Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained is making waves in the film industry for its eerie look at America’s dark past with slavery and legacy of racism. Tarantino colors scenes poignantly with vivid action and heart-wrenching script. With Jamie Foxx and Leonard DiCaprio playing the roles of a freed slave and an evil plantation owner respectively, Django Unchained is a film that demands attention. Deeper though is the magnitude of picture when dialogue is anchored under a microscope. Django Unchained features the gritty usage of the N-word more than 110 times. It draws to light the question of whether or not the word — which revives historic memories of atrocious servitude and shackled liberties — should be allowed to pervade today, in what for some is believed to be an emerging post-racial society?

There is no exclusivity to the term in the film. No weathered sentiments of endearment, no warm daps to accompany it. The N-word is spit back and forth by both white and black characters like fresh cans of tobacco. Some critics of the film, two weeks before it hits theaters, have come to defend the use of the word in the film, claiming that its profound presence in Tarantino’s movie is not meant to mock, but simply represent what’s real: the crucial way in which race once divided a now “democratic” society.

“In the deep south, if we hadn’t heard that word as much as we did, it would have been a-historical. The language in that way was precise,” Toure, an author and MSNBC co-host said, The Hollywood Reporter reports. “It’s so embedded into their society, it’s not pejorative, it’s ‘this is how we talk.’ They’re not even conscious of the racism or gravity. To make a big deal out of it, and if you watch that film and that’s what you get out of it, that’s just an incredibly unintelligent knee jerk reaction to the whole thing.”

Other film critics like Dwight Brown told The Hollywood Reporter that Tarantino’s usage of the word in the film seems to be an exaggerated take on America’s historical past.

“Lots of the violence in the movie feels more like a caricature than a re-enactment,” Brown wrote in an email. “The kind of bloodshed and brutality you’d see in a horror film or a superficial action movie, versus what you might find in a real drama (Saving Private Ryan). Does it minimize the horrors of slavery? That’s up for debate. Maybe ‘cloud’ or ‘dilute’ are better words.”

Beyond the N-word, slavery is brutally depicted, and the actors feel it to the core. Actress Kerry Washington opted out of having a stunt double to feel the hot whippings against her back, to feel how her ancestors once felt. Chain gangs and brutally close enactments of castration are amongst the images that remain in the mind after seeing the film, momentarily stalling the viewer in a hot flash of blood-rushing pain. The N-word can be found in tons of urban movies, it’s usage, some believe, rightfully reserved for blacks. What seems to be stirring some viewer’s soul is the idea that Tarantino as a white man, has boldly sought out to remove the happy make-up that the black community has painted over the word and remind us of its roots: Amistad, slave revolts, lynchings — pure oppression. The N-word’s usage in movies cannot be restricted by race, but should be delicately placed for its effectiveness. What matters is the scenes and memorandum that stands around it. In Django Unchained that message is “Look here now, people. See what we have done.” It’s usage 110 times is jarring, yes, but representative of our truths, an aspect that should not be denied in cultural analysis.

  • Anthony

    Django unchained is no more historically accurate than the movie that Tarantino did a few years ago on WWII. Both movies are revenge/empowerment fantasies based on historic atrocities. Tarantino made the point on the Tonight Show that America, unlike most countries, has not really been forced to deal with ugliness of so much of its past. In his own cartoonish sort of way, Django Unchained is a move in that direction. Given that fact, it would be weird if the n word was not featured prominently in the movie.

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val

    I think Tarantino only makes films so he can use the N word. I think he’s a disgusting racist who gets over by acting as though he’s hip. He’s not. And it always amazes me that he has Black fans.

  • Anthony

    The article on black male trolls at Clutch and the idea of men posting at all on a blog for women, makes me think of Tarantino for this one reason: it is very easy to get too familiar comfortable if you see yourself as progressive and sympathetic to a certain group. I do think that in Pulp Fiction, Tarantino went overboard with the n-word, the same with Reservoir Dogs. I think that is probably why he has stayed away from black subjects for about fifteen years. I will reserve judgement on Django Unchained.

  • http://gravatar.com/chanela17 chanela17

    THANK YOU!!! i’ve felt the same way!

    i discussed this with a friend the other day. it seems like he makes a black character in his movies simply to call them the N word.

    yes i can understand a movie about slavery,but he does it in ALL of his movies. it just rubs me the wrong way.

    i thought i was the only one who noticed this.lol

  • Tonton Michel

    Too much credit is being given here to Tarantino and this movie. He is obsessed with the word, his over usage of it gives you an idea of what he thinks of blacks. Maybe not racist but there is some fetish and stereotyping at play with him. This movie like all his others is meant to entertain not provide any profound lessons on slavery.

