Django Unchained – More Than Just Hype

by Britni Danielle

Django Unchained reviews

Last year when the script for Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained was leaked, many black bloggers and writers were concerned. The film was called a “dark buddy comedy” and a “slavery revenge epic” and most folks just weren’t sure how Tarantino would handle a script that dealt with the horrors of pre-civil war America.

Back then, Tambay Obenson of the film blog Shadow & Act, criticized the script for its “superficial and gratuitous” look at slavery, which included several scenes where Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) was naked for no real reason expect to flash some skin, and Django (Jamie Foxx), the film’s title character, relied heavily on the guidance of a white man.

To say that many, including myself, were extremely skeptical at how the film would turn out would be an understatement. I was prepared to hate Django Unchained before the first clip had even been released, but after seeing the film last week, I can now admit I was wrong.

The plot of Django Unchained is simple. Through a twist of fate, a German bounty hunter, Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz), purchases Django because he is one of the few people who have seen a trio of brothers Dr. Schultz is trying to capture. While they hunt down the brothers, Django and Dr. Schultz form a friendship and hatch a plan to locate Broomhilda and free her from captivity.

Though it doesn’t seem like enough of a plot to stretch into a two-hour-and-forty-five minute film, somehow Tarantino manages to keep audiences engaged throughout.

Let’s get a few things straight, though. If you dislike Tarantino films, you will not like Django. The film is bloody, there are several long and gory shoot-outs, the dialogue is fraught with expletives, and if you cringe at the thought of the n-word tumbling from nearly every character’s mouth (remember, this was the Antebellum period), then you might want to keep your money in your pocket.

But if you want to see a film in which the black lead character doesn’t need to be “saved” by some well-meaning white person (ehem, The Help), but is a complete badass who takes fate into his own hands, then you just might enjoy Django.

Speaking of being saved, while the film is set in the pre-Civil War South and slavery is interwoven throughout the story, the film is not about slavery. If you head into Django Unchained, thinking you’re going to learn something new or enlightening or see a film akin to Roots or Nat Turner’s revenge, you won’t. Slavery is a part of the story; it is not the whole story.

And while I wasn’t sure I was ready to see the horrors and inhumanities of slavery depicted on the big screen (or being interpreted by Tarantino), I was pleased to see that many of the scenes from the original script (i.e. Broomhilda being repeatedly raped) were absent from the film. However, when the atrocities of slavery are shown, the scenes are brief but searing.

From Foxx’s commanding performance as Django, to Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson’s scene-stealing portrayals of Calvin Candie and his loyal house slave/confidant Stephen, Django Unchanged takes viewers on a hyper-violent, oft times riveting, sometimes comical, gloriously entertaining romp through the South.

  • http://urbanexpressive.wordpress.com urbanexpressive

    I’m actually looking forward to seeing the movie. I’m not a fan of Tarantino’s excessive usage of the N word in movies, no more than I am of hearing it rap songs. Though I wouldn’t technically consider it a “period” piece, it is set in an era when the word was used frequently.

    Movies, no matter how “educational” they are marketed to be are still movies and need to be entertaining. Anyone looking to be enlightened should go about it the old fashioned way: reading and studying.

  • Kristi

    I will definitely be seeing this movie. I AM a Quentin Tarantino fan, so I am not squeamish about the blood and gore or language. I had always known from the time the script leaked that this would be a story that took place during slavery, but not a historically accurate tale ABOUT slavery. So anything that happens is a fictional exaggeration and if you know you’re sensitive about that, then don’t go see the film.

    I must admit that when I first heard about it I hoped he wouldn’t make a mockery of slavery or take it lightly. But I know that actors like Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio would have nothing to do with it if they felt like Blacks or slavery were being made fun of. It’s kind of like how he handled the Holocaust in Inglorious Bastards….he did it in classic Tarantino style, but still had respect for Jewish people and didn’t make a mockery of the whole thing

  • RMFE

    Here, here, I too can’t wait to watch slavery exploitation!

    Yay, another movie about slavery told through a white man. Yay, another movie filled with the word nigger. (Funny, how QT didn’t feel the need to have ‘kike’ or other anti jewish slurs through out “Inglorious basterds” ) Yay, another movie with black women being brutalized over and over again.

