There had been buzz for quite some time that Quentin Tarintino was working on a slavery film; considering the filmmaker’s previous work, nothing about that suggestion made me feel like this was a good thing. It’s hard to imagine the man who’s Black characters are usually a nod to Blaxplotation flicks suddenly having the keen instincts required to produce a film about this particular moment in history. Sure enough, rumor is that the western that features a former slave fighting to free his wife from a slavemaster is a dark comedy.
Pardon my French, but what in the entire fuck is humourous about slavery?
Shadow and Act blogger Tambay has read the script and gives some insight into the film, said to be starring Jamie Foxx and possibly Kerry Washington, that seems less-than-inspiring:
Yes, I know it’s essentially a parody of spaghetti westerns, with a little blaxploitation elements thrown into the mix. In fact, you’ll find pieces of films like Drum and Mandingo in it. I believe Tarantino once previously referenced the latter as an influence of sorts. But I found this to be maybe his most contrived work…It’s exploitation cinema, and, I think it would have worked much better, and been an easier pill to swallow 40 years ago.
Django isn’t quite the hero here – not the way you’re probably expecting. For a good 2/3 of the script, he’s pretty much playing second fiddle to Christoph Waltz’s character who is essentially Django’s mentor, and the man responsible for his freedom, later providing him with the necessary skills Django needs to eventually challenge the plantation owner who holds his wife captive…
In fact, I’d say that Django doesn’t really, fully, come alive until about the last 25 minutes of this almost 3-hour script/movie…Suffice it to say that just as it takes the assist of a white man to set Django free and on course towards saving his damsel in distress, it also takes the assist (however unintentional) of a white man to finally allow Django his moment to really shine, and get out of the white man’s shadow…
…Speaking of its blaxploitation influences… regarding the lead female character in this, namedBroomhilda, Django’s slave wife, whom he’s separated from, and seeks. She’s the lead female in the film, but her part is limited to really just physicalities. She has the most screen time of any other woman in the film, which is why I call her the lead female character…I’m sure he could have afforded Broomhilda some complexities, and maybe even made her a heroine in her own right.
There are some 4 or 5 scenes in which the she’s, shall we say, “exposed”… i.e. naked; and they felt gratuitous to me; 2 in which she’s raped by white men. When we first meet her, she’s on the auction block and asked to bare her breasts to potential buyers; later, she’s chased through a hotel, through hallways, and lobbies, etc, by a slave master, completely naked, after being woken up from sleep, with a whip across her naked body; and still later, she’s locked up naked in a steel box as punishment for trying to run away. Yes, I’m sure these are all scenarios that very well likely could have played out at the time; however, Tarantino could have opted to depict her in another light altogether, but instead chose this less flattering, exploitative one. If the intent here is to elicit sympathy for her, and, in turn, ensure that we hate her captors even more, justifying their eventual comeuppance, it certainly doesn’t. Not for me anyway, as someone who’s already familiar with the atrocities of slavery, and didn’t feel like I needed to see a character that’s really the female lead in the film, essentially exhibited almost like Saartje Baartman (aka the Hottentot Venus) was. I’m betting Tarantino will likely get a well-endowed black actress to play the part, not-so unlike, as I already made comparisons to, the blaxploitation films of the 70s, the most famous female face (and body) of the era, Pam Grier.
Who exactly will take this particular role, I don’t know. It’s not the most glamorous, nor complex. Although, I’m sure there are a lot of actresses who’d gladly sign up for it…
Django Unchained feels more regressive than transgressive.
A Spaghetti western/Blaxplotation take on slavery? And it’s hard to believe that the rape and abuse of Broomhilda won’t be portrayed in a way that is intended to be some sort of perversley tititlating spectacle for the male gaze. It’s hard to criticize a film that hasn’t been made yet, but if the writers assement about the script is true, then this will probably be one of the kinder pieces written about on Django Unchained.
(Hat tip to Stop The Media Smear Campaign Against Black Women)