#TeamBlaria, I waited to see Django Unchained, or as I like to call it, Jangz, until last night because I learned my lesson two years ago when the parental units and I watched Sad Black Women, Vaseline & Chicken Grease better known as Precious on Christmas, resulting in our entire car ride home consisting of this:
Because if the misery of that movie is TMTH (too much to handle), then there was no way in hell me, Ma, & Pa Robinson were going to make it through Jangz. After all, unlike a scoop of Cool Whip, white people saying nigger does not go well with you and your mom’s slices of sweet potato pie. Yes, I do bring homemade baked goods to the movie theater. #DontJudgeMe. Moving on. The point is that I saw the movie and guess what? When it was over, despite some idiot bloggers’ “fears,” I didn’t want to get my Nat Turner on and kill a whole bunch of white folk. Nor did my boyfriend (he’s white) and I have a long only-in-a-Hollywood-movie-drawn-out-discussion-about-race-and-America-that-resulted-in-us-breaking-up-but-not-before-I-rage-danced-Rosie-Perez-style-out-of-his-life. Instead what did happen was that my brain overloaded with numerous adjectives as I tried to process what I just watched. I mean, Jangz is messy. Disturbing. Funny. Sad. Cray cray as fuck. Upsetting. Unrelenting. Crackling with energy. Sweet. Moving. Visceral, which, above all else is what I imagine was one of, if not, the main goal of Jangz. To throw the harshness of slavery directly in our faces, so we’re forced to look at it. And, finally, the film is a little bit of a bummer for me, but not for the reason you think. Let me explain.
When the end credits rolled on the screen, all I could think was, “As savage and brutal as the movie was, slavery was at least a thousand times worse. More “nigger”s thrown around. More heartbreaking beatings. More soul crushing distress of black families torn apart, both mentally and physically. Damn.” Bummer, in-fucking-deed, right? But then a second wave of “bummertude” washed over me as I realized that I, or someone like me (obvs, I mean someone black), could never make this film. And I got jealous for a hot minute. Let’s be clear: I, in no way, think that I possess the same kind of talent and twisted, film-infused worldview that Tarantino has. But I do think that if he was black, there’s no way in hell he’s never ever, ever, ever be allowed to make this film, especially with the help of a major film studio. And while I felt jealous of this for five minutes, I think I’m not the only person who felt this way. I’m not the only who’s jealous of Tarantino’s white privilege that he’s allowed to make any film he wants. And I think that, subconscious or not, the outrage directed at Jangz is because he gets to tell the story. This story.
Sure, this isn’t Tarantino’s first time at the rodeo when it comes to pushing buttons & controversy. From the intense (and sometimes) gratuitous violence, the language, the usage of the n-word, he’s been talked about a lot throughout his career. However, it’s quite different this time. He gets to do the spaghetti western/slavery mashup story. The strong “I’ll scour the Earth for you” black love story and not have it marketed as an urban film and end up being ignored by mainstream America. No black director in Hollywood is allowed to tell those stories this way. Don’t believe me? Spike Lee couldn’t even get funding for a sequel to Inside Man, which is, by far, his most commercial and least racially controversial film of his career and grossed nearly $185 million dollars. So if Lee couldn’t get greenlit on what would’ve been an obvious money making sequel, then it’s only plainly obvious that if he attempted to make a revenge slave fantasy where a black man kills tons of white people, questions of Lee being anti-white would have asked. That’s just the first part of the equation. The second and more “troubling” part, in Hollywood’s eyes, is showing two black people in love. For example, shortly after the Will Smith rom-com movie Hitch was released in 2005, it was revealed that people didn’t want Will to play opposite a black female love interest for fear of the film being “too black.” So instead, other non-black actresses like Cameron Diaz and Eva Mendes, who ended up winning the role, were asked to audition. So, again, I ask, does it seem likely that Hollywood would have gotten so thoroughly behind a film about a slave killing white folk AND longs to reunite with his black wife because he loves her so much if the film were directed by a black person?