    Geez, I can’t think of one reason not to watch.

  • beauty85

    Sometimes black people really disappoint me, we just will fall for anything, Dear Lord why are their so many stupid black people

  • http://gravatar.com/eynapanirb B.Payne

    I’m a HUGE fan of Tarantino ever since his pleasantly shocking (at the time) Pulp Fiction. I’m familiar with his work and according to the reviews, esp from the author, this sounds like Inglorious Basterds but for blacks.

    I will be supporting on Xmas!

  • Free

    Why? Why do we continue to let our sense of entertainment overpower our conscious? How many times are u going to be entertained by the narrative that we were once subhuman- brought, sold, raped, hung, for… Entertainment. Where are the narratives about our ppl building empires, civilized nations, pharaohs, queens, kings? People (black ppl) will eat what u feed them and we continue to eat and be fed razzle-dazzled star studded defecation. We have the buying power and we keep buying into the demise of our ppl. No thank u i choose to guard my spirit/eyes/mental from the chaining, lashing, beating of a black woman (Kerry Washington’s character) for entertainment. Fools Gold. Folks are getting rich off the lowest most ungodly part of our history. What do we get in return? Acceptance/internalization of an ugly past that we foolishly buy into… Because it’s “entertaining”

  • omfg

    “I was pleased to see that many of the scenes from the original script (i.e. Broomhilda being repeatedly raped) were absent from the film.”

    i think i wrote in the initial rantings about this film that you can’t always just a script at face value because what they shoot with and what is edited are almost always different in some ways. the script changes during filming and once it’s being edited.

    i’m glad i didn’t come out overreacting about this movie. i haven’t seen it but it seems like it’s just as i thought it would be – the american slavery version of inglorious basterds.

    the only thing that might annoy me is the use of the n word. i hate hearing it but in an “historical” context i might be a bit more okay.

  • mEE

    there**

  • Michelle

    I’m not going to see this, period! 1.I’m not a Tarantino fan. 2. I don’t want to see this foolishness, no matter who’s in it.

  • Hello!

    Why? Why do we continue to let our sense of entertainment overpower our conscious? How many times are u going to be entertained by the narrative that we were once subhuman- brought, sold, raped, hung, for… Entertainment. Where are the narratives about our ppl building empires, civilized nations, pharaohs, queens, kings? People (black ppl) will eat what u feed them and we continue to eat and be fed razzle-dazzled star studded defecation. We have the buying power and we keep buying into the demise of our ppl. No thank u i choose to guard my spirit/eyes/mental from the chaining, lashing, beating of a black woman (Kerry Washington’s character) for entertainment. Fools Gold. Folks are getting rich off the lowest most ungodly part of our history. What do we get in return? Acceptance/internalization of an ugly past that we foolishly buy into… Because it’s “entertaining”

  • Yb

    To all the Clutch readers who would rather not fill the pockets of another white man distorting the history of people of color please feel free to use the free online websites:

    1channel.ch

    Vidics.eu

    I recommend using the links socks share and put locker.

    Your welcome.

  • Honey

    Death proof is one of my favourite movie and is by Tarantino. I will probably go see Django. We’re Canadians and at times we laugh at the wipe off of the truth from western movies. Some directors wants to make their work so progressive they erase the ugly history in their movies. Is it that ”they” want to make it progressive or they have no conscience as James Baldwin once said.
    In the past, we used to be called n****** so why erase it in every movie relating to that era. If somebody uses it against you today this is when you have a problem and you can just sue that person’s a***. I don’t think I would want the next generation to forget how we were called and treated badly in the past. All of our great icons civil rights leaders are dying. Mandela is in the hospital. We want to be progressive but not forget about history. I trust Tarantino, he has his own style that might be shocking to some but he is not disrespectful like other directors. Spielberg has its own style, Spike has its own, Tarantino as well.The first important thing is that each of them are unique and have a message to send us. The second important thing is that we continue to think and analyze.

