I can’t recall the last time I ever read a more devastating shredding of a film than this dismantling written by Jesse Williams (mild-mannered actor, model, producer, star of Grey’s Anatomy by day; heroic blogger, teacher, Temple University grad, though-provoker, and movie-bullshit fighter by night). Today a tweet from Ava DuVernay led me to Williams 1500 word critique of Tarantino’s lazy insults on CNN.

In the film’s opening sequence, shackled blacks literally hold the key to their shackles and don’t use them, choosing instead to trudge forward, hindered by biting chains, to kill a white man. In the third act, after seeing Django kill the Australians, the blacks sitting in an open cage neither communicate with each other or consider stepping outside of the cage.

In fact, in this entire, nearly three-hour film, there are no scenes with black people interacting, or even looking at each other, in a respectful or productive way.

The CNN essay throws a harsh spotlight on the worst of what’s wrong with Django but that’s nothing compared to the far more rigorous bitch-slapping Jesse Williams delivers in a detailed scene-by-scene dissection that runs more than 5600 words on his own blog. Anyone who dislikes Django Unchained as much as I do will relish seeing it so deftly dismantled — and I’ll be surprised if even the film’s biggest fans don’t see it differently if they take the time to read Williams’ formidable takedown. Check out some choice excepts after the cut.

We all have subjective experiences during and after viewing a film. Strong feelings about art are not easily transferred onto others. If you didn’t think it was amazing, or offensive, it’s going to be tough for someone to convince you that it was. We need to feel for ourselves.

Not “feeling offended” does not mean the material itself was not offensive. The most effective propaganda goes unnoticed. That’s kind of how it works. Neither damage nor ignorance require intent.

With that in mind, I offer a breakdown of the scenes that affected me. I may have missed something you loved, or been apalled by something you never even noticed.

…Without so much as a glance, Django walks directly away from his fellow men. The shackled men have just witnessed a truly incredible series of events, yet at no point in the entire experience do they ever acknowledge or communicate with each other. (Their entire existence is awash with violence, so it’s not a result of shock.) Dr. King throws them the key to their shackles and advises them to head north. These men literally hold the key to their shackles and they never try to free themselves, or even look at each other. They don’t consider or confer. They just stand there mouths agape, like shackled apes, and as if with one mind, they trudge forward on cue, to inflict violence upon the wounded white oppressor before them. This imagery is a choice that defies all survivalist logic. You have the key to the iron shackles that eat away at your raw ankles. Take them off. When first glimpsing freedom, they look not to each other or their own shackled ankles, but first to inflict violence upon the nearest white person. Which, incidentally is exactly what Django did when freed; physically assaulted the wounded white man by pressing the horses weight into his wound. Could the black men not have looked to North Star themselves? Displayed human initiative by assembling supplies from the wreckage or anything else a real, experienced adult man might do?

Django has lived and worked exclusively with enslaved black people for all 40+ years of his life, yet his behavior obstructs the viewers’ ability to empathize with these characters, and the millions they represent. They demonstrate absolutely no potential, no personhood. ..

If the slave is just that; some zombie slave, what can you expect of your audience when faced with their bondage? A shrug?

…You didn’t notice that the black people in this scene appeared lobotomized because that’s usually how slaves are portrayed. Black males on screen are consistently represented as dumb, incurious and/or prone to violence. If we want true progress, we have to stop sharing the same lack of curiosity displayed by Tarantino and his fictional slaves.


Django arrives to our first plantation just in time to be welcomed coldly by plantation owner Big Daddy Bennett (played by Don Johnson). This is a most bizarre slave plantation for a director who “wanted to explore slavery” and said “I am responsible for people talking about slavery in America in a way they haven’t in 30 yrs.” On his custom built slave plantation, a fleet of slave women stroll the grounds giggling, in floor-to-shoulder gowns, like they’re in Versailles. Seriously, slaves, without a care in the world, swinging on swings and cracking jokes all day. Oh, and there’s a white guy with a rifle propped up and ready, like a prison guard in the yard. What are you doing sir — making sure they stroll casually enough? Tarantino was right, we have never felt the need to talk about slavery this way. Nor felt the need to clarify that chattel slavery was kind of the opposite of this strolling-in-finery situation we’re presented with.


Then they go shopping for clothes.

Django asks exactly zero questions about how best to find his beloved wife. He just tries on hats, asking Schultz if a certain hat looks okay. As he rummages through other fashions King tells Django to select his clothes already. Django cannot believe he’s being permitted to select his own clothing! Except that for this entire scene he’s been doing just that: picking out his own clothing.

We cut to Django on a horse dressed like Little Boy Blue Ludwig Van Negro. Get it? No matter the era, Negros naturally have childish tastes. He looks like a cartoon lawn jockey. Can’t you hear them laughing about it on set?


In Django’s only real [non-imaginary] scene with his wife, Broomhilda, a flashback before they reunite, Django appears to save her from further whipping and escape to the woods with her. They finally begin to speak to each other; lovers communicating before us for the very first time until suddenly a contemporary singer’s voice is drowning out and distracting us from their [generic] dialogue. Why during the only definitive and incredibly vulnerable moment in the lives of Django and his wife, does the filmmaker literally construct an offscreen, off-century sound obstacle to detach us from the very characters whose story he claims to be telling? Guess who’s dialogue is never so irrelevant that it’s pitted against loud, off-century music? Dr. King, Calvin Candy or any other white person. It was our opportunity to align ourselves with our title character in his quest to get her back- it’s the only scene where they have a conversation in the entire film.


Django has never held a gun before but he expertly whips out Dr. King’s under-the-cuff-gun-on-a-slide contraption and fires one perfect shot to Brittle’s heart, killing him instantly. Lil Raj witnesses this and literally bats his pistol around on his stomach like a blind, hooved drunkard for what felt like an eternity until finally Django strikes him with his brothers bullwhip. Cue the circus music, clowns and unicycle bear! The camera looks up at the heroic Django, the sweeping music belies a dignity that simply cannot be matched by a grown man in a ridiculous velvet lawn jockey outfit.

The Brittle brothers are not generic representatives to Django. They are specifically Django’s horribly abusive overseers: his entire life of oppression personified before him, right now. Yet they weren’t mighty at all. In fact, an illiterate man who dresses like a child, and has never fired a weapon before, can just walk up and destroy them in 40 seconds flat. Slavery’s not that big a deal if you show some initiative.


A few moments ago, this guy was disgusted by the concept of a black man being allowed to ride a horse. Now he selects a posse made up of armed blacks? One of them’s a child. He’s got every generation and every complexion alongside him like it’s a plantation Bennetton ad. Black men are banned from riding horses, which could actually be useful to the functionality of your property (and happened in real life) but you give black men guns to point at other white men?! THIS SCENARIO WOULD NEVER HAPPEN. If they made PUNK’D, but for excitable historians instead of celebrities, this would be in it.

This scene is yet another cartoonish invalidation of the black experience, suggesting that the barbarism of slavery was carried out, not by our high functioning “Christian” society for successful centuries, but by some other wacky people who were merely playing by the rules of the day. On the topic of black oppression, we must see anything but ourselves in the mirror. The audience runs no risk of seeing our actual history reflected in this goofy Harlem Globetrotters of a Plantation. Slavery was not a wacky episode of the Beverly Hillbillies. It was normal. There is an enormous difference.


Those are just a few highlights from the first third of Jesse Williams’ truly brilliant condemnation of the repellant messages Django Unchained has been sending around the world these past few weeks. Please do yourself a favor and read the whole stinging reevaluation in its entirety. I’ve been too infuriated to properly express how felt about this movie since the first time I saw it on Christmas night but I’m glad more people are seeing Django for the lazy debasement it is and beating it back better than I ever could.

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  • Oddly enough it was INGLORIOUS BASTERDS that has me repulsed in this fashion, but not the far more cartoonish DJANGO UNCHAINED. Still, as I had the problem with the former film I could hardly condemn this strong rebuke. I at least understand it, and Sasha’s own disgust with the film.

  • Sorry, I meant to say Ryan, not Sasha. This is Ryan’s post. Sorry about that.