And that bums me the fuck out. But don’t get me wrong. I still love this movie. I think it’s fantastic and I can’t wait to own it on Blu-ray. Yet there is a small part of me that wonders what would this movie have been like if it was directed by someone black. And I think that thought will always be floating around in my head, however; just because I have that thought doesn’t mean I’m not going to allow myself the possibility of enjoying this movie and recognizing its artistic merit. Because guess what? Sometimes white privilege allows for good things like this movie or All in the Family or any numerous movies/TV shows and that’s a slightly awkward for me to accept, but that’s something I have to reconcile with and I think it would be a huge disservice and be a giant waste of time to have someone like Tarantino feeling guilty for being in a position to make this movie. White guilt benefits no one and annoys everyone.
Now, white privilege isn’t the only problem some people have with this movie. The usage of the the word “nigger” in the movie is raising more than a few eyebrows. I mean, for one, there is no “Jigga, my nigga” pronunciations. Only hard “er”s from all the white people and the Samuel L. Jackson’s house slave character. And I have to admit that it was weird to heard the word with the “er” in the beginning. The first few times I heard the word, I had a Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys reaction:
Hearing the “er felt like a punch in the gut, perhaps because I had to settle in and remember that, “Oh, yeah, this word was said all the fucking time, so the fact that I’m a little jarred hearing it while I’m munching on Twizzlers is really nothing but a bowl of “get over yourself.” But on the other hand, the word made me laugh. So odd that a slur can serve so many purposes, when it was created to hurt. But back to the point, Tarantino wrote the words in the script and throughout his career, his usage of “nigger” and “nigga,” has given some people pause. He uses it a lot in all of his films, especially Jangz. And so do the majority of my black male friends say nigga. A lot. That’s just a fact. You know who else said the word a lot? WHITE SLAVE OWNERS. So I don’t think it’s inappropriate for Quentin to reflect that fact in his art. What would have been inappropriate is if he had Don Johnson and Leonardo DiCaprio’s characters address the slaves like, “Hey, bruh, could you do me a fav and pick all that fucking cotton until your hands are bleeding? Totes appreesh (aka appreciate).” Let’s not pretend that slaveowners didn’t say and do anything to break the spirits of black people because they did. Also, black and white people, let’s not be offended by a historically accurate representation of verbal abuse during slavery, but completely ignore a completely justifiable WTF?! moment from another film this year:
“You know, I obviously went to Tony and sought his approval…was the first thing. And Tony does not have, I don’t know what you would say, a Latin/Spanish accent, of any kind really, and… you know you wouldn’t necessarily select him out of a line of ten people and go ‘This guy’s Latino…So I didn’t feel as though I was violating some thing, where, here’s this guy who’s clearly ethnic in some way and it’s sort of being whitewashed by Ben Affleck the actor.” – Affleck at an industry event about casting himself as Tony Mendez in the CIA thriller “Argo.”
I mean, where was the outrage over that?! Instead of him auditioning Latino actors, he simply cast himself as Mendez because Mendez doesn’t have have a Spanish accent or look overtly Latino (re: brown). That’s fucking gross. What the hell did Affleck think? That because Mendez doesn’t go around saying, “Hola, ese,” and doing this:
that he’s not really ethnic? Note to Affleck and the rest of the critics and people giving Affleck a rimjob for his “brave” film: WHITEWASHING IS NOT BRAVERY; IT’S A DAMN TRAVESTY. Anyway, the point is that whitewashing is widely acceptable and awarded; the film is racking up various critics’ awards and nominations. Yet, Tarantino having the gall to use a racial slur in a movie about slavery is unacceptable? Man, we’re having the wrong conversations here. And ultimately, I think that is the problem with a lot of the criticism about Django Unchained. We’re talking about the wrong things. It’s not about the number of times that the n-word is said in the movie. It’s about the fact that the word is taken out of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer because it makes some white people uncomfortable because black people totes had that option of telling white people to not use racial slurs because it was awkward. It’s about the fact that people don’t want to deal with history when it’s awkward, so they rather brush over it or change it. It’s about the fact that we don’t really deal with the pain that’s associated with the n-word. It’s about the fact that of all the opportunities we have to discuss slavery in America, we will, yet again, waste it because we’re caught up on the minor details like nigger and white guilt and feeling “icky” that we miss the big picture that so much of the deep-rooted ugliness about slavery continues to not be talked about, which is why we have the race problems that we have today. So let’s truly talk about Jangz, the n-word, slavery. Let’s talk about all of it, so that one day we can get past it instead of having the elephant in the room. Btdubs, having a half black President doesn’t mean we’re past it. Don’t believe me?: