“Django” Is Solid Entertainment, But Lousy History

“Nominate me for Best Supporting Actor. Or else.”

(This post contains some spoilers.)

I know I said I wasn’t going to, but I had to face the awful truth.  People don’t take you seriously when they ask, “Have You Seen It?” and your answer is “No.”   Your argument–no matter how correct it may be–is invalidated.   “How can you  criticize something you haven’t seen?” is the next thing you hear and saying, “I’m not.   I’m critiquing what I know about the topic, not the topic itself,” is a weak comeback.

The only way for me to repair my shredded credibility is to actually break down and see Django Unchained and then nobody could throw the “You haven’t seen it, so you can’t say anything about it” card in my face any longer.

Which is why I saw Django Unchained this morning. It’s a “B-” as a film and a “D-“for historical accuracy and relevance. One viewing will be quite enough for me.
It was better than Inglorious Basterds but it’s fatally overlong.  By the time Tarantino shows up only to offer a prop for the final bloodbath, I was checking my watch and the film is not nearly as much fun as I thought it would be.

Is it Best Picture of the Year material?  Not by my standards. Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz and Sam Jackson were all good. Maybe award-winning good. Jamie Foxx was stoic, but not spectacular. Kerry Washington cries and cringes real good.

“Django? Now where have I heard that name before….?”

The music was awful. Jim Croce? Really? Music should enhance a scene, not distract and annoy. Tarantino needs to find a composer who can write a frigging’ score. The absence of his longtime editor Sally Menke was felt. Too many scenes go on too long. Tarantino’s appearance was totally unnecessary and served only to provide Django the means for an explosive finish.

Regarding Tarantino’s “nigger” fetish, the N-word gets dropped so often it becomes numbing.   I stopped hearing it after a certain point. I just shut it out.   All the talk about “niggers” doing this and “niggers” doing that failed to resonate.   It became like a car alarm down the street.  Vaguely annoying, but not worth focusing on.

I get it that some folks are digging’ on Django for giving them a freshened up blaxploitation flick. Fine. I’ve seen Shaft, Superfly, Coffy, A Fistful of Dollars, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and heathenish. I know what genres Tarantino is tapping from and he’s a better director than any of the guys that made any of those movies (with the possible exception of Sergio Leone).

Django isn’t the story of slavery.  It’s a live action cartoon and revenge fantasy of how we might wish slavery had been.    Hissable villains and bad ass brothers putting heads to bed.  The reality was a lot more terrifying, far crueler, and a lot less cinematic.

Something I did find interesting. For as much of a bad ass as Django was, he didn’t give a damn about any of his fellow slaves except his wife. He offered others no hope, no leadership and no advice. Why would anyone want to look at him as any sort of half-assed “hero” when he was only out for himself? That’s no hero.

One guy is concerned about slavery. The other just wants blood.

The only person Django cared about liberating was his woman. He couldn’t give two farts for anyone else. Nothing wrong with Looking Out for Number #One, but let’s not make Django any symbol of Black Liberation when all he liberated was his lady and the hell with everybody else.  This is not a man of the people.   He’s motivated by  pure self-interest and nothing more.  Freeing his people from their shackles or leading an uprising, is not on his agenda.   His mentor, Dr. Schultz is far more distressed by the horrors of slavery than Django ever is.     Between Schultz and Django only one of them is affected by the horrors he’s seen and it’s not the Black guy.

As pure entertainment, Django delivers the goods.   As far as kicking White folks asses and killin’ them up because they need it so bad, it doesn’t disappoint.

Just don’t tell me Django is a Nat Turner, a Gabriel Prosser, a Denmark Vesey or even a John Brown.  He’s none of those things.   He’s a brother with a gun and an attitude and that is not something in short supply, but that’s all he is and apparently to the delight of many, that’s enough.