  • Zach

    See, what did I tell you guys? Blacks do not support this film; this is The Color Purple all over again, minus the fact that TCP was a beautiful story whereas Django is a silly revenge fantasy. I’m so close to predicting that Amour dominates the Oscars — by default!!

    I love Inglourious. The plotting was better and the characterizations richer and more layered. Whereas Django’s editing was weak and its plot redundant. I still liked it, but really because it was the Christoph Waltz show. Jamie Foxx was stiff. Leo was good, even nomination-worthy, but not great. Perhaps it was a mistake to introduce his character so late in the game. Inglourious may be cartoonish in format or theme, but it benefits from a dynamic, compelling villain at its center.

  • Hardly anybody hates Django worse than I do. Most white folk think it’s hilarious. I felt like I was in a theater surrounded by busloads of inmates from a lunatic asylum the night I saw it.

  • Zach

    That was how I felt during The King’s Speech. But they were just from a retirement home.

    Helena Bonham Carter: “What if he were the King?”
    Audience: hysterical laughter

  • “Inglourious” did not walk us through provocative scenes of concentration camp torture, gas chambers and ethnically stereotyped victims. Nor were Jewish characters subjected to the indignities of being torn apart by dogs. And while we have our trusty authenticity card out, did the Jewish people not suffer the repeated verbal onslaught of “kike,” “rats” and other grotesque terms?

    Were such words used in “Inglourious Basterds” more than 100 times? How about 70? OK 30? 10? Thankfully, Tarantino knew that he was perfectly able to tell a story without such gimmicks. (He also knew the community he claimed to be avenging wouldn’t stand for it.)

    I said the same thing on the Oscar Podcast the week after Christmas and listeners chastised me, “oh pooh-pooh, Ryan, settle down.”

    No way in any alternate universe would Inglourious Basterds have been nominated for any Oscars at all if Tarantino had shown Jewish people the same disrespect he shows to Black people in Django.

  • Neal H.

    I tried to read through the entire 5600+ word blog post but it became tiring to read so many forced, unfairly leveled critiques. He either omits or fails to notice details that would explain the plot holes he himself is digging all while absolutely refusing to suspend a shred of disbelief in a manner appropriate for this kind of film from a director renowned for his notoriously flamboyant & pulpy style. This is hardly what I would call “deft” criticism.

  • edgar v

    ‘That was how I felt during the King’s Speech’

    That’s how I felt watching Argo.

  • He either omits or fails to notice details that would explain the plot holes

    Then do that for us, Neal. Show us what you mean, two or three examples.

    Or else you criticism of his criticism is hardly what I’d call deft either.

    I’m not doubting you. But let’s see it. What are you talking about?

  • Zach

    Oh, God. Argo is The King’s Speech. Lincoln is The Social Network. I don’t know how this only dawned on me just now.

  • Matthew Quick

    >>> ‘That was how I felt during the King’s Speech’

    >>> That’s how I felt watching Argo.

    That’s how I felt watching Silver Linings Playbook.

  • Free

    “See, what did I tell you guys? Blacks do not support this film.”

    – The box office numbers would suggest otherwise. So would the demographic of the theater every time I saw it. You might be surprised to find that the concept (a slave getting revenge on his oppressors) appeals to many people of color. My sister and mother, both black, absolutely loathe Tarantino. They felt he’s used the n-word too freely in the past (and I will say, I found its use in Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown to be quite needless). They both loved Django. Loved it.

    “. . .and I’ll be surprised if even the film’s biggest fans don’t see it differently if they take the time to read Williams’ formidable takedown.”

    – Sorry, not with you or Williams on this one. I appreciate your sensitivity, but I can’t say Williams made much of a strong case for me.

  • Zach

    Matthew, let me second that most of all.

    Django definitely got an unnecessarily high level of laughter in my theater too.

  • rufussondheim

    He definitely hits on a lot of points that I failed to retain past the conclusion of the film, such as the black posse members with guns. Nothing about the movie seemed authentic or real or even historically based. I have huge problems with the Mandingo fighting aspect as there is no evidence it even existed.

    I always get brushed off with a “It’s Tarantino!” as if that’s an excuse. But at least the core facts in Inglorious Basterds were correct, that first scene in Basterds is excellently done and serves as a launchpad for the story which then clearly deviates from history. But There’s nothing in Django that’s comparable. The whole thing is dishonest and insincere. That’s fine and dandy, I guess, but it garners no respect and it certainly doesn’t allow for the film to be discussed in any substantive manner. There’s a lot to admire in Django, but, sadly, that stuff gets drowned out by the ignorance.

    I’m just thankfel we’re getting 12 Years a Slave in the coming months. That should wipe this piece of shit away pretty quickly.

  • Terometer

    Calm down, Ryan! Too late! The oscar race is over.

  • Zach

    Free, I’m not sure everyone who saw Django loved it, black, white, or what have you. B.O. isn’t the best indication. That said, you prove that the hate for the film may be overcooked from certain corners.

    And of all the criticisms leveled toward the film, the use of the N-word wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it’d be.

  • Pierre de Plume

    I didn’t have these reactions when I saw the film. What I’d like to do is watch it again because I don’t recall many of the details referred to her.

    Generally speaking, my reaction was one of disgust and horror that the slaves had been so oppressed, and their social/family structures so obliterated, that their reality couldn’t accommodate the reactions and responses one normally expect to see. We’re looking at another era, one with a social fabric much different than ours, and I think it’s difficult to comprehend how people might feel or react under such circumstances.

    Recently I watched part of a TV miniseries about Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court’s decision during the 1950s to desegregate schools. In one scene Marshall tells several black people, clearly descendants of slaves, that what the school district is doing to them is against the law. One of them responds, “The law don’t mean much around these parts.” What I’m saying is that when one exists in a social structure that is dehumanizing in so many ways, people do not behave or react like one might expect or want them to.

    A more recent example might be the freedom to marry movement for GLBT people. I don’t recall this being characterized as a civil rights issue until recently. It’s possible that, even though it seems clear to us now that civil rights are involved, how many 20, 30 or 40 years ago acted and behaved as if they had a civil right to marry their gay partner?

    In a way, this discussion reminds me of criticism of Zero Dark Thirty, where some people have criticized the depictions of torture as an endorsement of it. I don’t see it that way, and when I see personalized manifestations of institutionalized inhumanity it makes me very angry — but my anger is not directed at the individual who is depicting it.

    I’m hesitant to agree with the notion that Quentin Tarantino has depicted black people as he has in Django Unchained because he shares views that are immoral, prejudiced or otherwise misguided. But I am open to considering the views raised in this piece.

  • See, what did I tell you guys? Blacks do not support this film

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Esquire today

    But should Django have been nominated by the Academy for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay Oscars? No. Not unless the Academy starts new categories such as Most Entertaining Movie or Best Kick-Ass Movie or Movie I Most Wish I Was In. Until then, the Academy members have a responsibility to promote films that demonstrate the highest quality on both a technical and literary level.

    According to AMPAS’s website, their 6,000 members “reward the previous year’s greatest cinema achievements.” But most people see the awards as an effort at blatant self-promotion in order to shake a few more bucks out of the public’s wary pockets (especially since the suspicious 2009 decision to increase from five to ten possible nominations for Best Motion Picture). Nothing wrong with commerce being part of the motive. It just shouldn’t be the main motive.

    Basically, Django Unchained is a B movie. A damn fine B movie, but still a B movie.

  • the other mike

    great post ryan, as well as jesse. i saw the film and on an entertainment level i liked it. anything beyond that is ridicoulus. this is not a serious look at slavery at all. and tarantino patting himself on the back is well, rich. i know you hate his guts but what did you think of Armond Whites review? he kinda said all this but in a shorter amount of words.

    the mst offensive parts were the sexy black women bearing witness to the black fighters beating each other to death. QT might be a pervert imho.

  • When did Kareem Abdul-Jabar become an arts critic? Between this and Girls, he should start a podcast.

  • Neal H.

    “The shackled men have just witnessed a truly incredible series of events, yet at no point in the entire experience do they ever acknowledge or communicate with each other.”

