Why Django Unchained Action Figures Are Brilliant

by Demetria L. Lucas

django action figures

My mouth dropped open when I read on the Daily Beast that the co-stars from box office hit Django Unchained — Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and others — have been immortalized as eight-inch dolls that are currently on sale at Amazon.com. I think I was supposed to be upset about this. The Beast called the release “audacious,” and they quoted Bethann Hardison, heroine to Black womankind, saying, “This doll shit is crazy.”

But um … “I know Spike Lee gonna kill me/ but let me finish …”

I kinda want one, actually two.

I clearly don’t get the fuss. It’s not like buying an action figure of an enslaved African descendant will make the purchaser a slave owner. Or as Eric D. Snider (hilariously) pointed out on Film.com, “It’s not like the box says, ‘BUY A SLAVE! TRADE WITH YOUR FRIENDS! START OUR OWN PLANTATION!’” There’s a whole riled up segment complaining that Jews never would have stood for Nazi action figures associated with Inglorious Basterds, but um, that happened. That’s not to say, “Well they put up with it too, so it’s okay. It is to say, ‘hey, Black people aren’t being singled out on this one.’

Look, I loved Django Unchained. I went through hell to see it on opening day, trekking from Brooklyn to Harlem (the time equivalent of traveling from New York to Philly via Amtrak) because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and to watch it with a Black audience. And it was worth the trip to see Samuel Jackson’s self-depreciating ranting about a “n**** on that nag” and Jamie Foxx going all Nat-Turner-HAM to rescue his lady.

We don’t get too many movies with Black princesses, and that’s really what Kerry Washington is in Django. She’s been taken from her man, then trapped in a hot box, which is the far worse version of Rapunzel up in the dang tower or Cinderella at the mercy of her oppressive step-mother. Now usually, a Black woman up shit’s creek would stay there. White guys rescue the girl. Black girls rescue themselves (and often from Black men). But not this time. Broomhilda’s may-ann is going all Mario-like to save Princess Peach from big bad Bowser, or in this case, to free his beloved wife from a sadistic slave owner.

Of course, my feminist radar has picked up on all sorts of … paternalism. Being a damsel in distress and relying on a male savior wreaks of a God-complex. The 7-year-old in me, however, who wondered why all Disney princesses were White, and the 30-year-old who wondered why when we finally got a Black princess she was a frog for most of the movie and an ethnically ambiguous man had to come for her, doesn’t really care. Broomhilda is my Black princess. Django is my Black knight who kicked ass without shining armor but with a whole lot of artillery. I would be thrilled to put the couple on my mantel.

And that’s where the action figures are going. It’s not like parents are buying these for these for their kids so the wee ones can play slave master and slave, which a mildly imaginative (or disturbed) kid could do with Barbie and Ken anyway, if they really wanted to get historical and evil. That said, there’s a part of me that would be mildly amused to see Black children playing rescue the princess by rising up and killing the oppressor. A recent study found that instilling Black children with racial pride does wonders for their learning capabilities. Go (action) figure.

Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk

  • la

    good review love it at work wish I could add more substantive response
    best

  • Krys B

    I know it’s not the topic of this blog, but I couldn’t resist commenting the part about the Princess and the frog. I had the exact same complaints about that movie. However, I would add that our black princess Tiana wasn’t rescued. She literally saved herself and her lazy “prince” with her ingenuity and go get Em attitude. I’m on the fence about the message. I love that she wasn’t helpless and didn’t just wait on being rescued nor did she let anything hold her back. However, I don’t know about the fact that she was prized by s many for her talent and intelligence but had to work SO HARD for the things that she got. It was almost… Too real for a situation that supposed to be a fantasy. I just know how it improves how other groups see us, as from this they learned black girls are cool, workhorses while their white princess counterparts deserve help outright no questions. Do u see my dilemma?

  • http://Newsmommyinsc-mycharmedlife.blogspot.com Lenita Wesson

    I disagree with your reasoning, but I respect you having a different point of view from me. I didn’t like the movie and dislike the idea of little Django Unchained dolls even more. There are liberties being taken everywhere this movie is concerned. From the use of the N Word, to the over the top violence without adding any theatrical value, to the borderline mockery being made of slavery (my opinion). I am not a QT fan and leave most of his movies saying I’m not going again. Well, this last time (Django Unchained) I meant it. Thanks for what you do as a blogger!

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    “I clearly don’t get the fuss”

    and THAT is the issue. black people have been brainwashed to the point where they don’t KNOW if they are coming or going. sad.

    if you don’t know, learn. if you do know, teach.

