Monday, January 21, 2013

“Django Unchained”: Tarantino’s Reaper Side Goes Racist

We can all agree that “Django Unchained” is a Quentin Tarantino production: from painting walls with blood to a bullet that launches “Miss Laura” across the room, and throw in a twenty-minute massacre of blood popping out of bodies like puss from pimples, we’ve got gore galore.  The king Reaper of bloodbath, Tarantino has done it again, wielding his camera at the nation’s most vulnerable moment in history, “Django Unchained” leaves the viewer either wanting more, or less.

Even though violence may be what cinemagoers are looking for, especially fans and followers of Tarantino’s work, to over-exaggerate the barbarity of slavery in a society that is still sensitive to race and racism, is never a good idea.  Django (Jamie Foxx) is a slave set free by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), which parallels the idea of Cinderella waiting to be saved by her Prince Charming, or enslaved African Americans rescued by a white hero. 

The disturbing plot does not stop here, Django mimics Dr. Schultz’ career as a bounty hunter, where Django learns the importance of revenge and the trivial nature of solidarity as he kills white people and insults black people, alike.  You niggas gon' understand something about me! I'm worse than any of these white men here! You get the molasses out your ass, and you keep your goddamn eyeballs off me!” 

Although Django plays a “role” as a black slaver to distract the faux French and aggressive slave owner, Mr. Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), the perverse character of Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), who is Mr. Candie’s slave, makes even the theatre seats sink in shame and screech with discomfort as he ousts Django and Dr. Schultz’ scheme.  

“Inglorious Basterds,” another film by Tarantino, that captures the butchery of WWII in Nazi Germany, works.  The difference between his slavery film and Nazi film is the distance, emotionally and physically, that it has on the home audience.  Our country is far from WWII remnants, but racism, the father of slavery, still lurks in broad daylight, as it does in the film “Django”. 

In “Basterds” as well as his other films, Tarantino balances violence with comic relief and solemnity, but here, the scale is tipped with “Nigger” after “Nigga” after “Nigger” and no comedic effect can remedy the awkward cloud floating over the audience.    

“Django Unchained” not only gashed its jagged teeth into a delicate, aching wound of the nation, but its’ fantastic morbidity or grossly offensive nature took the nation a leap backwards in history, it made Martin Luther King Jr.’s “dream” into a “nightmare”.

1 comment:

  1. You argue your principal points well in this review, Mara. I especially liked how you contextualized the film within modern interracial tensions and the legacy of slavery. In a Tarantino review I read online (, he said that after Schultz died and Django had to return to Candie's plantation by himself to rescue his wife, it was meant to be an empowering moment because Django displayed agency and took control of his own fate. I definitely don't think your review is wrong, but in my personal interpretation of "Django"and "Basterds", the ongoing legacies of terrible ideologies such as Nazism and slavery are used as dramatic fuel for revenge stories. The essence of these two films are revenge stories, not historical representations like Spielberg's "Lincoln." The excesses of World War II and slavery atrocities can justify any of Tarantino's use of gore/offensive language.