    “These men literally hold the key to their shackles and they never try to free themselves, or even look at each other. They don’t consider or confer. They just stand there mouths agape, like shackled apes, and as if with one mind, they trudge forward on cue, to inflict violence upon the wounded white oppressor before them.”

    – The chained slaves are exhausted, frightened, uncertain of how to conduct themselves in this most extraordinary situation. They don’t proceed to act until King and Django have moved on. There are perfectly good explanations that any reasonable person would assume to explain the sequence of events as they occurred in this first scene. This is one example of Williams’ digging a plot which can be explained away by some simple inductive reasoning. He makes relentless, arbitrary demands for what he thinks characters should be doing or displaying in a given scene without taking into consideration what the scene is probably intended to communicate. His review is replete with just such forced criticisms in order to make Tarantino appear to surely be the most incompetent writer in cinematic history.

    “On his custom built slave plantation, a fleet of slave women stroll the grounds giggling, in floor-to-shoulder gowns, like they’re in Versailles. Seriously, slaves, without a care in the world, swinging on swings and cracking jokes all day. Oh, and there’s a white guy with a rifle propped up and ready, like a prison guard in the yard. What are you doing sir — making sure they stroll casually enough?”

    “Don Johnson is outraged by the sight of “a nigger on a horse” and demands that Django dismount.”

    – Responsibility and power are dealt out to slaves by plantation owners in varying degrees dependent upon the personality of the owner, their trust in the complicity of a given slave. Django is a stranger to the plantation riding a horse next to a white man which goes against social norms in addition possibly being a threat to Don Johnson’s authority. Again, reasonable explanations are available to someone who’s not watching the film blinded by their desperate search for any means and all means to discredit the logic of the screenplay.

    “They finally begin to speak to each other; lovers communicating before us for the very first time until suddenly a contemporary singer’s voice is drowning out and distracting us from their [generic] dialogue. Why during the only definitive and incredibly vulnerable moment in the lives of Django and his wife, does the filmmaker literally construct an offscreen, off-century sound obstacle to detach us from the very characters whose story he claims to be telling?”

    – It doesn’t linger and become a full-fledged scene of its because the flashback is primarily a montage of events meant to provide context for Django’s shooting of the Brittle Brothers. And because Tarantino wants to use a contemporary song, which is far from being unprecedented in film let alone in Tarantino’s own filmography. Williams’ is showing a careless disregard for whose film he’s reviewing.

    “The Brittle brothers are not generic representatives to Django. They are specifically Django’s horribly abusive overseers: his entire life of oppression personified before him, right now. Yet they weren’t mighty at all. In fact, an illiterate man who dresses like a child, and has never fired a weapon before, can just walk up and destroy them in 40 seconds flat. Slavery’s not that big a deal if you show some initiative.”

    – No, they weren’t mighty. The merely had power over Django with their superior numbers, superior weaponry and the threat of violence against his wife. And it’s entirely unreasonable for Williams to take this isolated act of revenge as Tarantino’s statement on the simplicity of ending slavery. The review goes on and on like this. Shamelessly biased dissections of every scene into which Williams stuffs his own unreasonable expectations.

  • Bruce L.

    Ryan, loved your Lincoln and the Seeds of Time post. Thought it was brilliant. However, I have to disagree with critism on Django and Jesse’s. I went to this movie with some friends two of whom were black, and of course many other black people in the theatre. There was no sense of uncomfortment. They laughed when we laughed and cheered when we cheered. Lets remember this is not a modern day story. This is a fictious spaghetti western. I think people are looking way to deep into this. Its just entertainment. Funny how Samuel L Jackson and others continue to work with him. So you pot stirrers out there need to get over it really.

  • Free

    @Zach: I bring up box office numbers because when it first came out on Christmas, almost half of the audience was black.

    And I think the n-word didn’t turn people off as much for two reasons:

    1. We knew going in that it would be used a lot, so we prepared ourselves mentally for that.

    2. Unlike Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown, it made more sense to hear it, given the historical context (even Lincoln had to drop it a few times).

    @Colin Biggs: Yeah, he really articulates his points quite well. I thought his piece on GIRLS was terrific.

  • Free

    @Neal H: Good points. Thought about adding my own two cents, but you cover a lot of the same issues I saw in Williams’s piece.

  • @Free

    By the way, that doesn’t make it look like Jabbar hated Django, Ryan. Although I wasn’t sure where you were going with that tidbit.

  • It doesn’t linger and become a full-fledged scene of its because the flashback is primarily a montage of events meant to provide context

    You missed the whole point. The point is, how come the relationship between the Black protagonist and his wife the only relationship that’s not allowed the dignity of a “full-fledged scene”? The relationship between Dr. King Schultz and his horse Fritz is given more depth.

    I think you missed most of Williams’ points in the same way. But that’s no surprise since you say you could only finish reading half of it. I wish I’d given up on Django and walked out halfway through, but at least I suffered through it to the end so that I’d know what I was talking about.

    I think this is the laziest sloppiest thing Tarantino’s ever done. This coming from someone who really deeply admires his first 4 films. He’s gone steeply downhill. I’m not even interested in ever watching Basterds again.

    please, Quentin, please cease with these increasingly preposterous Halloween cartoon-horror dress-up pageants. You’re no good at it. In fact, please do a real horror movie. Get serious. (because you’re not a fraction as funny as you think you are). Give us a genuine horror movie. No campy foolishness. Truly terrifying. That would be awesome.

  • JohnOliver46

    I’ve heard young people from time to time say “if I was back there, no way in hell would I let them get away with this”, but they weren’t back there, they didn’t experience the atmosphere and fears of their forefathers.
    I went into the film expecting to be offended, but I wasn’t, I laughed along with the other split audience, because to me, Tarrentino had reversed the table and made the white characters buffons.
    I’m sure someone like Kerry Washington, who is political savvy, would not have attached herself to this project if there was not some meaning behind it.
    I’m sure there were many blacks who in that time spoke up and fought aggressively for their freedom and rights, but there were also some who stood idly by-not knowing what to do, and feared for their and their family’s life. We all make choices.
    This was one story-one film.

  • Praetor

    Aha, I see. When black characters are cartoonish, it is to mock them, but when the white characters are similar, it’s to make sure they are clearly not representative of their race.

    When the black characters are dumb, it’s to ridicule them, but when their white opponents are equally dumb, then they are still ridiculing the black people for being unable to defeat them. OK. Sure.

    Interpret everything in a very creative way and be careful to choose the perception that you will take the most offense at in every scene to ensure indignation.

    It’s certainly very entertaining and it probably touches some sore spots that needed touching, but I don’t find it that clever, it misses as much points as it makes, which leads me to conclude that the points that are made, are there by accident, not because it’s a particularly good breakdown.

  • When the black characters are dumb, it’s to ridicule them, but when their white opponents are equally dumb, then they are still ridiculing the black people for being unable to defeat them.


  • Jeremie

    I think this entirely misses one of the point of the film, in my opinion, which is yet made pretty obvious by Tarantino. It is said very clearly by DiCaprio in the dinner scene, comforted in the ambivalence of Django in his quest for freedom (the introduction scene with Waltz, the scene where slave is eaten alive by the dogs, the confrontation between Django and the other slave about riding the horse, the charactor of Samuel L Jackson etc). This is not meant to be a realistic and accurate presentation of slavery in the US and the crimes against the Black community. Leave that to Bigelow and Boal who, I am sure, could make a truer than life docu-fiction about it. This is not meant to be a politically correct presentation of slavery either. Leave that to the people who did The Help.

    But Tarantino questions the effect of slavery on our society today, the place of the African-American community in the US and the daily prejudice still happening against them. It poses the questions raised by many sociologists and psychiatrists about discrimination and its perverse effect on its victims, the guilt and the difficulty to overcome preconceptions and representations engrained into our collective mind. The character of Django, with his glory but also his selfishness, his moral dilemna, is an allegory of that. And that’s also why Tarantino uses western, set in the gothic south, with its particular codes.

