Yes, I will say it: “Django Unchained” is racist, but let us not forget — so was the Old South.
You may have heard about Quentin Tarantino’s latest spaghetti western because of Spike Lee’s boycott where Lee claimed, “Django is insult to my ancestors.”
It is no secret that when Tarantino repurposes history, it is going to be a ribald, “unchained” bloodbath, but that has not stopped many social critics from condemning the film and its 110 instances of racial slurs. Many have even renamed the film: “Tarantino Unchained.”
Set in the pre-Civil War South, “Django Unchained” centers on German-born bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) and his deputy sidekick, Django (Jamie Foxx). Schultz is in need of an ex-slave that can identify his next assignment, the Brittle Brothers. In exchange for his help, Django is promised, as King puts it, a chance “to move to a more enlightened part of your country.”
After some good-old-fashioned “rough justice” against the Brittle Brothers, Django accomplishes some quasi-retribution; but full revenge is far from served because the fact remains: his wife, Broomhilda Von Shaft (Kerry Washington) remains in the bigoted Deep South.
Shultz, who feels an obligation to Django’s fate as a free man, demonstrates his more “euro-enlightened” beliefs about race by training Django as a bounty hunting protégé. With the help of Shultz, Django acquires the skill set needed to rescue his wife from her sadistic owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo Dicaprio) — owner of the notorious, “Candieland.” Candieland’s crowning achievement is its sadistic display of “Mandingo Fighting”: human fighting between the strongest and most expensive slaves.
Django and Schultz pose as prospective customers of Candieland’s finest “Mandingo fighters.” They offer a price “so ridiculous” that it intrigues Candie away from their true intentions — retribution and the emancipation of Von Shaft.
Do not be fooled, however, “Django Unchained” is not a love story, although it is probably as close as Tarantino will come. What follows after their arrival at Candieland is unrestrained, bloody-revenge, which has the singular purpose of counteracting the injustice that has, up until now, gone unchecked.
Already snagging the Golden Globe for best screenplay along with five Oscar nominations, “Django Unchained” delivers exactly what has come to be expected from a Tarantino film — a shootout, stunning dialogue, genre manipulation, blood and, as always, a bold and vulgar approach to taboo subjects.
If aesthetic violence and unbridled profanity is not your cup of tea, then perhaps you would prefer the nonviolent fight against slavery like Spielberg’s, “Lincoln.”
“Django Unchained” is a grim film, which tackles one of the darkest blots on American history — one that, despite our best efforts, cannot be downplayed. The film brings us to an uncomfortable chapter in history, one that must be learned from, but never underscored. The social critics who regard the film as a racist splurge of violence, are absolutely right; however, asking us to remember the Old South, without its heinous flaw’s entirety, begs the question: now who is rewriting history?