  • Joy

    85: the same reason there are stupid white, brown, and yellow people. Don’t get it twisted. Stupidity comes in all forms. I for one willl be seeing the movie. It’s called entertainment

  • Joy

    Yb: I’m trying to remember when ANYONE was forced to go see a movie that they didn’t want to see. Pretty close to NEVER. If you don’t want to go see the movie it’s simple….Don’t go see the movie

  • Yb

    I can see your not the brightest bulb out there, Joy.

    Nowhere did I say someone HAD to see this movie. In my comment I offered alternative sources to viewing the movie, instead of paying cold hard cash just to walk out the cinema offended.

    If you want to pay to see this movie then good for you, cause I’m not.

    Oh and Merry Christmas. ;)

  • AM

    Thank you so much for posting those links. Happy Holidays!!! Be blessed.

  • THe Comment

    I like what Kerry Washing said in an US Elle magazine interview; when have you ever seen a movie where a black man is going thru hell to save his black woman?????

    OK! Got my tix and will enjoy the movie.

  • Erin

    I’m happy to hear the rape scene was taken out… Now, I can see it without feeling extremely uncomfortable. Thanks for the article!

  • Jaslene

    Wow. Thank you for that reply.

  • Jaslene

    So can u tell us more about it?

  • Child, Please

    “But if you want to see a film in which the black lead character doesn’t need to be “saved” by some well-meaning white person”

    Doesn’t he have to remain “enslaved” to “save/rescue” another? I’d say he is slaved and very much controlled and told what to do. Granted this is based on the movie previews, but I’d appreciate if you told me if I’m wrong. I just think he still has to be “owned” to accomplish what he does – and in the end is he free? I genuinely want to know because I don’t plan on seeing the movie (not a QT fan by no means at all).

  • RenJennM

    I’m going to see the movie to either enjoy myself or have my own opinion. You won’t know whether it’s good, bad, or whatever unless you GO SEE IT.

    Oh, unless you plan on piggybacking off reviews and other people’s opinions. Then, by all means, help yourself to a comfortable seat on the bandwagon.

  • Caramel

    you’re

  • Caramel

    Just Tarantino’s way of perpetuating the “n” word!!!! Keeping blacks in their place so to speak. Not paying my hard earned money to hear ni**er throughout the movie! Not entertaining to me at all!!!!!!!

  • Keepitreal

    I swear we are the only group of people who happily support our exploitation. Yay, another slave movie told through the eyes of a white man. Yay, another movie with the word nig*** sprinkled through out (funny how Tarantino didn’t find the word “kike” and other jewish slurs necessary for Inglorious basterds) Yay, another movie with multiple scenes of black women being brutally violated.

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val

    Well, not all of us are supporting this crap.

  • PJ

    I hope all the folks who are up in arms about the use of the N-word in this movie have not listened to any rap songs by lil wayne jayz (n-words in paris) kanye 2 chainz kendrick or the rest of them in the past year. Also you have not used the term among friends, on twitter or facebook! I also wonder if you’d be this up in arms if john singleton made the same exact movie. If no, that means you’ll support all kinds of black ignorance as long as a black man’s stamp is on it, huh?

    Not sure if I’ll be seeing the movie, but I’m a little irked by the comments around it.

  • Doesn’t_Matter

    The perspective that some movies are merely just be considered entertainment is quite… “simple.” Movies houses do not invest hundreds of millions of dollars to make you laugh. To think so would be less than intelligent and somewhat self-inflated. Movies are produced to encourage viewers to accepts ideas, concepts, aspects of culture, namely western culture as superior. It is easiest to get people to accept ideas these ideas without question when they’re being entertained. This no other time except maybe during intercourse when people are mentally less guarded. People seem to be willing to accept all forms of garbage into there minds in the name of entertainment.

  • Doesn’t_Matter

    In a western, capitalist, imperialist environment nothing is ever purely entertainment.

  • Doesn’t_Matter

    Too to many of us are absolutely clueless.

  • Deb

    Where in her comment does she say anything about people being forced? She’s pleading to people who DON’T WANT to see the movie. I don’t see her trying to change the mind of people that want to. We all got free will no matter what anyone says.

  • D.T.