    I cannot actually believe people are talking about authenticity, realism and historical veracity in a conversation about Tarantino’s films. Again that sort of misses the point. This man makes allegory, films about representation and image and uses historical events, as in Inglorious Basterds and Django, in the perspective of our modern culture and society. So yes a film where a black slave befriends a German dentist/bountyhunter to kills the men who tortured him, or about a gang of polyglot mercenaries who plot to kill Hitler in a Parisian cinema, are not going to be realistic. That is kind of a given.

    And yes I am sure plenty of white kids have enjoyed Django for all the wrong reasons and thought that was hilarious. That doesn’t mean this was Tarantino’s intention.

  • Ryan Griffin

    This comes across as the most severe of nitpicking, missing the point, “whoosh” over the head, etc. Like those “Everything wrong with ____ in 60 seconds” only written by someone who was offended at the very idea of the film and couldn’t get past that, and therefore let that color the way they approached every scene and interaction in the film.

    And it’s also a bit petty to point to an article like this in a “See, I told you so!” way.

  • Gerd

    Fabulous film. Saw it yesterday. It wasnt a documentarial retelling of slavery in the us, but the lone revenge story of just One Freed slave Django. Its a western, a genremovie, highly stylish. Also Jesse forgets to mention that a woman on the (in jesse’s eyes) ‘idyllic’ versaille plantage is about to be tortured, and is in fact what triggers Djangos rage. I agree with Jesse that not enough Black characters actual have something to do in this film, but i dont see Them as dumb at all, just numbed by fear. Think about the tragic d’artagnan, he tries to escape and gets teared apart, Broomhilda too runs away and is locked Down in a heath celler. A lot of holocaust surviors spoke of such a fear, they had trouble reacting against a cruelty that was so unimaginable. Finally i saw Tarantino save the brother feeling for last, when the slave who supposedly hates Django, in the end actually do send an admiring smile his way, i found that touching.

  • Kane

    I loved Django Unchained. It mixed in humor with atrocities. It was a very well done film and yes it was definitely original, in the way Inglorious Basterds was original. That said I know it’s not meant to be completely accurate. I mean come on SPOILERS the horse, Fritz, would bow his head and make a noise when King would introduce himself, Jonah Hill would complain about not having a mask with more (to them) pressing matters at hand, Django makes his horse dance at the end of the movie after the explosion. QT never stated “This is what happened, my word is as hard as oak.” It’s a more violent version of Blazing Saddles, I wonder if Williams made the same criticisms. I commend Williams for making his opinion heard, it’s all very well written and it gave me much to think about. But then I remembered what kind of movie Django was meant to be (not another Color Purple).

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Read it. Makes a few interesting/worthy points, but disagree with most of them. In general I like that he’s very thorough in his analysis and describes each scene, but then I almost never get why I or anyone should be outraged by what happened or how it happened. None of my black, latino or white friends found it offensive; of course that doesn’t mean anything. I’d like to meet an average moviegoer who was deeply offended to get a more tangible feel of what they’re thinking. It still is my #5 movie of the year. So far the only criticism of DJANGO UNCHAINED that I’m down with is that it’s too long or too boring, that I can see where you’re coming from. I really hope Tanrantino wins Original Screenplay (or Haneke). By the way there are better written/argued “take-downs” of ZERO DARK THIRTY our there, not that I agree with any of them either.

  • Kane

    And another thing, a song in the movie kept going “Djangoooooo!” It was a parody masked as a drama surrounded by more parody.

  • Max G

    It needs to be seen that this movie is pure entertainment. Maybe the socialists in the arthouse cinemas think otherwise, but I’m sure Tarantino meant it to be a good bit of fun – which it is. It’s his personal hommage to spaghetti westerns; spaghetti westerns never even tried to be deep-thoughted. That’s what Tarantino knew as well, which is why he made his movie extra cartoonish. It’s not supposed to be a fucking history lesson. Just look at Kill Bil – I’m sure it doesn’t even remotely accurately depict life in Japan. Same goes with Inglourious Basterds; a Nazi-hunting operative group solely consisting of Jews. They also kill Hitler. And Göbbels and Himmler and Göring. In a cinema.
    It’s fiction, which it is supposed to be.

  • And it’s also a bit petty to point to an article like this in a “See, I told you so!” way.

    Weird to me that you’d see it that way. I don’t need back up or proof for feelings I’ve already expressed in strongest terms on multiple occasions. I’m just really glad someone this smart took time to express it better than I’ve managed to do.

    I got a rush from discovering this side of Jesse Williams today, but I sure don’t need him or anybody else to validate or certify anything I’ve ever said.

  • Kane

    @Max G, exactly right. Hitler dies in IB. Evidence enough that his movies take place in their own universe. I wonder what would happen if anybody truly, truly attempted to rip into Red Tails and Miracle at St. Anna when they were first released, and I’m not talking about a bad review. I’m talking this level of absolute hatred.

  • Steve50

    Tarantino is becoming rote. You know what you’re going to get, you just don’t know how far he’ll go to deliver it. Never a huge fan, I loved Basterds and Pulp Fiction, but there’s a point when being trying to cool shows and it just isn’t cool anymore.

    Turn it around, QT – you’re in danger of becoming the Mel Brooks of high camp chic-shock.

  • Jerry Grant

    Oh this comments section is very hard to read because of how wrong-headed it all is. “Django” may be Tarantino’s messiest movie, but it is easily his most important. It will certainly be a movie that lasts and will be taught and discussed, more so than perhaps any movie made this year. (Of course, that’s not to say it’s the best this year.) If you didn’t feel its relevance and guts and heart, and instead just see questionable ethics and cinematic laziness, then you are not watching it correctly, I think.

    In my opinion, if it raises a discussion, that’s a good thing. There is lots of discussion out there this year about slavery, and most of it is due to “Django”–more so than “Lincoln”. (Disclaimer: I like “Lincoln” more, it’s my #1.) It deserves the attention that Henry Louis Gates gave it in his interviews, for instance.

    If I were teaching this in a class, here are some questions I would include in the handout before asking for a short response paper.
    What is this movie’s relation to John Ford, and Westerns about Indians? What is Tarantino doing in the KKK scene, and what do you think it means to accomplish on formal and historical levels? Why does Tarantino choose to make it a story about Django and his woman, rather than about all the black characters in the film? Why is Sam Jackson’s Uncle Tom character represented as such–do you think it makes viewers uncomfortable? Why would that be important? What is this film’s relation to Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”? to Ellison’s “Invisible Man”? How does Tarantino represent *himself*? What can we say about the music chosen?

    This is not a way to *prove* anything about the movie’s merit, but it is to say it’s not a simple obvious movie that deserves an epithet like “lazy” or “dumb”. I know I’m not going to change minds here, only hopefully ease the vitriol.

  • Zach

    Please make a poll for Original Screenplay.

  • tr

    I have to think that anybody who LOATHES the movie simply doesn’t have a sense of humor. Get your head out of your ass. It has its flaws, but worthy of loathing? See, this is the problem with cinephiles. You know what’s worthy of loathing? Battleship. Red Dawn. A Good Day to Die Hard.

  • tr

    My point is…have some perspective.

  • Please make a poll for Original Screenplay.

    alrighty, good suggestion.

    we might do an adjacent poll of the top 10 or 12 original screenplays to see how some that weren’t even nominated fare against a few of these ‘frontrunner’ ‘locks’ (how happy will we all be a week from now when we won’t have to see terms like frontrunner and lock for several months?)

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Just had to say: Jesse Williams is fine as hell. What show is he on again?

  • Zach

    Yes, but then please do 2 polls – personal preference and predicted winner. Tarantino should statistically be a lock for the Oscar, but something tells me each of his wins (BFCA, GG, BAFTA) is the result of massive starfucking!

  • Speaking of original screenplay, how in hell did Flight beat out The Master or Looper?!

  • Zach

    Ugh, Flight getting nominated for Screenplay (nothing personal) is like Les Mis getting nominated Cinematography (thankfully it wasn’t) or Russell Crowe (ditto), or the BAFTAs nominating Affleck for Actor.

  • Bryce, Grey’s Anatomy

    pretty sure he plays the eponymous role as Anatomy.

