The press machine and social commentary around Django Unchained has been incredible. From Spike Lee slapping down the film as an insult to his ancestors to Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Fox and commentators such as Dick Gregory and Luke Campbell (??!!) firing back in defence of Tarantino. Makes for good reading. People have taken issue with this piece of entertainment, from feminists talking about concepts of patriarchy to others uncomfortable about the racial elements.
Firstly before I go ahead, my reason for not watching the film has nothing to do with Tarantino’s use of the word nigger in his scripts. I have watched Jackie Brown and snippets of Pulp Fiction so I know this already comes with the territory with QT. I don’t necessarily like it, but to refuse to watch a film on this basis would be small-minded. It’s like not watching Goodfellas because they say fuck. We choose how we absorb or respond to words and scripts.
Secondly I am always somewhat thoughtful about the historical and entertainment value of films that depict slavery, Jim Crow and the contexts around oppression. I prefer a more serious approach to these subjects like in Roots, films like Amistad, Mississippi Burning and Glory – as such I am skeptical of film makers who approach this just as entertainment.
QT stated ““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.”
That made me raise an eyebrow especially if he thinks Django would get America or others talking about race more than Roots did. This doesn’t mean that a director cannot take a satirical look at racial issues as I count Blazing Saddles by Mel Brooks as a good film. Not great but good.
To be honest I have a number of friends and people in my social circle who have highly recommended the film. They have cited that the idea of a black vigilante going out and rescuing his missus from sexual oppression, and in the process wiping out quite a few ignorant whites in the south should be applauded. Really? Or that QT really addresses white American ignorance by allowing the positive white characters to be non-American. Seriously? Then there is the moment of the Klu Klux Klan riding over country with low visibility because of poor costume design. OK. Fair enough if others feel this but that does not mean as a whole I am still interested in watching such a film.
Others have told me that I should not judge not watching a film unless I go to see it first. Of course on that reasoning I should have paid money to go and watch Snakes on a Plane or Love Actually. Go figure.
So here is why it does not interest me.
I don’t like Quentin Tarantino’s body of work. I didn’t like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill. I couldn’t finish any of them. Great photography but the scripts did nothing for me. I sat through Jackie Brown, but to be frank, even though I knew it was a homage to blaxpoitation films, found it over hyped. Great cast but the plot did nothing for me. I found QT’s obsession with visceral violence jarring. Given that context I have no interest in watching this his latest instalment. I could care less if QT self proclaims that this piece of entertainment is going to get people discussing slavery. I doubt it would in a country where people still refer to their POTUS as the nigger in charge and have more issue with his skin colour than his leadership skills. For me the main reason is the film maker in question, I just don’t buy into Tarantino.
I didn’t watch the passion of the Christ, another film highly recommended by people I knew, because of it’s so called real view on the violence of the event. I didn’t like the excessive violence in Goodfellas either. In the same vein I am not a fan of most of Tyler Perry’s work either but I do admire him as a businessman. I will not be watching Lincoln either, even though I like Spielberg. Just does not interest me, hype or not. It’s a question of taste and at the end of the day we all have our own opinions. One man’s great is another man’s grate!
I tell you what I am looking forward to though. Promoted with a lot less hype. The performance of Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild .