantage of its true potential.  After all, you have to admit Dejango “Resilient and Organized” has a better ring than Dejango Unchained, like some savage pit-bull.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mara,
    While you offered some really interesting points about media's sensationalism and appropriation of history, I was left wanting more specifics from the movie. Many of your comments fit into the broader discussion of violence in the media and while Tarantino's signature stylized gore and shock value definitely fit into that category, I wonder if you could have perhaps taken a step back to look at the elements of the film such as its acting, directing, and plot beyond its social implications; I would have also perhaps provided more of a summary for those who haven't seen the film. Very thought-provoking piece!