Finally saw Django Unchained. Honestly, I was beginning to have reservations about seeing it given early returns about “amoral” and “cartoonish” violence. Fortunately, I didn’t listen to those critiques. Other thoughts:
1. Immediately, the movie reminded me of how dope Mario van Peeble’s “Posse” could have been if it had QT’s budget, and a better screenplay.
2. It also reminds me of the immense debt that Quentin Tarantino owes to Mario’s father Melvin van Peebles.
3. This movie is as much a polemic on whiteness, if not more, as it is a black slave revenge fantasy. Anyone who judges this movie purely on its black characters missed a huge point.
4. It’s also a critique on the white liberal/progressive/abolitionist. Dr. Schulz — the white character who frees Jamie Foxx’s Django character — carries the same smugness, condescension, patronizing and patriarchal attitude of many white liberals today. He basically spends the first half of the movie Man’splaining and Caucus’splaining things to Django. Some of it is necessary, given that black people of this era were uneducated by law. But the attitude that comes with it is pure white liberal privilege in all of its glibness and glitz.
5. Jamie Foxx’s Django is one of the coolest characters period in the history of American cinema, though QT did not allow us to witness the full process Django underwent to obtain his coolness and prowess, the way we witnessed Beatrix’ (Uma Thurmann) process in Kill Bill
6. It would have been nice to have a Harriet Tubman in the film, and sooner rather than later all these white people making movies referencing black slavery era are gonna have to build stronger black women characters.
7. Yes, the movie reinforces the false dichotomy of the “house nigger”/ “field nigger” illustration, but QT was not trying to make the same point as Malcolm X when he made that illustration.
8. Anyone who thinks the violence in this movie was cartoonish either is supremely naive about the barbaric reality of slavery and/or has never seen a Spaghetti Western. The latter is forgivable, the former is not.
9. Judging this movie and its messages in terms of historical accuracy is like measuring the messages of the Bible, or the Epic of Gilgamesh based on historical accuracy. In both cases, you would be far off point. Django is more allegory than history.
10. There is nothing “amoral” about Django. He clearly struggles with pulling the trigger and is in fact paralyzed by the prospect in the first half of the movie. In the second half, he’s witnessed and experienced enough atrocity that pulling the trigger is roughly as moral as the shooting and killing of bin Laden. It should be noted that it’s really only white critics who find Django’s killings “immoral” or “amoral.”