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by Jay A. Fernandez
June 6, 2012 9:03 PM
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'Django Unchained,' Unleashed: New Trailer Inspires Debate About Race and Cinema

'Django Unchained'
From the very beginning, Quentin Tarantino’s films have drawn heated criticism — for their violence, for their rampant cribbing from other classic filmmakers, for their self-conscious pop culture references. But his treatment of race and unrepentant use of the word “nigger,” particularly in “Pulp Fiction” and “Jackie Brown,” brought some of the harshest heat from the African-American community, even as it applauded his unabashed celebration of black icons and music.

Well, “Django Unchained” looks to make that kerfuffle a passing disagreement. With the release of the first teaser trailer for Tarantino’s pre-Civil War-era slave revenge flick today, the suspicions of fans and other observers curious about how the filmmaker would handle the whole black-white thing has started one hell of a debate. Which is precisely what Tarantino -- and the Weinstein Company -- are looking for.

As an oppressed people-triumphing-over-evildoers corollary to Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” revenge fantasy in which the Jews swiftly wiped out the entire Nazi leadership, “Django” should be something to cheer for, right? A slave rises up and kills a bunch of fancy-pants white racists to regain the love of his life. Who wouldn’t get behind that?

One look at the comments section beneath the trailer post on Indiewire blog network stalwart Shadow and Act gives us a pretty detailed snapshot of where those battle lines are drawn for those who see real meaning in the representation of blacks on film. Is this really about a slave rising up, or is it about another black man that needs a white savior to lead him to his destiny? Can you swallow a movie that takes great liberty to depict something ultimately whimsical without it denying or damaging the painful truth of history?

Should a white guy get to tell a story like this at all?

Here’s a sampling of some of the post-trailer debate, which is currently in full swing.

Rolo: Black people who see this and think "Django is off the chain" are as brainwashed as white folks want them to be. No self-respecting, conscious Black Man or Woman can look at this and be straight-out excited. I look at it and see a privileged White Man playing with the pain of our ancestors in pure fanboy fetish fashion. I guess the S/A crowd will be lining up to drink the kool-aid.

Sergio: This is the film I've been waiting for. A film with a black man with balls. Black man punishing and killing evil white men! I haven't seen this since 1974. And the trailer is only the tip of the iceberg. Tarantino is writing and shooting new scenes for the film making it even more intense and bloodier. Cannot wait to see this. I'm SOLD! Can it come out sooner?

Shawn Taylor: What is up with Tarantino and his addiction to black everything? From "dead nigger storage" to Dennis Hopper's Sicilian monologue in True Romance, to the fetish pastiche of Jackie Brown...Dude needs help. There is no doubt that he is a good filmmaker, but if you leave aside his perma-homage, 70s boner; there is something profoundly disturbing in his oeuvre. There has always been a certain level of hipster-racism in all of his stuff, but this seems to be more pathology laced than anything. It was if 'dead nigger storage' was foreplay, and now showing the enclaved and the brutal conditions they endured is the consummation. If there were equally weighted positive images (and black filmmakers) in the public sphere, this would (probably) not sting so much. My next essay: Quentin Tranatino--White Privilege/Black Image.

Nadine: "A film with a black man with balls"... is what I think is most POWERFUL. I haven't seen a film in the U.S. with a Black man who seemingly cares not for the opinions or thoughts of the "establishment", their aesthetic, their laws, and is just down for his "real man" thing. Forging his own path, yes, at some point with this man whom he partners with, but only as a means to Django's own end. He'll do what he has to take care/be responsible for his life and the lives of those whom he is man enough to openly cherish. Yes... I said it, and probably lost 10 I.Q. points. Again, I haven't seen the movie so my take could be completely off, but when have we seen anything like this representation (and yes I saw Red Tails)? A Black man with solid footing and a clear understanding of his value (therefore the value of others like him) without carrying the burden of shame (coveting the WM's life) . The rest of the storyline...? I don't know... but let's see what happens.

Mighty Mo Rodgers: Wow...another film about miscegenation and titilation using the muscularity of the "beauty people" of Hollywood, with James Brown screamin' his soul/blues. Please! Revenge! It never happened.....Black folks as a people were turned inside out. And the only thing we came through with is our...Holy Howl...Blues....which comes from God to deny the lie of our nothingness. Tarantino once again mines the black vernacular text......such silliness. Anyone who goes to see this crap....well, really ain't got a cue

What’s your take on “Django?”

