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Django

http://whiteseducatingwhites.tumblr.com/post/39365279657/whiteness-unchained-when-a-national-shame-becomes-camp

This article makes Django look like The Help with extra torture scenes. (I haven't seen it, but I'm OK with spoilers in the comments.)

This entry was originally posted at http://firecat.dreamwidth.org/794441.html, where there are comment count unavailable comments. I prefer that you comment on Dreamwidth, but it's also OK to comment here.

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( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
nancylebov
Jan. 5th, 2013 04:41 pm (UTC)
I'd say it isn't a particularly fair review.

Contemporary black Americans don't have the experience of chattel slavery any more than I've experienced the holocaust. "It would have been me" adds an emotional connection, but it's not the same thing.

I regret that the first major movie about slavery in the south was a fantasy rather than a more realistic handling, but it wasn't that bad. Django and Schulz are both using each other for their own agendas-- Schulz helps Django first because Django has information and later because he thinks Django will be a good partner as a bounty hunter.

I'm not sure why Schulz shot Candie-- there's a weird interaction before that where Candie absolutely insists on Schulz shaking his hand and Schulz won't do it. Then Schulz shoots Candie. Candie is a bully, but it seems as though there's something else going on like some sort of trick that would get Schulz killed (Schulz and Django tried to trick Candie into selling Broomhilda). I'm writing that stuff off as a reference to westerns I haven't seen.

Broomhilda? This is annoying-- her name was originally Brunhilde. I'm not sure if it's supposed to be an example of white southerners getting things humorously wrong or what.

I give Tarantino credit for a description of industrial slavery, the kind that killed in a few years. I don't think it's part of most people's vision of slavery.

I would say that Django is absolutely the central character of the movie, even though Schulz and Candie have major parts. He's not as talkative as the white characters, but what he says is focused and intelligent.

Part of the problem with that sort of review is that it's guessing about how black people will take the movie. Steve Barnes (a black sf author) liked it a lot. I saw a review (will track it down if you want) by someone black who talked about black audiences being uncomfortable at laughing at the many funny bits, something I wouldn't have guessed.

I didn't realize that Mandingo fighting was invented. So far as I know, the Klan was started after the Civil War.

I do think there are some problematic aspects to the movie-- it's got relatively little from slave viewpoints. For practical purposes, Django is semi-free through most of the movie. It's bad about women. I'm not sure that the sub-plot about Steve (the house slave who reveals Django's scheme to Candie and is torturously killed by Django) makes sense.

Another problematic aspect is that Django is so extraordinary that he makes (male?) slaves who made practical compromises to stay alive (I don't think he'd have survived the happy ending of the movie for very long, either) just look weak.

Edited at 2013-01-05 05:11 pm (UTC)
firecat
Jan. 5th, 2013 07:00 pm (UTC)
He didn't guess how black people will take the movie, IMO ("I could never imagine the diverse experiences Black folks might have when/if they see this movie"), but I certainly agree it's not an objective review.
sabotabby
Jan. 5th, 2013 05:13 pm (UTC)
Having seen it (and standard disclaimer that I'm white and obviously can't speak for the viewing experience of black people, and also that I completely love everything that Tarantino does), I feel like the reviewer completely missed the point.

I'm not black, but I'm Jewish, and my experience watching Inglorious Basterds was not that Tarantino was disrespectful to history or the millions who died in the Holocaust, but was a) presenting an incredibly satisfying revenge fantasy, b) making a statement about the relationship between film and audience, and c) making the only kind of fictional movie about the Holocaust that I can stand to watch. I don't want to see my people's history represented by Tragedy! And Sad Music! And Serious Acting! That's manipulative. The opening sequence in that movie is worth a bazillion Schindler's Lists (and why does no one ever criticize that movie for being about a white saviour...but I digress).

I had a similar feeling about Django Unchained. You simply can't represent the horrors of slavery in a way that is dignified or respectful, and Tarantino doesn't try. He makes it brutal. I flinched. I covered my eyes in the infamous dog scene, and then hated myself a little for not being able to watch, because this kind of shit happened to real people. A more serious, subtle filmmaker would have cut away there, but Tarantino forces you to watch. And then he gives you the catharsis of watching one of slavery's victims take incredibly satisfying revenge (yes, the white saviour character kills DiCaprio's character, but the black character kills pretty much everyone else, including [Spoiler (click to open)]Tarantino).

I haven't seen The Help because it did sound completely racist, but it's my impression that it's a story about how some white people really helped out during the Civil Rights era. This is much more about playing with cinematic conventions—how do we depict slaves, Klansmen, Uncle Tom characters, etc., in film.

/shameless Tarantino fangirl
firecat
Jan. 5th, 2013 07:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I haven't been able to watch a Tarantino movie all the way through, so I don't understand his intentions, and I'm glad to have the perspective of someone who's a fan.
sabotabby
Jan. 6th, 2013 09:30 pm (UTC)
FYI, one of my friends wrote a review that sums up my opinions better than I can.
firecat
Jan. 6th, 2013 09:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you, that is an excellent article!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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