  • Libby

    Funny how you left out the action figures for Candie and Stephen in your picture. SMH.

  • GG

    It’s not to see black people promoting lining white people pockets with black dollars off the continued exploitation of enslaved African people. Paul Mooney is right. Quentin is like Dracula he can make black people do some strange things.

  • GG

    It’s not “good”

  • Treece

    THANK YOU! Couldnt have said it better Ms. Lucas. These dolls are collectors items from the film, just like Tarantino does with many of his films. They aren’t even being marketed for children…..its an R rated film. They are collectors items for adults.
    All the hoopla over this film is nauseating. There are so many othermovies made by White film makers for us to be angry at. And Black ones as well. There are movies where we really are being made buffoons of, and mocked as stupid sidekicks, ghetto sapphire caricatures, thugged out criminals, etc. But some of you are jumping on this film just because its a White man doing a film that takes place during slavery. Mind you, the movie is not ABOUT slavery. And more than half who complain haven’t even seen it….but the next time a Black comedian gets on stage or tv and mocks his ancestors or perpetuates awful stereotypes, you bust a gut laughing….

  • http://defendingmoney.wordpress.com Marketing Gimmicks

    Capitalism with always capitalize. It’s the American Way. The film was a box office success and these action figures are the Djanjo brand extension.

    Look people. When we accept that the business of business is business you’ll be able to untwist your panties and sleep better at night.

    The way things are now there aren’t any limits on what can be manufactured and sold. Yet as black people we are continually surprised at the drive of businesses to make money. What drives our media and culture are advertising dollars and profit.

    And this will forever and always be the rule.

  • I got sense!

    And if you have a different opinion express it…. without lumping all black people into one group and insulting them.

  • I got sense!

    Until black people stop selling their companies we have no choice but to line the pockets of white people because there are so few major companies to support. Whether people buy this doll is irrelevant. We need our own schools, hospitals, grocery stores, movies theaters, clothes, factories, gas stations, etc. Every day all day (most) black people are lining the pockets of non blacks.

  • http://gravatar.com/missinformation7 Ms. Information

    White people look traumatized after the movie, Black people come out smiling…Im just saying…lol

  • GG

    Sorry, if I won’t pay for a rapper calling black women hoes. I’d rather keep my dollars than to hear Don Johnson refer to black women as Gummy Mouth bitches.

  • Libby

    Thank for the thumbs down and the future thumbs down. It tell me I have said the right thing.

  • GG

    Were the white people smiling because they got black people to pay white people to hear nigger 100+ times?
    Let’s stop pretending this is a “black movie”. All the money is going in white pockets. Good black people can simple. I suppose .

  • GG

    @ I got sense!
    Going to a movie is NOT a necessity to sustain life. Nor do I agree that buying these dolls are irrelevant. If we took time to at least to be more discerning without disposable income we would be in a better place.

  • http://tontonmichel.tumblr.com/ Tonton Michel

    I got into a disagreement with the actress who played Coco from the movie on another blog. I didn’t like the way she tries to sell this movie as some revolutionary piece of cinema that is supposed to open the doors of love between blacks and whites. I said it is what it is a good action movie meant to make money. Behold the proof of that, on the one hand I see the exploitation of the topic of slavery, but if you watch the movie you can see the movie really was not about slavery. It was just the catalyst for a revenge flick. QT didn’t didn’t make a movie that has impact on the dialogue of race in America. And he knows it, that’s why he and Uncle Sammy have been throwing shade at a couple of up coming slavery based movies that are more serious in nature. Its the black media which is the criminal in this, giving some sort of sacred meaning to a superficial movie and fanning the flames everytime the name gets mentioned. The toys are not meant for kids, so I don’t mind but.if they come out with whips and scared up slaves or mulatto gals than there is a problem.

  • Ms. Information

    But black people continue to support all that is white….housewives may be black but they line white pockets…everything that we do…buying groceries, pumping gas….ALL lines white pockets.

  • http://tontonmichel.tumblr.com/ Tonton Michel

    I got into a disagreement with the actress who played Coco from the movie on another blog. I didn’t like the way she tries to sell this movie as some revolutionary piece of cinema that is supposed to open the doors of love between blacks and whites. I said it is what it is a good action movie meant to make money. Behold the proof of that, on the one hand I see the exploitation of the topic of slavery, but if you watch the movie you can see the movie really was not about slavery. It was just the catalyst for a revenge flick. QT didn’t didn’t make a movie that has impact on the dialogue of race in America. And he knows it, that’s why he and Uncle Sammy have been throwing shade at a couple of up coming slavery based movies that are more serious in nature. Its the black media which is the criminal in this, giving some sort of sacred meaning to a superficial movie and fanning the flames everytime the name gets mentioned. The toys are not meant for kids, so I don’t mind but.if they come out with whips and scared up slaves or mulatto gals than there is a problem. BTW what’s so BRILLIANT about this?