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  • oppidum | January 26, 2013 8:49 AMReply

    1. It's the mythological Brunhilde story retold for the african-american public? (King Schulz, Django as Siegfried, Leonardo di Caprio as the dragon, the manor house as the castle, firefights = ring of fire)
    2. It's an allogory for the civil war and abolition of slavery? Schulz personifying Lincoln/the North, Calvin Candy personifying the South, Hildy = slaves/african-americans, Django the 54 all black regiment. Peaceful negotiations break down into violent battle(s).
    3. It's an homage to the spaghetti westerns.
    4. It's a love story.
    5. It's QT violent.

  • eldiablo | December 12, 2012 12:41 PMReply

    Falling Down was about a white man losing it and getting revenge against the criminal element of society. It went out of the way to make all of the villians white with the occasional hispanic. No blacks were shown in a negative light. In fact, the lead character shoots up a white "racists" gun store for being racist.

    How is that for the Hollywood double standard.

  • Donella | October 17, 2012 7:48 PMReply

    Will watch Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave instead. Tarantino has a tendency towards self-serving, egotistical, wannabe hipster desperation. Always desperately searching for the "Black Cool." Sick of the phoniness of him and the fanboys like him.

  • Donella | June 16, 2013 1:57 PM

    Zero, baby, I think YOU need to do a little research. Sometimes condescending just doesn't have the payoff you expect.

  • JohnG | January 11, 2013 4:20 PM

    Donella, I guess Mr Zero is a bit clueless about who Steve McQueen is. Lol.

  • Zeroed Out | December 27, 2012 2:42 PM

    Hey, Donella, I'm a fan of Steve McQueen, too, but while you're out there declaring the brilliance of McQueen as a way to belittle today's films, perhaps you should do a little research into the man. Like the fact that while he was out screwing every woman in town, his wife had a one night stand with another actor and McQueen's reaction was to threaten her life with a loaded gun when she came home, and she was so convinced he would kill her over it, she divorced him. I guess real violence against women is nothing when compared to what you sense as phoniness of QT. lol

  • Bob Saget | September 2, 2012 5:28 PMReply

    "A slave rises up and kills a bunch of fancy-pants white racists to regain the love of his life. Who wouldn’t get behind that?"
    You're kidding me right? Imagine if instead it was a white man going around and killing blacks for causing the majority of crime in America. Every one of you people would be busting a nut trying to yell "racism!".

  • Zeroed Out | December 27, 2012 2:29 PM

    "Bob" ... your analogy is ridiculous, and serves as possibly the weakest argument I've heard. Spike Lee has -- in real life -- made very racist comments against whites and he gets a pass, yet a white guy can't make a movie with slavery and racism in it? So QT should not be allowed to make a movie like this? So are you saying that white people should make white people movies and black people should make black people movies? You're the one sounding racist if that's how you feel about it.

  • Jamil in Bing. | September 1, 2012 11:30 PMReply

    From what EYE see it sends A deeper message to A certain group of people after all look at the name ...... in all actuality our youth are really the lead corrector in the movie!!! take A step way back and take A good look at it....Django is of the chain and he got the youth of every one else community following him to!!! that's what's so upsetting for those other guy's I guess it's kinda like the frankinstine story.....after dude had made the monster he was unable to control it!!! So don't be fooled by the aspect of " privileged White Man playing with the pain of our ancestors in pure fanboy fetish fashion " it go's much deeper than that, much deeper!!! EYE see it as A wake up call to those who speak and understand the lingo of the powers that may be.....REAL FOOD RAY-D-YO.......

  • Auranthea | August 25, 2012 5:45 PMReply

    What people first need to understand is that race doesn't exist. There's no such thing as white or black. It was this idea of race that allowed slavery to be perpetrated in the first place. People are different physical characteristics depending on where their from, but that only signifies from which part of the world your parents, and grandparents, and great-grandparents, etc. originated. Race is not even a social-construct; it just doesn't exist. Nationality does, and as far as I can tell, most people speaking about this issue are American. Perhaps people need to stop identifying with groups that don't exist. I'm not "white", I'm Canadian, and English, with a little bit of Ukrainian and Irish. Jamie Foxx isn't "black", he's American and whatever nationalities his parents and grandparents happen to me.

