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What’s Not To Like about Django Unchained?

What’s Not To Like about Django: Unchained by Homer Jackson

Ok. So, I saw Django: Unchained.
And I have to say that the hype was unwarranted.
But, hype is news and news is marketing.

The media dragging Spike Lee out as a sacrificial lamb for the press to quote, and then bash, seemed as if it was indeed part of the marketing. I sure hope he got paid.

I must start with a confession. I ain’t a Tarantino fan. I love Pulp Fiction. Yup. That’s a master work, but that’s the best for me. Even with that, I know his work to be an amazing masking of Blaxploitation film strategies and themes, merged with some Kung Fu flavors, Spaghetti Western ideas, with great camera angles, banging, soulful soundtracks and romantically financed, big azz budgets!

That’s essentially what Django: Unchained was. If you, like I, managed to escape to the world of the Saturday afternoon matinee, or late night drive inn B-movie smorgasbord during the early 1970s, you saw the last of traditional cowboy flicks, the weird world of gothic horror films, low-budget, Giant Japanese Monsters, Europeans re-winning the American west in films called Spaghetti Westerns, the bad ass and righteous, revenge seekers of Blaxploitation films, and the creation of the classic American, anti-hero exemplified by Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry.” That is the imagery and cultural stew that Quentin Tarantino feasted on and that fuels his work.

Was the use of the nigger/nigga overused in Django? No. It was appropriate to the period depicted in the film. Were the characters deep and meaningful in Django? No. They were comic book-ish, but not in a bad way. They are easily defined. That character quality is consistent with most Blaxploitation stories and Spaghetti westerns. Bad guys have everything. Good guys are outnumbered and out gunned, but they have dynamite and are cool as hell.

From the very start of the film, you had to choose sides. And even the white people in the audience wouldn’t stand with the stupid, cardboard cutout white characters depicted in the story. The later Klan-like scene, which was hilariously-stupid and in my mind added for effect was the kind of sh#t that would get Spike Lee or John Singleton dogged out. First off, it was historically inaccurate. In reality, the Klan appears after the completion of the Civil War and the beginnings of Reconstruction. This film takes place 2 years before the war. Those dudes would have just been a standard, bloodthirsty posse and that was pretty common it appears.

So, was it worth seeing. Sure. To paraphrase Jamie Fox’s Django, “Kill white people and get paid for it? What’s not to like?” That may speak to why so many Black folks, especially those folk who rarely even go to movies have seen this film. I think folks felt good. They don’t need that historical accuracy. They don’t need any particular truth. “Sh#t Spike, it’s just entertainment.”

But, I’ll just ask this one question: Did anybody take the time to see, “Rosewood” – The same hero revenge flavored film by John Singleton, or Spike Lee’s, “Miracle At Santa Anna” – the brave hero story of WWII Black soldiers? We can all rest assured that no one in hollywood would fund a Black film maker to make a no-holds-barred film about slavery or damn near any other topic in Black life.

And here I’ve been, hoping for a film about the original, bad ass, Black characters that seemed to have emerged in Black people’s tall tales after the Civil War. The characters that shaped the stories that would eventually become Shine and Dolemite during the 20th century. I’m talking of such characters like Stagger Lee and John The Conqueror. These are bonafide characters from American folklore. Chances are that we’ll never see those stories. But maybe I’m wrong. After all, we do have a Black president and we all know how much that has meant for Black life in America.

Homer Jackson

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