Before I start today’s post, I just wanted to update y’all in case you were wondering (you weren’t), but yes, I did totally try and see if Chris Gaines’ album is available on Spotify yesterday (it is not).* That action has officially dethroned my previous lowest low, which #TMIAlert after my flight arrived in Ohio, I dropped a deuce in the airport bathroom, then bought a Cinnabon, ate it on the cab ride to my parents’ house, which undoubtedly made me poop again shortly after arriving to my parents’ house (btdubs, if my boyfriend is reading this, I don’t poop. Love you). Anyway, the following GIF best symbolizes that experience:
Moving onto today’s issue. Quentin Tarantino, after three long years, is finally releasing his latest film Django Unchained, a Blaxplotation/Western mashup starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, and Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie centers around Django (Foxx) who, with the help of his mentor (Waltz), becomes a slave-turned-bounty hunter and sets out to rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from a Mississippi plantation owner (DiCaprio). Let’s check out the teaser trailer:
My reaction once the trailer ended:
Indeed, I got as excited as Patti LaBelle’s boobs are at the possibility that her “Praise Jesus, there’s still one more Klondike bar left in the freezer” happy dance might bust open that too tight belt, so they can “swing low, sweet chariot” Paul Robeson-style and return their resting position: her stomach. Unsurprisingly, the reaction on the internet is pretty divided, which I’m sure Tarantino expected. Anytime a movie deals with a slave/slavery, Black people are going to be extremely critical and perhaps, rightfully so. Compound that with the fact that Tarantino has had a curious relationship with the Black community throughout his career, Django is easily going to his most divisive film to date and possibly of his entire career.
The root cause of the touch and go relationship between him and the African-American community has to do with his use of the word “nigga” in his films. Outspoken and extremely talented director Spike Lee didn’t take too kindly to this and stated in an interview with Variety about Tarantino’s 1997 Blaxploitation movie Jackie Brown (sorely underrated, in my opinion): “I’m not against the word… and I use it, but Quentin is infatuated with the word. What does he want? To be made an honorary black man?” Ouch. QT probably had to turn on some late ’90s Monica and put some Neosporin on his bruised ego. Then he responded with the following on Charlie Rose:
As a writer, I demand the right to write any character in the world that I want to write. I demand the right to be them, I demand the right to think them and I demand the right to tell the truth as I see they are, all right? And to say that I can’t do that because I’m white, but the Hughes brothers can do that because they’re black, that is racist. That is the heart of racism, all right. And I do not accept that … That is how a segment of the black community that lives in Compton, lives in Inglewood, where Jackie Brown takes place, that lives in Carson, that is how they talk. I’m telling the truth. It would not be questioned if I was black, and I resent the question because I’m white. I have the right to tell the truth. I do not have the right to lie.
Look, I’m a gigantic fan of both these men. They’re artists and have, without a shadow of a doubt, left an indelible mark on cinema, but I think I have to side with QT on this one. The “poor me, I’m being questioned because I’m White” aside, he does have a point. If it’s true to the characters in the movie, then he has the right to write them that way and shouldn’t be accused of being racist because he’s being accurate. What exactly is the problem? That he used the word at all or that he used it too much? I mean, the Black guys in Compton, who say nigga, don’t go, “Today, I only using 15 of my allotted 27 ‘niggas,’ because yesterday, I went overboard and said it 35 times, but can you blame me? I was at the post office and niggas take all day to mail out packages. Dammit, now I’m down to 14.” Give me a break, Spike. Quentin isn’t infatuated with the word. Some Black people say ‘nigga’ like I say literally all the time: “I’m literally so full that I’m going to throw up if I eat anymore,” and then I finish the rest of my boyfriend’s cheesecake (not a euphemism, but it should be). Point is, rightly or wrongly, people use certain words as crutches when they speak. And it’s not inappropriate to reflect that in your art, so I think it’s unfair to penalize someone for doing so. Sidenote: Spike, I’m glad that what makes an honorary black man is saying nigga all the time. I guess being an honorary white person is that I like to read. I love you, Spike, but please:
Spike Lee isn’t the only one who’s had a problem. Denzel Washington has also expressed grievances and so have many Black moviegoers on internet. And this teaser trailer for Django has pushed a lot of them overboard:
Hey, Shabazz: 1) I don’t think Tony Robbins or any other motivational speaker would suggest that the way to get people on your side is to open with calling them “Uncle Tom house Negros,” 2) The whole “don’t pay, but download illegally” is pretty much the same code every guy who watches porn lives by, so glad y’all have that in common, and 3) You definitely would’ve been the worst Civil Rights leader ever because what kind of non-boycott boycott is that shit? You’re either anti-something or not. You can’t mobilize people if you’re like, “Fuck this shit, [whispers], but just in case the thing I just said ‘fuck you’ to is actually kind of amazing, then like definitely check it out.” But this is the kind of world we live in. We’ll easily backpedal on something we’re passionate about it if it turns out to be kind of good then we’ll say we like the good thing we had previously hated. That’s how I was about Mad Men and then I watched the show and was like Jon Hamm is so hot that my complaints about the show’s glamorization of the ’60s despite the fact that it sucked for women and people of color faded away. I didn’t care anymore. In fact, he’s so hot that I would gladly be considered 3/5ths human to get 5/5ths of his peen. Okay, so maybe I would’ve been the worst Civil Rights leader.
Anyway, the outrage over Django Unchained, which has classic Tarantino written all over it, by the way – homage to various film genres, great soundtrack, great dialogue and twisted sense of humor – makes little sense to me. Why anyone would look for a serious discussion about/representation of slavery from someone whose entire career is built upon creating hyper stylized and fantastical worlds is beyond me. I mean, there was practically little outrage over Inglourious Basterds and his fantasy take on Jews defeating Nazi Germany leadership. And there shouldn’t be any for this movie either. After all, the main premise is a White dude helping Django get his Nat Turner by paying him to kill White people in exchange for helping Django get his wife back. HELLO?! Clearly, this film is in fantasy land and the comedic elements of the film totally have a Blazing Saddles vibe. However, it seems that some people didn’t bother to pay attention to what the movie is about and instead came to their own conclusion based on this equation: Movie about slavery PLUS directed by White guy MINUS Denzel Washington single tear as he’s being whipped in Glory TIMES James Brown’s The Payback DIVIDED BY the fact that last week Gwyneth Paltrow referred to Jay-Z & Kanye West’s song Niggas in Paris as Niggas in Paris because even though that’s the name of the song, her white ass should’ve called it N-words in Paris = I’m Black and I’m mad as hell about Django Unchained! Black people, grab a Cinnabon and calm the hell down, please. Thank you.
*Reference to my previous post about Chris Gaines/Garth Brooks & Brian McKnight. Click here to read.