    I guess my point is that there is no real issue. Arguing about this movie in terms of race is like arguing whether the movie perpetrates bad ideas against the fairies that live outside in the garden. :P

  • Bob Saget | September 2, 2012 5:30 PM

    You do realize that Greeks had Greek Slaves, Roman had Roman slaves, etc. etc. Slavery did not start in America with blacks (who were sold to Europeans by their own kind). Your ignorance is astounding and is no doubt a product of the public school system.

  • Frustrated | June 8, 2012 11:37 AMReply

    I applaud Tarantino for the movie, and it looks like it will be good, but I'm still frustrated. A part of me thinks that the only reason the movie was produced, got the funding it needed, etc., was because it was a white man telling the story of black man. But imagine if a black man had written this movie (despite the fact that the main character is killing ignorant slave owners who deserve much worse to begin with), they would have called that black filmmaker/screenwriter an angry black man, frustrated and stuck in the past. But because it is not a black man, but Tarantino, oh, all of a sudden the movie it's brilliant, insightful, whatever you want to call it. The same situation happened with "The Help." While the movie and the novel were wonderful, it was written by a white woman. Where are the black folks telling these stories of the past? I know there are great black screenwriters and filmmakers out there challenging these issues. So, where are they?

  • Uncle Jesse | December 27, 2012 3:01 PM

    Don't attack the guy for using the word ignorant when you damned well know what he's trying to say. Judging from your comments on this subject, it's obvious that you're waving your "thang" around by showing everyone how smart and educated you are, and now you've relegated yourself to spewing out an official definition of a word that many people have used, rightly or not, to describe their anger and frustration toward the situation. So get off your high horse. You're not that awesome.

    There is something engrained within the vast majority of us, as human beings. The sense to be good. The sense to treat people the way they should be treated. While power DOES corrupt, there were far too many people back in that era who simply WERE ignorant ... not so much about owning slaves, per se, but about the overall treatment of humans beings in general that were different from them. Many of these slave owners saw blacks as a different species, one that was beneath them, and that IS ignorant on a very basic level. After all, by that logic, it would mean that it was okay that Hitler slaughtered millions of Jews seeing as how he viewed them as a lesser species. While "white folks" used black people as slaves for their entire lives, Hitler was simply putting Jews "out of their misery."

    So, after the Civil War, you're basically saying that people were like, "Oh hey, I guess it's not okay to treat human beings as property. I know this now, because that guy in Washington said it. Well, okay, onto something else, I guess." Ridiculous. Yes, many black slaves were treated well for the reason you mentioned, but isn't it ignorant not to realize that many of them would have been happy being made free?

    Anyway ... your flat Earth analogy is ridiculous because, YES, that was ignorance. In fact, you said it yourself ... ignorance is a LACK OF KNOWLEDGE ... and a LACK OF INFORMATION. People at that time, who believed the Earth was flat, believed so PRECISELY due to the lack of those things. Way to disprove your own point!

  • Bob Saget | September 2, 2012 5:35 PM

    How are the slave owners ignorant? Before the Civil War it wasn't ignorant to have slaves, in fact it was normal. The definition of ignorance is "lack of knowledge, information, or education; the state of being ignorant", which you seem to fit. Are people who lived in the early first century ignorant for believing the Earth was flat? Most slaves were treated with respect and dignity (why would you destroy your own property?) and were better off living in America than in Africa. What is ignorant is your blatant racism.

  • illthoughts | June 7, 2012 5:57 PMReply

    First, I would like to say never expect a non black person to represent black people like we would want them too. He who have the pen writes the story.

    Second, when giving the chance what have black directors done to represent their people? Precious and For Colored Girls? Nah, I rather see this white boy QT's movie.

    Third, it's a movie which means it's art. Vile people do exist like Monique's character in Precious. We have to get away from that nonsense that we shouldn't do this role or we shouldn't do that role. Some black people are drug dealers, serial killers, republicans, so what's the fuss? Viola Davis articulated it better than me so, look it up.