    I had no idea Tarantino had such street cred. Whatever!

  • Okay

    Gotta agree with that. And having seen the movie the backtory as to why she is called Brumhilda is sweet and plays into the Knight in Shining Armor mythos.

  • Okay

    Accept there were no rape scenes actually in the film.

  • THe Comment

    Yeah….cause those with real street creed are telling real stories about black life……..like Soul Plane……right! Lotta street creed there….

  • Whatevs

    Get off the damn soap box for once an enjoy a movie….. If you’re sensitive to the word “nigger”….tough. Its inescapable in this movie and in life. I’m a huge Tarantino fan and he doesn’t shy away from the offensive, but his style and delivery is unmatched.
    Django is basically “Inglorious Basterds” during the slave trade era. I saw it, loved it, will tell others to see it. If anything its a love story, it just happened to feature a backdrop that created almost insurmountable odds for the main character, something that Blacks if all ppl should be able to understand according to most of you…

    If you haven’t seen it, your opinion does not matter because it is not an informed one. If you wanna see white folks being nice and helping blacks in need go watch The Blindside. Goodnight.

  • AllisonMG

    I saw the movie today with my whole family and we were all pleased with it, ages 19-60+. You shouldn’t judge a movie you haven’t even seen. The Django character emerged into more of a hero than a “oh another black who is saved by a white person”. This is not that kind of movie.

  • I got sense!

    Loved it. It was great. Will be purchasing the DVD when it’s released.

  • Pingback: Slave narratives: between truth and fictionality « Cinematic Narrative

  • Chillyroad

    Ok, can we please stop with this grammar nazism please! Accept it as a typo and move on. Your corrections are more distracting than the errors themselves.

  • Chillyroad

    @mEE

    If you don’t have anything to contribute to the debate besides correcting grammar and spelling mistakes then just don’t say anything. It’s a complete distraction to read comment after comment of spelling corrections. The point of the comment section is to move the debate forward not get it bogged down with trivial spell checks. Great, you know how to spell but what do you have to say about the topic? Nothing.

  • Lulu

    Just wanted to quote a friend:

    “I totally get you guys being excited about a new Tarantino movie, that’s totally great for you and stuff but man

    Telling black people who are expressly uncomfortable with it and what it does to their voice and experiences that they’re overreacting and not allowed to be upset is

    I want to say weird but in all honesty it is entirely typical”

  • Srenda

    Black Orpheus

  • Natalie

    But Inglorious Bastards was not directly about Jewish victims, so the use of racial slurs was not relevent. I don’t understand your comment…

  • GuyverV

    Waltz also turned in a great performance.

  • naan

    I saw the movie and LOVED it. i too was skeptical of the movie and thought it woyld exploit blacks but wow, it didnt.

    In fact i thought the story was refreshing because it was a love story that didnt involve all of that “internal.relationship baggage” thatbBlack love stories ate PLAUGED with. It wasnt any “i dont love you/i dont thibk i like u/ u have to jump throufh hoops/ im begging u to marry me/ islept around but please forgive me/ i got a baby u dint know about/the preacher told us to work it out despite u beating me/ im a thug/ i am.addicted to drugs” bs!

    Also despite popular myth, there WASNT excessive violence against Black woman in this movie.

    Yes there is a scene of Kerry getting whipped but this is not a movie where every scene shows a Black woman getting beat down ir raped. IN FACT, though sex slaves, Black women are depicted as highly attractive— wearing makeup, nice expensive clothes, hair styles, etc.

    Also, neither did it depict slaves as stupid.

    Also please note for 90% of the movie Django was A FREE MAN, NOT a slave.

    And as for the N-WORD? You gotta watch the movie….

    A movie like this really gets vlack uneasy because slavery is in it… but the story was awesome and the love between the two.blavk lovers was great. When was the last time u saw a movie where a Black man is day dreaming of his BLACK woman? NOT her physical body, but her presence and essence?

  • naan

    No, he gains his freedom in the first 40 mins anf becomes a rich bounty hunter! go see the movie!

