Over the past year, Django Unchained — Quentin Tarantino’s Pre-Civil War era Western film, has sparked controversy from every side imaginable.
As the film is now being lauded for exceeding ticket sale estimates, premiering at #2, and breaking a record for R-Rated Christmas Day debuts, one heated, on-going conversation attributes the film’s success to the director being White:
“If a black man had made Django, white folks would be rioting in the streets. I guarantee it. (That’s only if a black man could get a movie like that in a theater in the first place…)”
After seeing the film, I think one of Django‘s strongest themes is being overlooked: the incessant, unapologetic mocking of Whites in the Southern U.S and their sickening mentality (then and now).
“No matter what you do in telling a slave story, you can’t get worse than what they did,” said Tarantino in a recent TVOne Special.
Any White Southerner who is still clinging to their confederate flag, attending Civil War re-enactments (that never include the stories of the Blacks who fought for their freedom), and who stocked up on guns the day after the election to prepare for the impending “race war” is probably going to be rubbed the wrong way by Django.
Granted, many of these people may not even realize they are indeed the butt of the joke. But more likely than not, this film will tick off White Americans who feel any bit of shame for their country’s horrific past. Affirming this,
one person (who just deleted their Tumblr blog) replied:
“i’m a proud white southerner with a distaste for my past, and i WILL NOT HAVE IT HELD AGAINST ME NOW. those people were hardly even my ancestors. black sentiments about this exclusionary racism are simply whining. THERE ARE MORE DIRECT WAYS YOU CAN ADDRESS BLATANT RACISM IN THE US!!!!!!!!!”
As far as “only a White guy could get away with this,” that is undeniable. The “White establishment” may be losing ground elsewhere, but its hold in Hollywood has yet to be broken.
White male Hollywood directors far outnumber Blacks or women, and even when they are criticized, there is little media hype.
However, for a moment, entertain a few other factors in the success-story of Django. Tarantino has a style that has earned him accolades from around the world, with its own mass, even cult-like appeal.
His screenplays, fondly called “Tarantino scripts,” are well-known in the industry and by fans for their epic monologues and long, leisurely-paced scenes.
This, in addition to popular, high-grossing, talented actors (Jaime Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington, Christophe Waltz) cannot be excluded in assessing the success of Django.
George Lucas for instance, as much as he may plead and try to guilt viewers into seeing a “Black” film — e.g. Red Tails, he would not get the same reception. Even with the advantage of his whiteness, people didn’t want to see the unnecessary remake… a shitty one, at that.
Though Lucas would probably never make this genre of a film in the first place – a bloody “spaghetti Western” set in the deep south that mocks those who perpetuated slavery… and blows them up.
It’s just not his style, nor is it the style of top Black directors Lee Daniels (Precious/Paper Boy), Antoine Fuqua (Training Day/Exit Strategy), The Hughes Brothers (Menace II Society/Book of Eli), Tyler Perry (Diary of A Mad Black Woman/The Marriage Counselor) or John Singleton (Boyz n The Hood/2 Fast 2 Furious), or Spike Lee (Do The Right Thing/Red Hook Summer) — who has snubbed Django without actually seeing it. Shock…
With that said, I agree that if Singleton were to take on a project with a plot similar to Django’s and apply his style, it’d probably go the route of Danny Glover’s Haitian Revolution film, Toussaint, which we may never actually see for lack of the necessary White hero.
Saying “only a white guy” can get away with a movie that makes fun of White Americans and their shameful history by shoving their face in it, making them chew it and swallow is true.
And who better to do that?