    Fourth, stop complaining and help the cause. Write a film where we're the superhero or don't need help from the white man. Donate to a kickstarter campaign so, that struggling artist can make the movie you want to see. Other than that stop complaining.

  • Beau | June 11, 2012 6:05 AM

    Thank You !! Geeez.

  • Cory | June 7, 2012 5:10 PMReply

    For one thing, who on earth would take this seriously as a reoresentation of anything. I think the biggest upset is that a black man is not behind this film, and the fact that the black man is still in fact a sidekick. Will it be a movie that revitalizez black youth in America certainly not, will it be good for a laugh...perhaps. But what frustrarates me is that this seems to be a poorly crafted movie that I would say is not reminiscent of the Tarantino films I love. He used to be better or maybe I used to be younger.

  • Shabazz | June 7, 2012 2:46 PMReply

    I feel bad for any black people who pay money to see this film. Sensationalized fictional slavery stories penned by white people, being sold back to the 4th generation post-Civil rights movement, mostly for the profit of white people. I can see why Will Smith (Ali) and Denzel Washington (Malcolm X) turned this role down. I will happily download this movie illegally though simply because I am a movie lover.

  • Faith | June 7, 2012 2:45 PMReply

    Looks F'n AWESOME and I am not a kool-aid drinking QT fan.

  • jamil | September 1, 2012 11:28 PM

    From what EYE see it sends A deeper message to A certain group of people after all look at the name ...... in all actuality our youth are really the lead corrector in the movie!!! take A step way back and take A good look at it....Django is of the chain and he got the youth of every one else community following him to!!! that's what's so upsetting for those other guy's I guess it's kinda like the frankinstine story.....after dude had made the monster he was unable to control it!!! So don't be fooled by the aspect of " privileged White Man playing with the pain of our ancestors in pure fanboy fetish fashion " it go's much deeper than that, much deeper!!! EYE see it as A wake up call to those who speak and understand the lingo of the powers that may be.....REAL FOOD RAY-D-YO.......

  • Jon | June 7, 2012 10:44 AMReply

    Jews fantasy revenge on Hitler "Inglourious Basterds"). African Americans on racists "Django Unchained". Mix with probably the best dialogue writer in the biz. What's the problem? I just hope that QT sets his sights on American Indians next.

  • John Keefer | June 7, 2012 10:35 AMReply

    Artists should censor themselves, artists should only make safe inoffensive work, artists need to create an entirely original work that has no connection to any other piece of art. Got it. Do you also want me to make the Earth rotate North too?

  • solo | June 7, 2012 7:39 AMReply

    Looking forward to seeing it, love Quentin's movies. People need to stop being so uptight, it's a movie. You should worry about what's going on in those War torn Country's where black children, women and men are still being used as slaves by their own people.

  • Dart | June 9, 2012 9:14 PM

    The fact that it is a movie means diddly squat. Racism is racism is racism. Movies, TV shows, books, even advertising - it all affects how we as individuals and we as a society think. The fact that it is a movie, if anything, makes it even more important to think about and criticize problematic elements of it, as it will reach a wide audience. And mind you, I'm not saying anything about the movie - I'm only addressing that element of your comment. I just hate the "It's just a (movie, TV show, book, etc.)" argument, because it's bullshit.

  • Carly | June 7, 2012 5:41 AMReply

    We're more than six months from release, and production hasn't even finished yet. How about we hold our opinions until after we've seen the full feature film?

  • Faith | June 7, 2012 2:47 PM

    But Carly that would mean we'd have to have some sense to begin with...

  • jean vigo | June 7, 2012 3:49 AMReply

    Take plot and structure from the original "Django" Italian spaghetti westerns
    add Sergio Leone's/De Palma's/Scorsese's formalism (filming styles)
    steal the message already told by pioneering African-American filmmakers from the late 60s/early 70s (Gordon Parks/Melvin Van Peebles)
    add Western genre story points from "Boss N----r" (yeah, Django Unchained owes a lot to this one)

    = Tarantino making movies the easy way - cut and paste and pull the wool over the eyes of those who don't know any better.

    Come on, all! Every step we take forward in learning about movie history renders Tarantino more and more INsignificant. By "Pulp Fiction" we got it.....ugh....enuff....boring if you've seen it before....