  • THe Comment

    ” islept around but please forgive me/ i got a baby u dint know about/the preacher told us to work it out despite u beating me/ im a thug/ i am.addicted to drugs” bs!”

    Loved ur comment. True, true and very true. Every bit of it.

    But it is really sad that you have to tell these so called educated blacks what the movie is really about? They too dumb to pay 8 bucks to see it themselves……but rather sit and complain about something they know nothing about?

  • Wow

    @ YB

    I hope you realize you sound dumb as hell.

    Happy New Year!

  • Wow

    Oh lord….. Keeping black in their place??? Really Girlfriend? If you read the thousand comments on this web site….you will see that educated black folks do a great job keeping each other in place.

    The white man aint’ got chit on us.

  • Wow

    @Okay……

    please don’t correct these fools. They remind me of ignorant black comedians who like to rewrite black history simply because they were too dumb to read it for themselves. In this case….these people are making judgment on a movie they have not seen. So typical.

  • Wow

    Sweetie…we would love to see those narratives. Go make one and I’ll give you my whole pay check. But for now be intelligent, see the movie and THEN make a comment.

  • Wow

    Well then how do you know it is foolishness if you have not seen it?

    Oh brother………….

  • D.T.

    Confused……..
    Why are you bringing up Soul Plane?

  • leelah

    thanks for telling us edumacated blacks what this movie is about. I don’t want to waste my $8 dollars on a movie thats going to offend me and send hollywood the wrong message that movies like this is what I really want from black cinema.

  • Child, Please

    “I genuinely want to know because I don’t plan on seeing the movie (not a QT fan by no means at all).”

    ^ I think I just told you why I won’t be seeing it. I can’t stand his movies or his artistry. Furthermore, Django “gaining his freedom” is based on a white guy helping him, is it not? Also, while I’m saving my $11.00 to not see Roots 2: Kunta Kinte’s Revenge, does said white guy who helps free him remain with him to help him throughout? This movie. along with Inglorious Bullsh!t and other works by QT are just ways in which he likes to twist history, stretch a story or just be foolish. I won’t give him the satisfaction of that. Funny. Folks were tearing Spike a new one on the other story about this movie, but probably didn’t go see his other works to, you know, support the black director who’s name isn’t Tyler Perry. Yet, QT by many is regarded as an auteur and praised for his works, which usually lack a true motive. I’ve got to hand it to him though, he knows what to do generate Oscar buzz.

  • naan

    And exactly HOW ELSE did Blacks gain their freedom without working and doing favors for other people? Oh, by running away? So y’all want to watch a movie about the horror of Blacks running through woods, hiding in trees, LIVING IN FEAR, and homes where WHITE folks HELPED them (by letting them hide in their houses) but yall don’t want to watch a movie that depicts “a different way” of Blacks gaining their freedom?

    Like I had said, slavery is just a subject that gets a lot of Black people uneasy. But the reality is… it IS a part of our history. Not the beginning, not the majority, and not the last part— but definitely A part of our history!

    You all say films like this are disrespectful…

    What’s DISrespectful is NOT acknowledging the fact that there were BLACK MEN and WOMEN who went back and tried to BUY their families out of slavery! Who tried to get their families out of slavery! And if you think they got them out by holding picket signs, you are WRONG. No, they had to buy them back, use their connections, etc

    And if it was ANYONE else who was giving a superhero love storyline while facing oppression yall would be in lines to watch it… but yall so darn mentally enslaved yall cant even imagine yourselves as STRONG and HEROIC… yall so darn bamboozled yall think it’s “disrespectful” just TO IMAGINE.

  • mEE

    @ChillyRoad, it was specifically directed at the person who made the comment. in his/her weeping and moaning about “stupid black people”, he/she failed to look in the mirror and see his/her own errors. I actually NEVER correct typos or grammatical errors on this site. I just felt it was necessary in this particular case.

    on another note, you comment on this site a lot and I notice that most of your comments take on a very antagonistic tone. I’m not sure that helps “move the debate forward” any more than my “trivial spell checks”.