    I don’t really watch it but might have to start

  • Bryce Forestieri

    ?we might do an adjacent poll of the top 10 or 12 original screenplays to see how some that weren’t even nominated fare against a few of these ‘frontrunner’ ‘locks’”

    Yay! My “alternate nominees” are:

    THE MASTER, Paul Thomas Anderson
    LOOPER, Rian Johnson
    END OF WATCH, David Ayer
    IN THE FAMILY, Patrick Wang
    TABU, Miguel Gomes and Mariana Ricardo

    Just missing the cut Martin MacDonagh for SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS

  • My vote for original screenplay would’ve been Looper.

  • DJANGO UNCHAINED is my favorite of the nominated film for Best Picture that I’ve seen. I’ve only missed AMOUR.

    I did not go to the entire blog post. I read the excerpts here and that was quite enough. Either the author is pretending not to understand the film or he truly doesn’t get it. I don’t know which is worse, but I’m not going to waste my time on him.

  • Linc4Jess

    “In fact, in this entire, nearly three-hour film, there are no scenes with black people interacting, or even looking at each other, in a respectful or productive way.”

    Evidently this guy didn’t see the film because I could name several scenes where these scenes took place. Williams diatribe is just another one of the detractors of the masterpiece that is “Django Unchained” and the film that could certainly take the brilliant exceptional Original screenplay OSCAR. The negative diatribe by some of “Django U” is just more of the same negative diatribe that has being pushed on “Lincoln” and “ZDT” and yes even “Argo” by their detractors. So while Adams might get his jollies off of such a dissecting of a film he didn’t like I probably could say anyone could have pretty much done the same dissecting of any film especially those considered controversial or a film like “The Master” with its excesses and one which Adams seems to have a lock on. Oh, wait, Ryan doesn’t like the word LOCK unless he uses it for a film he likes. But since practically no one saw “The Maters”, and many who did hated it, there is no need to spend the time to get worked up, negatively, over it.

  • Flight was very well-written. SPOILERS In fact, I was pleasantly surprised that it did not end in a heavy courtroom drama but instead remained focused on the stubbornness of Whip Whitaker. And that stairwell scene in the hospital – which could stand alone as a short film – was brilliant and perfectly set the tone for rest of the movie. Looper wished it had the focus of Flight.

  • The Zach

    I didn’t realize DJANGO UNCHAINED was supposed to a direct representation of history. If you take that perspective, of course the film’s a mess of inaccuracies and unrealism — though I’m sure a lot of folks were just fine with the ineptitude of the regulators since, come on: That had to be right. But if you watch DJANGO UNCHAINED with the same adherence to history as you would LINCOLN, then maybe it’s not the film that’s the problem.

    I think this is why ARGO is leading the way — there’s enough history for the serious-minded movie-goers, but there’s just as much “changed for dramatic effect” to keep it floating as entertainment.

    Surprisingly (to me), DJANGO UNCHAINED is my favorite film of 2012. The themes of loyalty (marital and platonic) and breaking from oppression and conformity really hit home with me. Sure, its depiction of the era is way off, but again, if you’re going to a Tarantino film — or any film for that matter — looking for a history lesson you’ve got larger problems at hand. (I know people who still believe Jack and Rose from TITANIC were real.)

  • That tone being overly preachy and forced.

  • re: Flight

  • SallyinChicago

    @ Zak: 42% of Django’s audience was black…what do you mean “blacks” don’t support Django? “Some Blacks” maybe.
    Onto another topic — Tarantino’s misuse of Negro history. The word “nig*er didn’t come into being until after Reconstruction. If you read newspapers back in those days, blacks were described as “colored” “blacky” and the word they spoke to describe them was Negro or Negra. That word through time translated into Ni**ger, but it was post Civil War.
    The KKK didn’t exist until after Reconstruction. So Tarantino, who claims to have read a lot about that period, just rewrote it to his liking.

  • SallyinChicago

    I couldn’t read Jesse’s blog, too doggone long and too analytical. It’s just a film, you can take it or leave it. If we wanted a documentary on slavery we would see a documentary on slavery, of which there are many.

  • Jeremie

    And Tarantino even showed a slaved woman with waxed eyebrows. How historically inaccurate. How dare him. Even before eyebrow waxing was invented. Unbelievable.

  • Scotty

    From my own experience.

    I’m from New Orleans, which is predominantly black. When I went to see Django Unchained in the theater when I was back in town during Christmas, the audience was mostly African-American. From their reactions, they had an excellent time. Tons of laughter. As I was walking out, I kept hearing people talk about it positively.

    I think there are valid criticisms, but I also think that there’s room for discussion of both sides as well as I’ve some African-Americans enjoying the movie for one reason or another. I don’t think it’s as cut-and-dry to make it so sort of undermines the educational discussion to be had regarding how far is going too far in race portrayal, dismantling history to fit one’s story.

    Here’s an excellent interview with Quentin Tarantino and Henry Louis Gates:,0

    It goes into the discussion over the liberal use of the N-word, the perceived notion of being a white-savior tale, and the sensitivity of the subject matter.

  • Jeremie

    NB: for those who want to know more about eyebrows waxing, I would recommend watching the original Hairspray, which would obviously be the appropriate medium to understand everything about this process, learn about its implications and side-effects and its repercussion over the age.

  • Kane

    Regarding the slaves who were given a key to their freedom, I doubt they would jump at the chance within a second. They would definitely be afraid of the ramifications, especially in those times we didn’t know how scared a slave was of the whites. If the Jewish prisoners in the concentration camps during the Holocaust were just GIVEN a key, do you think they would just run for the gates? They might be in shock for a moment or two. I wonder if Williams made any complaints about Schindler’s List and why the prisoners never fought back when being led to their slaughter, or why any prisoner stood up to Amon when he fired a rifle from his room down at the people for fun. It’s easy for anybody to pick apart a film, hell Lincoln AND Argo contain some inaccuracies. Yes, some of the slaves didn’t interact with one another but think about this, maybe they were conditioned not to by their “masters”. Most of these people had little to no education and spent their entire lives in chains…wouldn’t anybody be in shock if someone just changed everything?

  • Scotty

    Also, the idea that some audience members taking the film the wrong way and laughing at it for the wrong reasons despite Tarantino’s intentions, reminds me of Dave Chappelle.

    He stopped doing his sketch comedy show during the height of its popularity because he felt some people started laughing too hard at the jokes and he had trouble balancing his comedy with his social consciousness.

    It’s an interesting topic to say the least.

  • So, someone who thinks he knows shit is talking about the apathy of the slaves portrayed in Django Unchained? Surely he’s complaining about the apathy of the prisoners in Schindler’s List and how they didn’t rebel? Has this guy learnt that it’s a basic psychologichal response by the human being, in front of constant, random pain and violence to just give in, in apathy, and collaborate with those who are bullying or abusing or even killing them?

    Seriously, this isn’t even worth of lines. Right now it is going all over Spain, people is abused by laws, new laws and cuts day after day, expelled from their houses to live in the streets (400 families a day), we have over 6 million unemployment (actually the numbers may be 2 million more, in my area is around 30-40%) and we don’t have blood on the streets yet. People just complain on facebook and give in, most of the time, in real life, even thought we have a new known suicide ’cause the echonomy, every day…

    Django is an A movie that disguises itself as B. And many B movies are way better than the A movies that are championed, I don’t think that in a cinephile site like this one, we need to give examples..

  • Elton

    Well, I’m black and I LOVED “Django” and I don’t buy this criticism not for a second (And yes, I read it). It’s by far my favorite movie from this race.

    I don’t see Tarantino treating blacks with disrespect. I see a comic-action cartoonish non-naturalistic western spaghetti meets 70s blaxploitation.

    What about the white characters? They’re all – except Schultz – portrayed as evil retarded idiot motherfuckers.

    What about Samuel L. Jackson’s character? He shows deep marks of slavery in a stereotype that Malcolm X called as the “House Negro”.

  • Surely he’s complaining about the apathy of the prisoners in Schindler’s List and how they didn’t rebel?

    Apathy is your word.

    The slaves in Django didn’t look apathetic. They looked brain dead. Dim doll eyes.