    On a sidenote I got to shakemy head at this BS of Kerry Washington refusing a stunt double so she can feel the whip and feel how are ancestors felt. Word? You just going to run that fame on us like you actually got the meat torn off your backside and now you feel some kind of way about it. Feel closer to your root now? Ready to pit down the pork. Gearing up to fight MAN? Ready to stop dating white men eh?
    Actors I tell you, there all full of it.

  • Anthony

    Although I am willing to give Tarantino some benefit of doubt. He has fetishized the N-word, which is not healthy. As an Italian American, I doubt if he would make a movie with WOP or dago every two seconds.

    Of course, the movie is a fantasy. In 1857, the Fugitive Slave Laws were being enforced, and there is no way on earth, a black man could have worked as a bounty hunter. This would have been doubly true in the Deep South where a free black would have constantly had to have access to manumission papers, or stay close to a place where “respectable” white people could vouch for her or him.

    One of the previews also shows evidence of a pet peeve of mine, I saw a background shot that featured high, rugged mountains, the kind you find in California, not anywhere at all in the South. Unless some the the movie takes part in far West Texas, that is a major slip up.

  • MommieDearest

    YES!!!! I’ve been saying this for years. I’m glad to know that I’m not alone.

  • Love Sosa

    Meh, he uses it a lot. But so do rappers whose audience in turn uses it a lot also, and guess how much of their audience is NOT in fact black.

    Yes, he uses the word, and he uses it a lot. I don’t think he’s a racist. At a Jay-Z concert, I heard plenty of people who weren’t black saying the word as effortlessly as Jay-Z was, didn’t think they were racist at all.

    Django Unchained without the N-word would be very surprising.

  • BriA

    So he uses the word alot who cares and so does most of America….rappers and people use it in there homes – I find it funny that “we” black people sometimes think/know other races use the word probably daily but when it’s represented in a film it’s bad…idk I can’t explain it – it’s like we know everyone uses it but we have a problem when we see it…….. and Django should use the N-word hell we know that

  • Kay

    I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with Tarantino and his treatment of race in films. With that said, I don’t think that White people shouldn’t make serious, factual thought provoking films about race. Hell, if they did it more often, maybe we’d be able to talk about race more openly and solve some issues. However, I do think that it requires a certain amount of insight. I also think there is a certain amount of “owning your own privilege,” that needs to happen too. I will probably see the film and judge for myself.

  • Humanista

    There were black bounty hunters, just as there were blacks who bought and sold slaves. The romanticization of slavery, even on the end of black decedents, makes it easy to wipe out the fact that there were black people–even former slaves–who were active participants and supporters of the institution of slavery. You are right, though, that it would be very unlikely for them to just be out and about, roaming around alone or in pairs; but they did work alongside (or under) white bounty hunters who would then “vouch” for them to other whites in unfamiliar territory.

  • mikey kun

    I sooo agree with this

  • Anthony

    I think you talking about something different from what I heard was in this film. The Django character captures white men who have bounties on their heads, he is not a slave catcher. That is something that would have been nearly impossible in the ante Bellamy South.

  • Anthony

    “Owning your own privilege,” is a great way to put it! Doing that is always harder than calling someone else a racist, which is what many seemingly sympathetic people are eager to do.

  • http://britnidanielle.com/ Britni Danielle


    Without giving too much away (and I’ll be writing an article on the film later, I saw it last night), Django does work as a Bounty Hunter along side a white (German) bounty hunter. He is not alone.

    About the mountains…Django & Dr. Shultz don’t just travel through the South. If/when you see the film, you’ll see them traveling to other parts of the Southwest (namely Texas) during the winter months. So the settings fit.

    Also…the film was written in the genre of a “Spaghetti Western,” not a serious historical film.

  • Anthony

    I was watching Melisa Harris Perry today, and I see what you are talking about. I look forward to seeing this movie in the New Year, once I get the kids back in school!

  • R.W.

    BET has been showing Roots and I must say that I find it no more historically accurate than this movie is thought to be. I think that Roots was a comfortable way for America to look at slavery and maybe this film will not be as kind. I do plan on seeing it to make my own judgements.

  • Anthony

    If I waas unclear, I mean that often progressive people are quick to point out shortcomings in others without looking at their own shortcomings. As I man, for instance, I have to be careful about criticizing the sexism of other men, because I know I am still dealing with issues of sexism myself. I feel that Tarantino is guilty of this when it comes to racism and the n-word.

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