  • Hilda

    Hmm..wondering why Broomhilda’s doll is not dressed in her pretty yellow dress with her Goddess braid. If the correct history is taught along with purchasing these action figures, then I can compromise

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    “Were the white people smiling because they got black people to pay white people to hear nigger 100+ times?”

    you know they were…

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    ok, how many un brainwashed black people do you know?

  • Ms. Information

    Re-read please…I said white people looked traumatized….they were astonished that they were painted to look so badly….

  • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com Val

    Wow. White people can do anything and there will always be a Black person defending them more than they defend themselves.

  • GG

    @ Ms. Information
    I have to make some kind of distinction here. It’s one thing to buy gas and another to pay someone to here black women refereed to as Gummy Mouth Bitches. Gas gets me to work to care for my family, the other does nothing but make me a paying participate in my own degradation.

  • http://gravatar.com/missinformation7 Ms. Information

    Hey sis, I am gonna be honest, the overall story was a good concept…YET, I do realize that when the fire dies down I will probably take on a more informed analysis of it…from a purely cinematic stance, it was revengeful against whites which is something we don’t get to see…but I also know not to always trust the first instinct….

  • Treece

    That’s fine and good. Do you. But trust and believe that Black women being called Gummy mouth bitches is the least of the offensive names I’ve heard of Black women called by Black or White men. You also have to consider that it was accurate for the time in that Whites went around saying things like that all the time about thier slaves. Would you have objected to a Black woman being called a derogatory name in a film like Roots or Queen or Glory? Different kinds of films than Django, but still films that took place during slavery….when Whites used those types of terms towards us

  • [email protected]

    At the end of the day, it’s about that green dollar. Case closed.

  • Deb

    I see many supporters say its a great revenge flick and not really about slavery. Ok great but I think what needs to be asked is why Quentin HAD to use slavery as a blackdrop. Knowing the society and how the default white mentality is, I bet a big reason was because the protagonist and his love are black.

  • politicallyincorrect

    This needed to be an article, get you doll and keep it moving

  • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com Val

    Hiya, Ms. Information

    Yep, I get that it is an entertaining film. Tarantino has to make entertaining films in order to get away with the stuff he does in those films. Lol.

    What I don’t get is why so many Black people, not you, seem to be pushing this film so hard. I mean Spike Lee and Ava DuVernay both released a film last year and I don’t remember anyone trying to convince anyone to see those films or defending those films. What’s up with that.

    But, let Tarantino release a film and all of a sudden many Black people seem to have some sort of vested interest in it. Is the White man’s water really that much colder?

    Sigh.

  • Deb

    “why Quentin HAD to use slavery as a blackdrop”

    I should have said why he CHOSE to use slavery as a backdrop. Someone might pick at that.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    “I got into a disagreement with the actress who played Coco from the movie on another blog. I didn’t like the way she tries to sell this movie as some revolutionary piece of cinema that is supposed to open the doors of love between blacks and whites”

    sad. some blacks folk are so caught up in the hype.

  • http://gravatar.com/missinformation7 Ms. Information

    @ Val…I am a filmhead so I saw both of the films that you mention…do you think it is because Tarantino has access to a larger community and to more resources or do you think we as black people are heeding to a form of Stockholm Syndrome where we automatically think that anything white means better?

  • http://crystalspraggins.blogspot.com/ Crystal Spraggins

    Funny! But why does it matter if the prince from The Princess and the Frog is “ethnically ambiguous”? Lol! Check out “What’s Your Ethnicity” and weigh in! http://crystalspraggins.blogspot.com/2013/01/whats-your-ethnicity.html

  • binks

    Right! As for the rest of the article, personally I like when a woman character (be it if she is black, Asian, white, etc.) is her own hero in the story. I don’t care for dismal in distress “princess type” or the portrayal that is being force suddenly that a black woman HAS to be stereotypically portrayed as other characters of being a weak scared little kitten waiting to be rescued to feel feminine, womanly and worth fighting for and truly loved. I think that is an even backwards message than the portrayal of us as the “I don’t need nobody, I got my own, independent, etc.” dribble. There is a happy medium between the two. I appreciate Django for what it is but people trying to make it beyond epic are frankly “protesting too much…”

  • Rue

    I swear, every other day a new “Django is like so freaking awesome ” article pops up on this site, especially form Ms. Lucas. Do you all know Tarantino or something. Even if you like the film it ain’t made outta gold. sheesh.