One of these days we’re going to get an honest, unflinching and real look at what the peculiar institution of slavery in the antebellum South was like.   It wasn’t like Tarantino’s wet dreams of Mandingo fights, Black bounty hunters killing Whites with impunity and blowing shit up real good.

It’s not just the “d” in “Django” that is silent.   Tarantino has created a competent bit of popcorn entertainment which is  guilty pleasure fun, but as far as offering any meaningful new insights into The Peculiar Institution of American Slavery it has nothing new to say.

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14 thoughts on ““Django” Is Solid Entertainment, But Lousy History

  1. Overall,glad I did not pay no paper dead slave owner paper money to go see this overall.
    On the subject of being an individual Amos Wilson said in his book ” BluePrint For Black
    Power ” that individualism has run amok among black people.
    I just wonder out all that black people that did go see this movie have a copy of this book by Amos Wilson.
    It would be better than this movie in the long run in comparison to keep rehashing being called the n- word and being on a plantation in the first place

  2. I do wish the N word was used even more in the movie. Why? What’s “numbing” is the number of times DAILY were forced to listen to young and adult negros holla the N word everywhere. Many use N at the end of each sentence as if it’s a period. Now I have a current popular reference to base a solid argument against the use of the N word. In my work with young black males, just maybe they will understand that the N usage — not once in the movie — referenced a direct nor indirect term of endearment. In my book, the N usage is more disturbing than any curse words.

    Also, I didn’t look for Django to be Nat Turner or Tubman! Today, many negros in black institutions: church, frats, etc…( the modern day Nat & Harriet) are guilty of leaving generations of black youth behind.

    Harriet said I could’ve saved more if they only new they were slaves. Today, our institutions must say we can save more people if we first confront being an institution of house niggers. :-0

    1. Actually on a large scale a vast % of black youth in particular have been souled out by the black adults.
      They should go back and check the LP by the Funkadelic ” amerikkka eat’s it’s young ‘
      Then look at the LP cover real careful and notice the aborted baby hanging out the mouth of the statue of Liberty

  3. I love Tarantino, always have and likely always will. My dearly beloved husband wants to see this movie, in the theater I am reluctant to shell out money for it having heard far to many mixed reviews. Would rather wait, buy it to join the rest of the Tarantino library and then, if it offends me be able to walk away.

    I do not ever look for movies to provide realistic versions of history. This is especially true when the history is our own unlovely, brutal and shameful. We are a nation that takes pride in our independence and what we have built without ever recognizing the backs upon which we stood to build it. We are a nation that would rather burn our true history on the pyre of denial than face our truths, seek reconciliation and make real change so our future can be better than the horror of our past.

    Thanks for your review.

  4. Tarantino doesn’t claim any historical accurancy in this or any other of his films. This has about as much connection to the reality of slavery as Inglourious Basterds did to the end of World War Two.

  5. SPOILER ALERT

    I think this a pretty good summary of the movie. I also noticed and was a bit unnerved by Django’s disregard for every other slave that wasn’t Broomhilda. Sure, he saved that one girl from being whipped but I think that was driven more by revenge than concern for the girl that dropped the eggs. Not to mention, the poor soul that was ripped apart by those dogs. Also, the way the women in the movie were portrayed bothers me a bit. Broomhilda didn’t do much except give googly eyes and cry and the rest of the women were props. Those cutesy little maid were borderline creepy to me.

  6. I totally agree that the music in the film was out of place – and just awful. Awful. Not only did Django disregard the other slaves – once he had the girl – why go back in to kill the white people?

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  8. Okey dokey, now I know what you think of this movie. I didn’t read it before because I hadn’t seen the movie yet. Your takeaways are right on and, as usual, more insightful than the ones I had. I enjoyed the movie as a tall tale; I thought it went on too long and was just stupid in its ending, yet it all fit the genre Tarantino aims for. The acting by the main characters was most of the thrill for me.

    1. I agree Meredith. The acting by the leads were good especially DiCaprio and Weitz, but the movie dragged on too long and the editing felt totally tacked on.

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