Ugly Realities vs. Ridiculous Fantasies

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An ugly reality will lose out…

Not that it matters, but 12 Years A Slave was awarded Best Movie of the Year at Sunday’s Golden Globes awards.   That’s nice if  you care about that sort of thing.   It was even nicer Armond White didn’t show up to drop any F-bombs and pull off his pee-pee and take a whiz in public.   Probably too busy licking his wounds over being expelled from the NY Film Critics Circle and that matters even less.

In the 18th century, William Wilberforce said of slavery, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”

In 19 words Wilberforce hits on what makes 12 Years A Slave must viewing for any conscious human being who wants a realistic, unflinchingly honest and terrifying brutal two-hour trip through the American Holocaust.    You may have to watch it peeking through the fingers of your hand in front of you face, but you can never say again that you did not know.

The story of Solomon Northrup is based on fact. Django is nothing more than an Italian spaghetti western relocated to America so Quentin Tarantino can film his fetishes and fantasies about slave-fights, Black bounty hunters roaming the South killing Whites with impunity and his desire to say “nigger” as many times as he damn well pleases.

12 Years A Slave is a movie. Django Unchained is a cartoon.

...vs fantasy.

…to a ridiculous fantasy.

12 Years A Slave was the best movie of 2013. Period. End of sentence. I do not need the official stamp of awards and I don’t need the consensus of the crowd who line up like lemmings for a Tarantino masturbatory fantasy but go mental when a Black director and a Black screenwriter tell the true story of a Black man taken and held against his will by a vicious slave owner.

If others prefer cartoons like Django Unchained, fine. I ain’t mad atcha and where you spend your movie-going money doesn’t phase me in the slightest.  It’s fine by me if anyone really believes a Black bounty-hunter could wander around the antebellum South shooting and killing as many White men he wants with impunity and without punishment.   It didn’t happen and it’s a joke, but Tarantino is quite the joker.   He made his best film with Pulp Fiction  20 years ago and has floundered since trying to follow-up with a second act he doesn’t seem to have.   Say what you will about Jackie Brown, Kill Bill 1 and 2, Inglorious Basterds, and Django Unchained (we’ll forget Death Proof because even Q.T. wants to), but you can’t say Tarantino is challenging himself as a filmmaker or the public as an audience anymore.

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Steve McQueen, Lupita Nyong’o and Chiwetel Ejiofor may have Oscar gold in their future.

But don’t get all up in my grill telling me I don’t know my history and that I’ve been brainwashed by Whites and I’m some sort of self-hating dupe because I prefer movies that challenge me and force me to think and not simply sit there like a spastic drooling in my popcorn at the stylized and vulgar bullshit of a race pimp like Tarantino. Comparing Django to 12 Years is like comparing a Bugs Bunny cartoon to The Godfather.  It’s not a serious comparison and we can’t’ have a serious conversation about it.   Seriously.

Given a choice between a harsh reality and an amusing fantasy on slavery, I’m not at all surprised most opt for the fantasy. Just a bit disgusted.  There may be an intelligent, reasonable and rational argument to be made that Django Unchained is a superior and more honest depiction of slavery than 12 Years A Slave.   I just haven’t found an intelligent, reasonable and rational person make it yet.

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Quentin Tarantino: Slave Profiteer

An exercise in good clean fun or repellent bad taste?

Yeah, I thought I was over and done with Django Unchained, but apparently Django Unchained isn’t done with me yet.

Tell me Quentin Tarantino has the right to make any movie he wants to make and I’ll agree with you (though if he decides to remake Birth of A Nation I’m gonna have a problem with it).

Tell me you agree with Q.T. when he says, “When you look at Roots, nothing about it rings true in the storytelling, and none of the performances ring true for me either. I didn’t see it when it first came on, but when I did I couldn’t get over how oversimplified they made everything about that time. It didn’t move me because it claimed to be something it wasn’t.”  I won’t agree with you, but I’ll concede you and Q.T. have a right to your opinion (though how the storytelling in Django Unchained “rings true” escapes me).