  • PrettyLawBelle

    I agree. I was not pleased that Princess Tiana had to save herself AND her prince. I may be accused of being overly sensitive, but the storyline definitely left a bad taste in my mouth and hit close to home. *sighs*

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    izz stockholm syndrome all the way…everday

  • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com Val

    Stockholm Syndrome? Could be. But, I think we are just trained to think of anything White as inherently better. Both Ava and Spike made very interesting films and yet there was almost no hype in the larger African American community about either. But people can’t seem to shut up about Tarantino’s film. How else to explain it?

  • I got sense!

    @GG
    Where did I say going to the movies was a necessity? You obviously missed the point so let me make it clearer.

    If the vast majority of the things we need AND want are being purchased from non-blacks I don’t see the point in being upset over this. Its extremely low on the priorty list for the black community as a whole. we have much bigger issues than these dolls. These dolls are irrelevant in comparison to education, health, violence, etc. I can’t care abouth these dolls when young black men are being murdered for simply existing. Naw, these dolls don’t mean sh*t to me.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    $100 million is gold to me…

  • http://www.urbanromanceonline.com UrbanRomanceEIC

    A thousand times, this! …And black folks’ continued ignorance surrounding this fact is exactly why we are continuously left out of the fray, bitching and moaning on the outside looking in, instead of being active participants in this unavoidable circumstance. The day black people learn to play the game instead of sitting around calling foul over everything, is the day we’ll start to gain more control over our images and our legacy. But who cares if Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg continue to make a come-up telling black stories as long as Spike Lee still has his court-side seat at Madison Square Garden, right?

  • Brandon Green

    Its simple Institutional Racism still persists today the Black actors intelligence was mocked. They are unaware of the covert signs of racism in this movie. I have gotten into numerous debates with ignorant blacks and whites alike. No one understands how films like this hurt society and causes it to digress from from progress surrounding issues of cultural appropriation. How is it okay to profit off of lying and distorting a peoples history. Furthermore to have “Slave Dolls” in 2013 is bogus. We might as well have KKK dolls and Hitler dolls. I dont understand why the history of people of color can be played with. Native Americans and Blacks have a very delicate and traumatic history but no one seems to care that the oppressors still tell the story of the vanquished

  • cosmicsistren

    I am convinced Ms. Lucas writes these controversial topics on purpose to get a lot of hits to her article. I am not going to comment on the absurdity of her defending slave dolls. This is ridiculious. To the editors at Clutch – Do you upload just ANYTHING onto your website?

  • jgriffith12

    I’m just glad I was able to get a set of these on ebay while they are still available. They are fantastic!

  • improvian

    @Val Haven’t seen Ms. DuVernay’s movie, but I did see Red Hook Summer. THAT wasn’t a good film, hence no one defending or pushing people to see it. Remember how we were all like “See Red Tails! It’s important”, then saw it, realizing it wasn’t that good. However we did big up Pariah and Beasts of the Southern Wild (which got nominated for best picture). Why? Because they were good.

    I enjoyed Django because it’s the closest we’ll ever get to a Nat Turner or Denmark Vesey movie (ie (former) slaves going after oppressors). I also have no problems with the dolls/action figures. If there’s a plantation playset complete with an whip-holding overseer, then okay. However these are more for collectors than children. If you (general) thought otherwise, then the problem, honestly, is with you (general).

    Also to say that black people pushes/ed this movie because a white person helmed it is asinine (folks love the hell out of the Color Purple). Also gives the assumption that black people can’t think for themselves.

  • Dave

    Funny, didn’t hear this many black folks complain about “American Gangster.” Denzel did his thing but he played a vile character in a film that glorified his violence and the exploitation of his community. Django at the very least took a ballsy step in portraying the violence of slavery and creating a black hero free of the typical Hollywood sterotypes. Was it a social commentary? Nope. It was a badass action movie, sort of like Shaft but better.

Latest Stories

Cheers! 30 Not-As-Obvious Occasions That Call For Champagne

by

Maker of Infamous ‘Sizzurp’ Takes it Off the Market

by

How To Rock: Black Women In Orange Lipstick

by

Newsflash: Most People Aren’t Down With the ‘Swirl’

by
More in Action Figures, Django Unchained, opinion
slaves-for-sale
Say What?: “Django Unchained” Slave Action Figures for Sale

Django Unchained Opens with Strong Sales to African-Americans Despite Controversy
Close