Django Unchained – A Genre Perfect For The Time

By Katrina Taylor

I went to see Django Unchained last night. I have to admit, living in Georgia amongst the Tea Baggers, I was hesitant about what the vibe would be like in the theater. I see now that my anxiety had more to do with the hype around the movie than the actual movie.

Not that I expected any violence or such. But I didn’t want to deal with tension I thought might arise around some of the complaints I’d heard from critics around the use of the “nigger” word and extreme violence. I wanted to just enjoy the movie.

So I went to the latest show, 10:15pm because that’s usually when the young folks go. They tend to be much cooler around race issues so I was comfortable with that.

I see now all of that background noise playing in my subconscious — the fear particle — was just more evidence of the conditioning we all are subject to in the States on issues of race.

I couldn’t have imagined that the blend of Tarantino’s parody and the intensely emotional issue of slavery in America could be such a perfect one. Impeccable & artful timing among the mega-star cast and piquant dialogue that points a laser beam on the idiocy of supremacy brings to light this important issue in a digestible way.

Just the issue on the overuse of the word, “nigger” in the movie. Even writing it here, I can feel the pull of the collective cringing at the sound. It’s pretty ridiculous considering the word is overused in daily life. A whole industry has been built around the use of the word. Our continued offense, on either side, only keeps the idiocy going. We all know the history. Am I  supposed to be offended if some yahoo has no other way to deal with his own shortcomings than to call me a nigger? Or am I really supposed to be upset when my white friend uses the word nigger?

Why, exactly?

Context matters, I guess. But I’m not so sure here. And overall, if we can’t say that simple word without creating firestorms, when in reality we say it all the time, then how can we expect to ever have a reasonable conversation on the issue of race?

I thought Jamie Foxx was good in the role. Not great but commendable and that sure but unpredictable, crazed look in his eye throughout the highly-charged scenes  was compelling. He damn sure looked good in his role as a Black bounty hunter & cut a fine picture riding that horse. I didn’t know he was a horseman but I’m pretty sure that was actually Jamie riding the horse bareback and barefoot across the plains.

The thing about Tarantino’s brand is that it goes beyond pure blood & guts and manages to pierce dulled senses and make people think. Yes, Django Unchained is a bloodbath but the actual horrors of the Pan African Slave Trade could never be fully depicted on the big screen. And Tarantino doesn’t do documentaries.  The extremes in Django Unchained only serve to add to the glaring realities around the falsehoods of this whole black & white problem. Tarantino manages to take this nasty wound festering between us for centuries and bring it to the light in a way that all can dare take a look. What could easily be campy trash he transforms into vital commentary. Django Unchained opens the space for a necessary conversation, imploring us to question traditional beliefs.

I love Christoph Waltz and his role as the German bounty hunter who “unchains” Django. His disarming character, the dentist, Dr. Shultz, was a delightful but deadly fellow and I don’t know anyone who could have played it better. Leonardo DiCaprio’s, “Calvin Candie” puts The Baron of Dune to shame with his debaucherous portrayal of a rich Southern slave owner. I think  Candie’s insatiable blood-lust underscores the current issue we face as a nation around guns and the origins of our particularly violent and particularly American problem.

Kerry Washington plays Django’s long lost wife and hers is a life filled with torture. She squeezes out every drop of empathy for and sheds light on the vital issue of who controls a woman’s body. Tarantino tells a love story here that we’ve never seen in the standard fare of movie making. For black actors portraying the horrors of slavery on the big screen, pure romantic love has been glaring in its absence.

Samuel Jackson is Stephen, the despicable, “What? WE sick, boss?” negro that Malcolm X talked about. He does such a good job that I hope I’ll be able to like him again in the future. I’m just kidding. I love Sam but he was just that good.

Django Unchained is a movie that has come along at the right time. I would ask the critics who feel that the Pan African Slave Trade is degraded by this portrayal, do you know a better way to start this impossible conversation? Quentin Tarantino does a brilliant job doing just that. The spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. This is the way towards shrinking this malignant sore to the lesser place it deserves rather than the forefront of what we think of one another.

I sat comfortably in the Georgia movie theater in the middle of the night, with a crowd, black & white, human beings open to change.

If you don’t think this is a big deal, I remember watching “Roots” under similar circumstances but it was not, by any means, a similar experience.

My, how we have grown.

Thank you, Mr. Tarantino, for a masterpiece.

**Django Unchained – Trailer**


~ by katrinataylor44 on January 7, 2013.

7 Responses to “Django Unchained – A Genre Perfect For The Time”

  1. Brilliantly stated and honest review. Thank You!

  2. Reblogged this on

  3. Great post, Katrina! I really like your voice. Thanks for the follow on Writing Between the Lines. I look forward to following you too.

  4. Your method of describing the whole thing in this piece of writing is actually pleasant, all can simply understand it, Thanks a lot.

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