To say that Quentin Tarantino‘s “Django Unchained” will be divisive is perhaps an understatement. At The Playlist, we ran three reviews to highlight the varying opinions our staff had on the film, and with the movie hitting theaters this week that chatter is only going to increase. But getting the ball rolling on what is surely to be some lively debate in many quarters is Spike Lee, who has declared he will be not be seeing the movie at all.
Catching up with Vibe (via Shadow & Act), the director stated quite clearly why he felt he coulnd’t watch the movie. “I can’t speak on it ’cause I’m not gonna see it. I’m not seeing it. All I’m going to say is that it’s disrespectful to my ancestors, to see that film. That’s the only thing I’m gonna say,” he explained. “I can’t disrespect my ancestors. I can’t do it. Now, that’s me, I’m not speaking on behalf of anybody but myself.”
Of course, the comments attracted immediate attention, and Lee hit Twitter as well saying: “American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It Was A Holocaust. My Ancestors Are Slaves. Stolen From Africa. I Will Honor Them.” And of course, this prompted further debate and Lee stayed online for a while last night to read and respond to comments (it’s worth a browse).
And while we’ll let this conversation play out in the comments, particularly as people see the movie in the coming days and weeks, it should be noted that this isn’t the first time Tarantino has been the target of Lee’s criticisms. Circa “Jackie Brown,” Lee took issue with the amount of n-words peppered throughout the movie, telling Variety at the time: “I’m not against the word. And some people speak that way. But Quentin is infatuated with that word. What does he want to be made–an honorary black man?…I want Quentin to know that all African Americans do not think that word is trendy or slick.”
And one might surmise that Lee feels Tarantino is again playing a bit fast and loose with African-American history and culture, which may be why he’s not going to bother sitting down to watch “Django Unchained.” And while we’re all for criticism, we’d urge Lee to least see the movie before speaking out against it. Just like the current “Zero Dark Thirty“-endorses-torture spin that’s flying around the interwebs, a lot of it is coming from people who haven’t bothered to see the movie yet. Discourse is great, but let’s at least make sure we’re seeing the works first, before acting like experts about it.
Watch Lee’s comments shared with Vibe below, and as always, we want to know what you think.