You can even tell me Django is a masterpiece, isn’t supposed to be historically accurate because really, nothing else is either and we should be happy to see so many  Black folks getting work and getting paid to get their asses whipped and fed to dogs.

I’ll even agree with some of that.

“Okay, so maybe slave action figures wasn’t my best idea…”

What I WON’T agree with is I was wrong about my original contention that Quentin Tarantino is a race hustler who thinks he has a ghetto pass to say and do whatever he wants in his depictions of Black people because he’s a hip White guy.   Art is supposed to be provocative, but this is simply exploitative.   Selling slaves as action figures is some SICK-ASS SHIT and you do it only for one reason.  The same reason slavery was put in place:  PROFIT.

Consider the possibilities.  Little kids can play Calvin J. Candie and make Django and Stephen “Mandingo fight” or act like they’re selling Broomhilda or strip her naked and throw her in  just call them “nigger” all day long.   Sic the dogs on that lazy slave’s ass or whip ’em into line.   The possibilities are endless!

This is not bad taste.  It’s not even poor taste. It’s exploitative junk. You’ve heard of war profiteers? This is slave profiteering.  Quentin Tarantino might not sell Black human beings into bondage, but for $54.99,  he’ll sell you a toy of one.    Everybody plays the fool sometime but only a complete fool support a race mercenary who pimps the oppression of an entire race for a buck.

Malcolm X  wasn’t a film critic but he was highly skeptical of the benevolence of well-meaning White folks when he said,  “I’ve never seen a sincere white man, not when it comes to helping black people. Usually things like this are done by white people to benefit themselves. The white man’s primary interest is not to elevate the thinking of black people, or to waken black people, or white people either. The white man is interested in the black man only to the extent that the black man is of use to him. The white man’s interest is to make money, to exploit.”

Malcolm  was wrong in lumping all Whites as being motivated by selfish self-interest and he wasn’t thinking specifically of a cheap race hustler like  Tarantino when he made those remarks.

But he could have been.

Too late for Xmas, but right on time for birthday gift-giving.

“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.

Revisionist history rides again: Slavery wasn’t so bad.

Look at the bright side. At least there was no unemployment during slavery.

I could be blogging about the oil spill in the Gulf or the Texas Board of Education’s crazy revisionism of their history books or the president mobilizing the National Guard to protect the border between Arizona and Mexico.   Or I could be blogging about how within two days, Jack on Lost, Jack Bauer on 24 and Jack McCoy on Law and Order all went off the air and how I don’t care about any of them.

But what I’m blogging about is slavery.   Henry Louis Gates Jr., my erstwhile boss at The Root penned an essay for The New York Times explaining why the election of Barack Obama effectively voids the calls for reparations for slavery.

In David Remnick’s new book “The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama,” one of the president’s former students at the University of Chicago comments on Mr. Obama’s mixed feelings about the reparations movement: “He told us what he thought about reparations. He agreed entirely with the theory of reparations. But in practice he didn’t think it was really workable.”

About the practicalities, Professor Obama may have been more right than he knew. Fortunately, in President Obama, the child of an African and an American, we finally have a leader who is uniquely positioned to bridge the great reparations divide. He is uniquely placed to publicly attribute responsibility and culpability where they truly belong, to white people and black people, on both sides of the Atlantic, complicit alike in one of the greatest evils in the history of civilization. And reaching that understanding is a vital precursor to any just and lasting agreement on the divisive issue of slavery reparations.

Thomas Sowell: 79 years of being a damn fool.

I’ve  never been a proponent for reparations.   Not that I can’t understand the rationalization for it;  this country made enormous profits from centuries of unpaid, uncompensated free labor by Black slaves.  Maybe someone should be on the hook for paying for that.

But who?  Every White slave owner and Black slave is long dead.  Do 31 million African-Americans deserve a check from Uncle Sam based on the suffering of their descendants?