  • Kema

    We excel at many things when we put our minds to it. Why would putting each other down be any different? Smh

  • kaybee

    Movie of the year

  • Child, Please

    You in your whittle post only confirmed what I said about QT and his movies. They serve to twist the publci’s thinking. You confirmed the guy was still enslaved for the most part (funny Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass (save the teaching him how to read aspect) got by quite fine). You also confirmed to me that this movie isn’t hardly worth my time. I won’t ever get the notion behind this guy’s films – slavery and the Holocaust being the subject or not. I’m not afraid to watch a movie that depicts history, but don’t make a mockery of it then turn around and say it’ll be serious and it’s this deep philosophical lesson that that I’ll tell my kids about. It makes me question his motives. Those that like his stuff will see it and love it; those that see QT for what he is just won’t. I’m sure you’ll live like the rest of us.

  • naan

    A deep.philosophical lesson? lol, no not at all… but that is.obviously the pressure YOU put on it bt thinking thete is something negative about it without ever seeing the movie. Also, you obviously didnt read the original comment where i told you he is not enslaved for most of the movie….

  • Lulu

    Like you said some people are still very uncomfortable with slavery and they have every right to be. The movie itself could be a cinematic masterpiece but if people are uncomfortable with the content it’s based on, don’t expect them to want to give it a chance or have any interest in it. End of story.

  • Sam

    SPOILER ALERT

    “does said white guy who helps free him remain with him to help him throughout?”

    Nope! That’s the funny bit. Starts with white guy (Christoph Waltz) as hero, Django as sidekick, but by an hour into the film the roles shift and pretty soon reverse completely. By the end, (‘NOTHER SPOILER) Django is completely on his own, choosing to return to save his wife and defeat the demons of white slavers on his own. As Tarantino literally said in a Root interview: “Anything else and he’s not the hero of the story.”

    Really, the white character is there to trick an audience used to seeing a pack of servile Tontos and Fridays. We think Waltz will be the main character and are impatient for Django to assert himself, and then observe their relationship slowly shift from mentor/student to friendship between equals to Django as hero and Waltz as sidekick and finally to Django becoming the lone hero in his own right. Waltz is a “good” twenty-first century white man, automatically repulsed by slavery and willing to help Django due to his “modern” attitudes, but ultimately unprepared for and ignorant of the true physicality and repulsiveness of slavery. This is why Django, a former slave hardened by slavery and willing to go as far as he has to to rescue his wife ultimately becomes the true hero. Waltz’s 21st century white man is able to help, but ultimately, no matter how enlightened, he is not strong enough to endure and conquer the horror of slavery up close, as only our black hero can.

    Seriously! I have a lot of reservations with Tarantino and didn’t like Inglorious Basterds, but this film was one enormous punch in the face to the white savior trope.

  • The Other Jess

    “IN FACT, though sex slaves, Black women are depicted as highly attractive— wearing makeup, nice expensive clothes, hair styles, etc.”

    And that, in a nutshell, is one of the main problems I have with this movie. The continuation of the LIE that enslaved Black women were these pampered, dressed up princesses beholden to white men, and regularly treated better than enslaved Black men is blatantly false and extremely DANGEROUS to us as Black women. False depictions such as this make Black men continue to HATE us, because so many of them already believe that they as Black men were the REAL victims of slavery, while Black women got some sort of special treatment – which is FALSE garbage if I ever so heard.

    While black women were regularly RAPED or SEXUALLY COERCED during slavery, this was no willing sex act and they were not wearing frilly beautiful dresses like the white female head of households. You all do NOT know anything about your history and this Hollywood ignorance is what will keep Black women in danger from our own men based on false be;iefs about what happened during slavery (in addition to the violence and hate we already receive from Black men for everything unrelated to slavery).

    Sure, in an extremely few places like New Orleans, Black women AND men were able to achieve a much higher social and economic status, and openly have consenting sexual relations to a degree (octoroon balls, etc) and even marriages with whites, once they stepped foot out of New orleans they were in danger of being enslaved again.

    Django Unchained will do much damage to further the jealousies, hatred and divisions for Black women among Black men, as well as trivializes a terrible aspect of American history.

    Read a book people – find out the real history of black people and stop relying on a Hollywood entertainer to doa poor job teaching Black history.

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