Django Unchained, race, history, and the absolute blast of senses

Posted: March 4, 2013 by jennroig in Commentary, English, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Let’s make it clear: I love Tarantino. I have virtually seen all his films and I love them madly, absolutely all of them. So this post will be anything but impartial.

djangoI finally saw Django Unchained yesterday. I know, quite late. I was willing to wait for a nice pirate version to watch online but the opportunity came to watch it in the theater. To my relief, there were not many people there, who could bother me with the noice and the smell from pop corn or nachos.

Django satisfied, even overfulfilled, my expectations. The script fits to the classic structure of the hero’s journey, and it’s filled with those digressions that I love and so many people deeply hate, such as the sequence of the KKK, with a Don Johnson trying to lead a gang of useless rednecks with bandana problems. There was blood, sarcasm, spectacle, love, stupidity, flesh, gore and comedy, everything you expect to see when you go for a Tarantino’s.

However, there was something different this time. Tarantino played with fire. Racial discrimination is not exactly ancient history in the USA. Such comfortable use of the N-word was, at least, provocative. With his portrayal of Stephen -Samuel L. Jackson’s character- he is entering a sort of sacred land, where Spike Lee is allowed, but a white filmmaker maybe not so much. Stephen is representing the kind of brainwashed slave archetype that had lost his/her identity to acquire the master’s identity, and acting against his/her own people. A process that I learnt it’s called hegemony.

But no one can object it is historically accurate. If anything, Django Unchained succeeds in communicating a deep hatred against slavery, discrimination, torture, abuse… doing so by showing blatantly the merciless carnage.

Still, there was something my cousin mentioned at the end of the film that made me think. Inglorious Bastards and Django Unchained are stories about outraged minorities. But Taratino killed the Jewish girl of Inglorious Bastards while forgiving Django and Hildy. One could argue that he was punishing her desire for vengeance. But after having rescued Hildi, Django could just go, which he didn’t, instead, he killed everybody. This could be understood as justice, but isn’t vengeance a form of justice? So, why?

I don’t know. The film works the way it is, structurally and dramatically. Could Taratino feel the need to provide a happy ending for Django and Hildi, because they were representatives of the Afro-American community? This society holds a huge, still unpaid, debt towards the Afro Americans. This is not the case for the Jewish community, which found here an actual promised land of tolerance, success, economic growth and intellectual recognition.

Whatever the intentions, only Tarantino could tell.

  1. Jolene Simon says:

    I think so. I am African American and I heard a lot of ambiguity about this movie in the African American community. Some like Spike Lee thought it was a disgrace and some found the positive aspects like Jamie taking revenge and ridind off in the sunset with a Black Woman

    • jennroig says:

      Jolene, thank you so much for your feedback. I find the film provocative, I’ve heard about the mixed reaction among the Afro American community, and I think I understand why. I missed for example some kind of refusal to the point of the skull, that speech made by Leo di Caprio about physiological “servility”… Anyway, I’m Cuban, not an Afro American, so I really appreciate your comment

      • Jolene Simon says:

        Yeah, the part about the skull where di Caprio goes on was unfortuantely a part of pseudo science that existed in the 19th century. It was just another justification for slavery. African slavery was more than race. It was a capitalistic system at it’s core. It is a system that had to end because slave traders were enslaving thei rown relatives. Furthermore, it was becoming white!!!

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