Tarantino has done it again! Famous American filmmaker, director, and actor, Quentin Tarantino, known for creating masterpieces such as Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, and Inglorious Bastards, has made history with history in his spaghetti western, Django Unchained. The film revolves around Django, an African American slave played by Jamie Foxx, who is freed by a white bounty hunter, and together join forces to rescue Django’s wife who has been captured by an infamous plantation owner. The film provides a glimpse of the brutal reality of slavery in the 19th century. Known for making violent and explicit movies full of gore and profanity, Tarantino was criticized and questioned whether it was the right move to make a film like Django, dealing with such a sensitive topic. The major concern for many people was the use of the N-word and the amount of violence, and how the African American community’s reaction would be. However, most of the concerned were white. Tarantino’s response to these comments was probably the only correct and most candid answer. He replied, “Frankly, I don’t see how anyone could criticize a subject like slavery for having too much violence, I mean it was a very violent, brutal time in American history. Frankly, I pulled back the violence. This is the PG version of the story.” Both African American actor and actress, Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington couldn’t agree more with Tarantino’s statement. Although Foxx expressed his discomfort with the use of the N-word by white actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio, he and Washington agreed that they were excited to make a film about slavery with a director who is not intimidated by violence and brutality, because this is the actual truth about slavery. If you’re going to make a movie based on an extremely brutal and barbaric period in time like slavery, which has been shamefully censored and sanitized for many years by the whites, it’s time that someone stood up and exposed the cruel reality of American history, or at least a more realistic picture. Tarantino did exactly that.
African American history, slavery to be more specific, is a time in history that people find hard to talk about and tend to avoid. However, if people avoid it then they will never learn and evolve into a better society, hence showing it to them is a better way to address or bring up the topic in a conversation. To be honest, the movie is very comedic at times in the sense that, for someone who doesn’t know much about the reality of this history, might find it hard to believe that things that are seen in the film actually happened and may find them funny, almost like comic book type of violence, when in reality they did happen. Tarantino said, “If you think Django Unchained is violent, try slavery.” During the movie, we see the amount of dehumanization that slaves were subject to. For example, Calvin Candie, a plantation owner and antagonist in the film played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is shown hosting slave fights with other slave masters. Basically, they chose the strongest of their slaves to fight to the death and viewed this as a source of entertainment and a way to bet money. One of the punishments shown for slaves was a wooden box where slaves would be locked inside, stripped of their clothes, rotting in the bare heat of the south. As illustrated and described in the reading “Freedom on My Mind”, the film also shows the horrible manner in which slaves were transported on land. Slaves were stripped down and chained together to long metals poles in a single file line. It is sickening to see how slaves were treated like animals.
Tarantino is known for taking tragic moments in history and giving it a positive twist, at least in his eyes, how he thinks things should have gone down. This is my favorite aspect from Tarantino’s movies, seen in Django as well as Inglorious Bastards and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He created Django to be the hero that would save slaves from their horrible punishment. He gives Django everything that slaves were deprived of, love, friendship, courage, and redemption, basically every human quality that was disregarded in slaves. Having said that, it is important to keep in mind that Django is also fiction. The truth about slavery is not really shown, other than the violence that came with slavery. While some might have the opinion that the depiction of slavery should be done realistically and respectfully, Tarantino’s goal as mention before, was to turn history around and give it a proper way or more satirical way to unwind in his eyes. His intention was not to create a history lesson. Tarantino, with the reputation he has, still created controversy in the film industry, giving those who were opposed to his film, the motivation to “encourage others to create movies that are much more respectful and provide a more nuanced interpretation of America’s greatest sin, the institution of slavery–an institution whose impact and legacy still color who we are today.”