For that reason and more, reparations is unworkable as a theory or program.   There is no sentiment in Congress to enact legislation authorizing the payment of reparations, most Democrats would line up with Republicans in opposition to such an idea and I seriously doubt President Obama really wants to be tagged as looking out for Blacks only by paying them off over their hurt feelings over what happened to their dead ancestors.

I’ve been engaged in a running discussion about reparations since and it doesn’t take long before things spin into a discussion about what fueled the call for reparations: the peculiar institution called slavery.   Guess what?  There are some people who don’t think it Black folks had it all that bad when they were slaves.

In the politics and current events forum of the writer’s board I follow, a discussion about Gates’ remarks prompted this remark from one Las Vegas resident:

What I am going to say next will draw great rage but I think it needs to be said – in many ways, SOME who were brought here against their will ended up a thousand times better than they were in their homeland. They no longer had to fear other tribes who raped their women, stole their goods and even killed them. They did not have to fear diseases that wiped out entire villages. They learned usable skills and many learned to read, write and generally improve their lot in life. And, if it weren’t for slaves, many things we currently take for granted would not exist. Where do you think frying came from? [not trying to be snide but to inject a bit of humor into an otherwise dark discussion]

Ha-ha.  Not funny.  Neither was my response.

Right. All they had to worry about was their women being raped by their nice White slave masters instead of those Black tribesmen. How fortunate for them.

Worry about having their goods stolen? Nothing to worry about if you’re stripped naked, chained and brought across the ocean without so much as one piece of carry-on luggage. Nothing to steal! Sweet!

Don’t have to worry about those nasty little bugs and weird diseases native to Africa because as a slave now you’re in an entire new land and exposed to nasty little bugs and weird diseases native to America that a slave would have no immunity and resistance to. Hack-hack-hack. Cough-cough. Anybody got some Robitussin?

Slaves were forbidden to learn how to read or write. It was against the law to teach them and slaves could be killed for doing so.

Useful skills? Oh yeah. Pickin’ cotton. That’s a real useful skill.


The moron who suggested slavery was the best thing that happened to Black folks until KFC created the Double Down sandwich was offended by my response,  My comments were historical – I don’t think anybody can deny what I said about slavery and its history.

You know I couldn’t let that go by.

Your comments were not historical. They were nonsensical. A hopeless drunk babbling at the end of a bar about little green men and flying saucers would make more sense.

Nobody can deny what you said about slavery and history because that would require taking it seriously. Only the most dishonest and twisted reading of what slavery was and what it did to Black people could come up with the perverse suggestion that it was somehow “good” for them.

That sort of degenerate and twisted fantasy is something David Duke might conjure up just before bedtime along with a bottle of lotion and a box of Kleenex.

Am I surprised that in 2010 there would still be some fool who thinks slavery wasn’t all bad?   Nope.  Thomas Sowell,  the favorite House Negro of conservatives recently wrote,

Just as Europeans enslaved Africans, North Africans enslaved Europeans– more Europeans than there were Africans enslaved in the United States and in the 13 colonies from which it was formed.

The treatment of white galley slaves was even worse than the treatment of black slaves picking cotton. But there are no movies or television dramas about it comparable to “Roots,” and our schools and colleges don’t pound it into the heads of students.

Got that folks?  If you think Black slaves pickin’ cotton caught hell it could have been worse.  They could have been a White guy bustin’ his hump as a galley slave.

Uncle Tom Sowell has been a ridiculous sell-out long before he started wailing about how badly White galley slaves had it.  This  is after all, the same worthless sack of shit who defended The Bell Curve which called into question the intelligence of Blacks and Sowell has previously spoken admiringly of how slavery was better for the Black family.

For 79 years now Sowell has occupied a high position on the list of damn fools who need an ass whupping, but he’s bucking for the top spot.

Reparations may be politically a non-starter, but it’s far less offensive than Whites who claim slavery wasn’t all that bad and the self-hating sellouts like Sowell who are always ready to soothe their guilty consciences.