    The prisoners in Schindler’s List had eyes lit with fierce emotions inside and displayed brave fierce attempts to struggle to find ways to escape or contrive ways to survive.

    Jesse Williams never said anything about apathetic and apathy wasn’t part of the emotional equation in either movie.

  • Kane

    This is a parody. QT brought all the stereotypes from Amos and Andy to (again) Blazing Saddles and used them as gimmicks. Look at Django’a suit! He thought it was fancy but didn’t know better because that was the point. Django wasn’t educated, he never rode into a town before, he never went to a white man’s party. Tarantino has made fun of many stereotypes, Inglorious Basterds had them, Kill Bill and Kung Fu movies, hell his 2nd feature was called PULP FICTION.

  • LOL

    get ready for Tarantino’s take on Stanley Kubrick’s “Napoleon” with Christoph Waltz as Talleyrand


  • Scotty

    Obviously, the slave portrayals and their lifelessness due the hopelessness of their lives is exaggerated in Tarantino’s signature style.

    However, how much of a difference do you think it makes that the prisoners of Schindler were not born prisoners. They were free (albeit discriminated against) people who knew life outside being imprisoned. So the fiery passion in their belly stemmed from knowing freedom and having it taken away.

    Slaves were not afforded that opportunity. Constitutionally-recognized as 3/5 of a person and as property (in my Constitutional Law class, we talked about how before the 13th Amendment, the Constitution was seen as making a pact with the devil because of this in some circles). You knew your only way out was to escape and hope that nobody catches you, or kidnaps you and sell you back into the system.

    Of course, slaves were not brain-dead zombies, and like everyone else have the full emotional latitude (sorry that this sentence sounds condescending, I tried not to make it sound so). However, Tarantino made an artistic choice to show the slaves-in-chains in the grittiest way possible. He wanted to show the institution of slavery in its most brutal and demeaning form, even if it’s not entirely accurate as say Roots.

    I think it’s interesting that when it comes to slavery and race, people are criticizing Tarantino’s comical or exaggerated-for-effect portrayal of his film characters when that has been his M.O. since Reservoir Dogs as well as shaping the material to fit whatever genre he wanted to film. He hasn’t changed, just the subject matter has.

    Love it or hate it, I think Tarantino succeeded more than any other movie in bringing relevant and heated discussion to this awards season than any other film. It’s more interesting and bigger discussion than the whole Ben Affleck Snub/Lincoln mistreatment/Zero Dark Thirty take down that has dominated this whole season. If we are to think of art at its most controversial this past year, Django would be the movie to do that.

  • Kane

    Also regarding the slaves looking lifeless and having empty eyes, I’m not sure what everyone else saw but when the slave told Calvin Candie that he didn’t want to fight anymore his eyes were FILLED with fear when he saw those dogs.

    I work in sales and had to be in my chemical plant for the afternoon. My operations manager was talking about a plant worker, appearing a bit quiet and dull, even said a few crazy things, and he said to me today, “23 years of monotony will do that to you.” I’m sure lifetimes of monotony and beatings and torture and no hope of slavery ending sure made many of the slaves the way they were.

  • My operations manager was talking about a plant worker, appearing a bit quiet and dull, even said a few crazy things, and he said to me today, “23 years of monotony will do that to you.”

    I wonder what would be the expression on that worker’s face if you walked up to him and handed him the key to a brand new life — or even the key to a new car? He’d just stand there unable to comprehend what a key is used for?

  • Kane

    Lmao that coworker would stand there dumbfounded if someone gave them keys to a new car, I would too because who can believe something like that can happen? If I opened my Christmas gift and it was a key to a new house, I would sit there in shock for a few minutes. And my coworker is a woman.

  • Scotty

    “I wonder what would be the expression that worker’s face if you walked up to him and handed him the key to a brand new life free — or even the key to a new car? He’d just stand there unable to comprehend what a key is used for?”

    Well, if he killed that worker’s employer in-front of him in the most shocking and nonchalant fashion to still be shell-shocked. Couple that with the worker not really having legal permission to take the car, haven never been given permission to drive the car in his life, then think about the ramifications about what will happen afterwards. How is he going to make a living, afford the gas to the car, where will he go/live, will he be found, wherever he goes will he be persecuted due to the color of his skin, what can he do with no clothes and no money, etc…

    That puts it in a different perspective, don’t you think?

  • Kane

    No one ever said, nor do I think, someone would be too stupid to know what a key is used for. Maybe when those slaves got the key they thought, “Oh shit this is really happening…”

  • Kane

    No one ever said, nor do I think, someone would be too stupid to know what a key is used for. Maybe when those slaves got the key they thought, “Oh shit this is really happening…” Plus that entire scene was so over the top they probably couldn’t believe it was actually happening.

  • I understand, Kane. But the point Williams is making is that the slaves in the opening sequence make no move to use the key they’ve been give to take the painful heavy shackles off their ankles. They just continue to shuffle around in lockstep like zombie clowns with nothing but murder on their minds.

    And it’s not just the slaves at the beginning — why do the slaves in the cage cart at the end of the movie just sit there in the cage with no interest in getting out the door which is standing wide open? They’re free. But they’d rather sit around in the cage till the very last credit has rolled.

    Not only do these behaviors not make normal human sense — they’re insulting because they portray these men as weirdly passive, stupidly immobile and unable to take advantage of obvious opportunities. Whereas even the dumbest of the rednecks is shown leaping into action at the slightest nudge.

    Is Django the only black guy in the movie — in the entire South — who has access to 5-Hour Energy Shots?

  • Jeremie

    I think you’re a just playing devil’s advocate here, Ryan. You’re too intelligent and you seem to have been through too many events in your life not to understand what we are all talking about. You must know about Stendhal syndrome, about what systematic torture and oppression can cause to a human being, how it affects his dignity, his integrity, causes dissociation etc.
    In the scenes in the forest when the slaves are given the keys, when the slave is doing the mandinngo fights or is later eaten by the dogs, when they are freed in their cage, I did not see brainwashed zombies. I saw lost men who had been deprived of their humanity since birth, humiliated and did not know any other alternatives.

  • Ryan, are you aware that slaves were born slaves and taught “that’s the way” since babies?

    You know, I’ve walked through refugee camps and slums in Africa. Met the people, talked with them. Trust me, I’m not surprised by QT’s portrayal, at all. I’ve witnessed the kidnapping of an homeless child, myself, and not only I couldn’t do anything about it, but no one in the traffic jam did ANYTHING to stop the guy to catch the child and put it on the van. When I asked my chauffer about what happened he just told me “it’s police dressed as civilian, cleaning the streets from “crianças da rúa”, “officially” to send them to an orphanage”. Something that didn’t make any sense in a city with overcrowded orphanages.

    When you live in constant fear, you seriously doubt if it is a good idea to scape a maybe somewhat bearable hell, to try the unknown.

  • Kane

    @Ryan, I get what you’re saying too. The ending for me was frustrating as all hell but I would never have gone as far as Williams went. And sure audiences would’ve loved to have seen slaves freed and not blink an eye. But again, this is QT and his movies are never accurate, often times people are stupid and maybe it’s striking more of a chord with others because these were slaves “acting dull and lifeless” and not the Crazy 88s. And I nearly peed a little when I read Django and energy drinks. A fine zinger, sir!

  • Jeremie

    “Is Django the only black guy in the movie — in the entire South — who has access to 5-Hour Energy Shots?”

    And strangely this is a fictional character. I wonder why. We have all heard about this many fierce real slaves who defied their masters and killed them all in a massive shooting spray. Hence the allegorical nature of the film and its main character. And that’s exactly Mr Candy’s question: why don’t they just rise up and kill the white?

  • JJ

    I don’t think Tarantino has lived much outside of a movie theater so all his work is pastiche + allusion + pop culture dialogue. But at least his movies don’t pretend to be definitive history – something Spielberg always seems to aspire to – and which is why the latter’s work is dismissed as oscar bait.

  • Scotty

    I loved the parts that followed. After Candie (historically-inaccurate) uses phrenology to go on this long spiel about the biological inferiority of blacks, Schultz brings up Candy’s admiration for the works of Alexander Dumas. Then brings the bombshell, Dumas was black.

