There are a lot of questions surfacing about Quentin Tarantino's new movie, Django Unchained, but it's worth exploring why this is causing such a fuss. Is it not just a movie? Should people be angry that a piece of entertainment was created about a touchy subject? Should we find this offensive? If we consider this film art, does it change the way we judge it?
To complain that Hollywood is biased or historically inaccurate or offensive or controversial is exactly what Hollywood would say they are there for, and it doesn’t seem like they have ever pretended to be anything else. On the other hand, people should find inequality and the history of slavery in the United States offensive. It wasn’t that long ago and some would argue we haven’t ever really dealt with it as a nation. Is the problem then that we're unable to deal with uncomfortable subjects in film? The fact that something makes us squirm, even if it was true, is more than we can handle?
If proper respect for the event and the people it affected are the goal, the fact that this film causes controversy could be a positive outcome. It’s possible that a few people may actually go seeking further context, encouraging greater debate, maybe even developing an interest in the topic of slavery and the civil war as a result of the cultural revival, accurate or not. Lincoln is in theaters, and Hell on Wheels is a successful show also close to the topic.
The same people who find this movie offensive would likely not argue against the statement that the majority of US citizens lack a deep or accurate understanding of slavery and US history in general. By that rationale, if a crazy spaghetti western by a controversial director gets even a modicum of dialogue going about our nation's history and the cultural and emotional impacts still present, could this be positive for the subject overall in light of its shortcomings or the offense taken? And rather than attacking Tarantino, would we be better off directing the attention at the actual topic at hand and furthering the debate?
The intention of this post is not to belittle the argument about the movie in any way, some people may have a legitimate argument. However, it seems that without further context and exploration for more people, the validity of those arguments may be lost or buried. Let's take a deeper look, pump in some fresh air, and get more people involved.
Here are a few suggestions on what to do about Django:
1. See the movie and join the debate
From Jamie Foxx:
2. Read about the Civil War
(I have read this book, it has as some have argued probably done more to educate people on the civil war than many other efforts having sold millions of copies.)
3. Read about race relations and emancipation from famous black authors
DuBois, Douglass and Wilson would be recommended, 7, 5 and 9 on the list.
4. Watch Roots, see if Tarantino was right in his criticism.
5. Watch a 2 min episode of drunk history, also entertaining with mild historical accuracy.