Django Unchained: Brother From Another Plantation Draws The Haters

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Django Unchained Jamie Fox
A Spaghetti Western For These (Obama) Times

Life imitates art as Django Unchained shows. Like the blaxpoitation-cum-Spaghetti Western swagger of its protagonist, Quentin Tarantino’s film takes no prisoners, locking down two Golden Globe wins and a $125 million box office since its release on Christmas Day.

And like its main character, the film has its haters. Lots of them. Including filmmaker Spike Lee who unsurprisingly refuses to see the flick and lit up a firestorm on Twitter after comparing Django Unchained to Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles. Lee attacks Tarantino’s use of the N-word (unleashed 100+ times in 165 minutes), saying in Daily Variety “I’m not against the word, and I use it, but not excessively. And some people speak that way. But Quentin is infatuated with that word. What does he want to be made — an honorary Black man?”

Lee is not alone. The Root‘s columnist  Jack White wrote a bitterly sarcastic piece called Buckwheat Unchained where the Little Rascals stereotype disses Django for being, well, stereotypical: “We ain’t payin’ to see no movie dat disses our ancestors who suffered in slav’ry! We’ll snag it on a bootleg DVD or wait ’til it come out on cable!”

Raising temperatures is the launch of an action figure series based on slave characters from the film.

“It’s 2012, an African-American is in the White House, and people are okay with Black slave dolls. Damn shame,” was one of countless tweets deriding the controversial toys.

For his part, Tarantino stirred the pot even more after winning Best Screenplay at the Golden Globes, dropping the N-word while trashing detractors who are “saying I should massage. They’re saying I should whitewash. They’re saying I should lie” in reference to 1858 Missippi where use of the word was as American as apple pie.

The accusations of Django being racist or revisionist is somewhere between myopic and delusional. African-American stars like Jamie Foxx or Samuel Jackson obviously wouldn’t sign up for a film demeaning to themselves. The violence and racial epithets in the film correctly reflect the times and portray slavery in raw, uncompromising terms. And the notion that the super slave Django represents a dangerous example of African-American exceptionalism (to be exploited by conservatives as a “sign of racial progress”) takes a comical/fantasy film far too seriously.

If nothing else,  Django is arguably a post-Obama cinematic landmark. Like the president, Quentin Taratino’s film shows how far America has come since the days of slavery. And, like the current political climate in the Washington, Django underscores America’s absurd obsession with guns. Change is a multi-faceted phenomena.