    Candy simply cannot comprehend it because he was brought up and seriously believed that he was in a position of power over his slaves due to his slaves intellectual inability to free themselves. They were just inferior, and yet here’s Calvin Candie admiring the intellectual prowess of Dumas’s literature.

    Also, Candie asking why don’t the slaves just rise up and kill the whites shows off his privilege. He simply doesn’t understand in his mindset (the way some still don’t understand the idea that some slaves would be hesitant to take the opportunity to free themselves) why they don’t. For him, a man who was born and raised with opportunity and freedom, it would be a no brainer. He simply cannot understand why people would be too afraid and rightfully worried about their futures if they were to do so in a culture and society that legitimizes their status in life as inferior property where any one in their position who has a contrary opinion and acts upon it will be tortured and killed.

  • Jeremie

    This last scene with the slaves in the cage is the whole point of the film. I don’t get how can people not understand it. That’s what makes this film so great, and so relevant to our actual society, how can people endure hell and yet somehow accept it. Because of so-called atavism, because they simply don’t know otherwise, because they can’t see what’s ahead.
    For sure, they could have stood up, grabbed some guns and imitate Django. It would have been lovely, a nice positive message with a leader inspiring his people. If this what you want, go and watch the Help. If this is how humanity worked, we wouldn’t be where we are now. It would not make any sense for the film to feature this scene in any different way.

  • Mark F.

    “Constitutionally-recognized as 3/5 of a person ”

    Only for purposes of Congressional Representation. The slave states actually originally wanted them recognized as full persons, so they would get more Congressman. The 3/5ths thing was a compromise.

  • Mark F.

    Awards Daily Readers Agree: Ryan is just totally wrong about this film.

  • Scotty

    Yes, I know that Mark F., but don’t you think that 3/5 compromise also had ramifications for the free blacks in the North who argued they were citizens deserving of equal rights?

    There have been many Supreme Court decisions that came out before the 13th Amendment that used the 3/5 doctrine of the Constitution to further ostracize blacks in the country.

    It may have been a way to suppress representation of the Southern states, but that doesn’t mean it still didn’t adversely effect blacks.

  • For sure, they could have stood up, grabbed some guns and imitate Django.

    I never expected or wnted to see that. One superhuman Django is already one too many for me.

    But I don’t think atavism can fully explain why those guys weren’t at all interested in stepping outside their cage to stretch their legs.

    There’s no in between for Black characters in Django. You’re either a Sambo or you’re Black Rambo.

  • Scotty

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but after Django leaves them after being freed from their cages, don’t they take their opportunity?

    You see one of the guys (who kept mean-mugging Django earlier on the way to Candie Land) give a smile after Django frees him to go back to save Broomhilda.

  • Aragorn

    Thank you for this article. I personally didn’t know that Jesse Williams could be this elaborate:) I still don’t know what it was but for some reason I didn’t enjoy Django as much as many people did.Still liked IB better.

    And Ryan, only one thing could have made this posting/thread better: A shirtless picture of Jesse instead of that scary QT picture up there:) I am sure Grey’s Anatomy site has many of those pictures:) and a picture of his eyes too if you want to double the effect of his shirtless picture:)

  • The Dude

    Politically correct bullshit mixed with nitpicking and blatant ignorance of the point (or simply pretending that they don’t see it).

    Not everybody walks out or reacts against their abuser that easily. Many women stay for decades with abusive husbands, even some that were independent before they met him, many children continue to deal with parents that were or are abusive even when they are grown-ups, many people work for their oppressors only to get a few benefits or to have power.

    Add to this the fact that those slaves were all BORN this way- they simply DON’T KNOW how to live in a world they are not slaves.

    But hey, it’s better to just think with your WASP middle-class from a 1st world country mentality and judge everyone by that standards, right?

  • Joao Mattos

    I watched “Django” three times, I’m white, and my country (Brazil) is one of the last to end slavery. In all three times (one a press screening), whites are the majority on the theater, and everybody laugh their asses off during the movie, specially in KKK scene, but everybody is quite as they were in a funeral during the scenes with violence against black people, specially during the fight scene in the living room. The Sam Jackson character has brazilians ones similar to him in TV soap operas in the early 80’s, that deal with slavery – and have the same impact that “Roots” have in USA. I see a young lady (in her early 20’s guess) criyng a lot when Di Caprio did his racist speech. And each section ends with applauses.

  • Brian

    I’ll be upfront. I didn’t like Django like I did IB. I loved IB. It was fantasy-schtick, but it was well-grounded fantasy schtick. The characters and their actions, absurd as they became, made sense at least in the world Tarantino created. I didn’t get that with Django. I think some of that fell on Tarantino’s writing and perhaps on Foxx. Django’s motivation to save his wife seemed flat at times he should have swollen (like when he dispatched the Brittle Brothers). I got the gist of what was happening on the screen, but never fully felt the reason it was happening. I also think the plan to buy the wife back was a bit too elaborate for it’s own good. Is it perhaps not worth just asking to buy the wife back?

    That said, some of these critiques seemed off-base. Slaves were walking around the grounds with parasols like they were in Versailles? Of course they didn’t have a care in the world, they were at the top of the heap as they knew it. Not free, but better off than those working in the fields. Many slaves yearned to be free, but some merely wished to carve a happy corner in their world as best they could in whatever manner available.

    The fact is there was the option to create a Harriet Tubman moment of freed slaves looking to the north star. But this being Tarantino, he took the Nat Turner approach. Both are accurate on some level. Perhaps one is more humanizing, but it also fails to show just how dehumanizing slavery was. It created bizarre situations, ones where violence hung in the air at all times. Lincoln touched on this, when Keckley and the president banter about what comes after freedom. Neither knew. Neither could know. These two educated people who had spent more time contemplating freedom than most, had no idea. Freedom came first, that was all they knew. The poor slaves portrayed in Django didn’t know what to do once they had their freedom. They had vague ideas, ideas grown in a violent culture (hyper-violent in a Tarantino world). I think we can excuse the fact that they didn’t act like Schindler’s Jews or like we’d expect any human to do today. The world they grew up in didn’t always allow for the things we wished they did.

  • eclipse22

    as a black french caribbean woman i enjoyed django unchained for what it was and not what i think it should have been, i can’t imagine anyone watching a tarantino movie expecting something else that isnt vintage tarantino!his films are flashy in a mad way but there’s a method to the madness ….
    my sister enjoyed it enormously, you could say she liked it as much as i like Argo!

    i could criticize the film for being a bit too long, a bit boring in the beginning, i too thought the music was a bit weird choice but not to the degree he felt(it wasnt that much of a distraction)

    django to me is a character that demands suspension of belief ,i’ve had to read for american literature and civilization courses at university a few slave narratives describing the horror of slavery and how it deshumanize the slaves in relation to the master and amongst themselves (house vs field slaves, light-skin vs dark skin) which to this day has repercussions!

    those slave narratives like frederick douglass are hard to read, perhaps someone should make a film about those stories if they’re looking for historical accuracy? i would be most excited if a film-maker decided to do a band of brothers type of mini-series on slavery leading up to the civil war why not ? only one i know is “roots”

    however much i might disagree with his assessments, my personal view is coloured by my experience and my history ! i feel america has never allowed itself to heal from the wounds of slavery and segregation is something very contemporary to its black citizens, and so its not unnatural for some to be on edge whenever a film tackles the subjects in a non-classic approach that might come across as disrespectful and mocking!

    of course you can also just not like tarantino’s style and films in general or just this one! nothing more nothing less! personally as much as i like his films i don’t think much of the man himself something about him comes off as sleazy maybe i believe his character in “from dusk till dawn” wasnt such a stretch to act, that said i can distinguish my bias view of him from his work as director/writer.

    sorry this was a bit lengthy….

  • Just read it. Thank you, Ryan, for bringing this to our attention. Jesse Williams went above and beyond. I’m embarrassed that my initial frustration and dislike towards the film didn’t extend to many of the points he made here. We all should be.

  • Just a reminder that Tarantino is on record for wanting to make more than a “fun movie.” He wanted to start a conversation about slavery. Though, what resulted isn’t the conversation he imagined.

