Friday, January 04, 2013
Kudos for Django, Tarentino
A Belated Happy New Year to all Real Deal readers! We wish for each of you a healthy and prosperous 2013. We had an enjoyable holiday that included a few days in Washington DC to visit family and friends, time spent catching up on some long-intended reading, and working on plans to improve and expand our work under this banner.
We start our new year with a large shout out to film director Quentin Tarantino for his immensely important and entertaining Django Unchained. If you haven’t seen it yet, put it on your list of must-do items.
You have probably already received varying opinions on this film. Negative comments focus on claims of excessive use of the “N” word, the inappropriate juxtaposition of humor in treating the dead serious subject of slavery, Tarantino’s trademark gratuitous over-the-top violence, the super-Tom role played by Samuel L. Jackson, and even the lament that the story should have been told by an African American.
To all of that I say “Balderdash”.
Django is a path-breaking, highly entertaining film of great cultural significance. Mild spoiler alert: the black guy takes on racist evil and emerges victorious in a noble cause pretty much single-handedly. This is pretty much a Hollywood first, and likely a whole lot more significant than, say, the first cinematic interracial kiss.
The blood and gore, while brutal, are appropriate to the context of the story. Slavery was a brutal institution: black life was cheap, slaves were property pretty much akin to scrap that, at an owner’s whim, could be maimed or killed for pretty much any or no reason, including for entertainment.
I absolutely loved Samuel L. Jackson’s incredible work as Stephen, the contemptible HNIC*. It is entirely possible to admire the man’s craft while despising the character he portrays.
But here’s the real deal: Django is a movie that keeps on giving long after you’ve seen it. [My wife and I went to the late show on Christmas night.] I rejoice that so many people are discussing it with such intensity.
Almost four years ago, in February 2009, US Attorney General Eric Holder correctly called out Americans as a “nation of cowards” on the issue of race. He said Americans urgently needed to start confronting the issue of race relations before the country became even further polarized.
Django’s power makes it an excellent vehicle for entering that dialogue. Most of us know by now that black people are no more monolithic than any other ethnic group. I say it’s a good thing that spirited debate has erupted over the movie. It’s called the marketplace of ideas or something.
The only way black people are going to shed some of our retrograde notions is by airing them out and having them defeated by healthier ones.
Unlike most Hollywood movies that feature an abundance of powerful black actors portraying strong black people, this movie is likely to attract more white viewers than black ones. Now that latter group is certainly one that could use some healthy discussion of race, especially if it is at least partially framed around a historic reference to the nation’s bestiality.
* If you don’t know the meaning of the term, ask an African American colleague or friend [the older the better], or email me.