  • danemychal

    I found Django far too long and just not good enough. Nothing positive in it – no redeeming qualities. Hate to say it. For some reason, I didn’t feel that way about Basterds. Is that weird? Basterds was a masterpiece — my favorite film of 2009. Maybe I found it trying to replicate too much of the same thing and failing almost every step of the way. Too bad because it started out with a lot of promise and then just kept devolving as a film.

  • After wading through some of the comments on this thread, I’m surprised to find myself in the minority on AD yet again. Or should I really be?

    Wow. Just wow.

    I love William’s line about propaganda. So true.

    Again, thank you, Ryan, for (trying to) elevate the level of debate on AD.

  • Silencio

    I’m black. And I disagree with virtually everything Williams has said on this page.

  • rufussondheim

    I find many of the comments here to be facile.

    “My black friend liked it!”

    “It’s an allegory” But what of?

    I’ve forgotten some of the others as they were simple and not thought out. There were simply too many to respond to.

    But I need to respond to Sally in Chicago who claims that “nigger” didn’t exist until after the Civil War. Read 12 Years a Slave, it was written in 1853. Civil War was a decade later. Once again I am reminded of the Silly Sally jokes my mother loved to tell when I was young. “Silly Sally was taking a bath when all of a sudden a man she didn’t know jumped into the bathtub. Silly Sally laughed and laughed. She knew there was only one bar of soap.”

    Really, what is this an allegory of? You bring it up, and yet you don’t defend it? C’mon. I have the time to read it.

    And then we have the capper of them all when Linc4Jess claims that there were several scenes of black people talking to each other in a productive way and then fails to name any of them. Classy!

    For successful satire or parody, there needs to be a connection to reality, a touchstone to start and formulate the comparison, something relative so themes can be constructed and elaborated upon. This film, from my perspective, has none of that. It’s all just grotesque slapstick exploiting our minimal understanding of slavery. It’s not an exploration of anything interesting. It’s just a hegemonic reimagining of everything we’ve been taught within the realm of popular culture.

    I just love when people claim a movie is substantive and then fail to elaborate on any way that it’s substantive as if the claim is all that is needed. It’s not.

  • Silly Sally said, “Look Mama! The boys gave me a quarter to climb the monkey bars.” Mama said, “Silly Sally don’t you do that! Those boys just want to look up your skirt and see your underwear!” Silly Sally just laughed and laughed. She knew she wasn’t wearing any underwear.

    (Silly Sally told me that story herself. Silly Sally and I went steady for a while in Jr High.)

  • ^
    (No reflection at all on Sally in Chicago who’s been a good friend and asset in the discussions here for years).

  • Brian

    If the criticism is that Tarantino did not portray African-Americans in a good light, that there was no John Rawlins making those around him (and us) better for it, that is true. This was pretty much what it looked like, a Tarantino riff on blaxploitation films.

    If the criticism is that this isn’t historically-grounded, that slaves would never be care-free and making jokes, or that true slaves would have run for freedom instead of killing their slaveowner, that is clearly not true.

  • drake

    might be the best movie of the year. everyone i talked to felt the same way. a box office smash, recognized by the oscars and critics…. clearly a stylistic accomplishment and a feather in the cap for tarantino all the entire cast. i loved it.

  • kasper

    Why did Tarantino add the extra stuff about wanting to “start a conversation” about slavery, when what he brings to the conversation is hokey and superficial. Except for the easy die-hard Tarantino fanboys, it’s easy to be convinced of the many problems of Django Unchained, without even touching upon the sloppy aesthetic choices. I’m not seeing lots of love for Django with my friends, but they all seem to love and be inspired by Beasts of the Southern Wild, which is another Best Picture contender that needs some scrutiny when it comes to the depiction of the black poor.

  • Scotty

    I loved Beasts of the Southern Wild (it’s my third favorite movie of the year), but I do agree that it does need some scrutiny.

    However, I’m not sure if it’s race-based as the majority of the community who were just as poor as Hushpuppy and her dad were white (they seem to be rural off-shoots of the people of Chalmette of St. Bernard Parish…which is saying something).

    What needs to be scrutinized is the idea that maybe there was a condescending portrayal quaint, uneducated small-town people being more in-tuned to nature and rejecting urbanized living to the point that they are suffocated when being taken to a shelter.

    However, I personally loved the movie as I saw it as a love letter to the dying wetlands and small towns south of my hometown that really are disappearing.

  • Django Freeman is essentially a superhero. He takes the same Hero’s Journey as Luke Skywalker, Neo, et al. Try watching it that way instead of looking for a history lesson. There are enough of those movies this year if you want them.

  • Django Freeman is essentially a superhero. He takes the same Hero’s Journey as Luke Skywalker, Neo, et al. Try watching it that way instead of looking for a history lesson.

    So all Django’s enslaved black brothers and black sisters serve what function? Because using your Star Wars template all the other slaves come across as as nothing more than helpless grunting Ewoks.

    That’s the problem, Antoinette. Nobody wants a history lesson (especially not from Tarantino since all the history he knows is what he absorbed in a video store) and frankly, I don’t want to see some half-assed mythlogical Supernigga either.

    I don’t care about Django because he’s not allowed to have normal human traits. And every other black person who’s not Thug Thor is portrayed as less than human. It’s disgusting.

    If this is Tarantino’s Star Wars, then Samuel L Jackson is Jar-Jar Binks and that’s so fucked up in so many ways it makes me despise the whole interpretation you’re trying to foist on us.

    Christ, just what we need — another superhero movie. Truly, if that’s what’s underneath the cartoon absurdity then it’s an even bigger fail than it seems on the surface. Because it only means Tarantino wanted to make his own Cowboy Dark Knight, except R-rated and dumber, where the only visual effect is to drop water-balloons full of cherry red syrup and everybody gets to say n*gger 200 times. Wow.

  • Sumflow

    Those guys who would not get out of the wagon are the reason that that big shot NY director did not want to see the film.

    [Deleted. Not even sure what you think you mean by that line, but I’m not taking any chances. – Ryan]

  • I wasn’t trying to foist anything on you and I didn’t say it was Star Wars. I said Django takes the hero’s journey like in Star Wars, The Matrix, Superman, whatever. He just does. The other characters were not less than human. I never saw them that way. I saw them as people who had been beat down and victimized. When that happens you’re supposed to overcome that by taking back your power. That’s what Django did. He found a mentor who showed him the way. He did what he had to do to save his wife, which was his whole purpose. Then when he outwitted, outplayed, and outlasted his enemies, he was able to ride off into the sunset. He’s Zorro. He’s John Wayne. He’s every bad motherfucker who ever rode a horse. That’s good enough for me.

  • ok, Antoinette. I understand what you mean now. Thanks for walking me through it.

  • Brian

    They aren’t less than human. They are simply the other inmates in Shawshank, or the other gladiators in Gladiator, or the hundred thousand extras in Gandhi, or whatever. They were there, they filled a role, they weren’t Harriet Tubman, that was it. Again, if your issue is that they didn’t take the key and run as fast as they can by way of the north star away from their owner, then realize that it isn’t historical accuracy you are shooting for, but some moral/racial compass you wish was there.

  • ramiro

    i shall remember that this is a spaghetti western style. it is meant to be a B movie with no depth at all. this is post-modernism.
    i would not call tarantino the martyr of black people, still, you’ve just forget the whole point. it is a movie about a black man westernizing white folks. man, do you really think that this is usual?
    the point here, as i see, is the slaves depth. i can give you that, but, well, are the KKK guys more intelligent than the slaves? or the guys of the pub in the beginning of the movie? just 3 guys are really smart: schultz, di caprio and samuel l. jackson. all the others guys are just cartoons. but well, in the same fucking racial way.
    tarantino explodes himself, explodes the main house and well, the 40 seconds retalliation is one of the most beautiful scenes ever shot. the cottom was blood. he tortured the capataz. this is truly beautiful and dignified.

    the last question, would be tarantino’s movie be so well welcome by the 60’s racism? i don’t think so. so i don’t think you can go further on naming this a racist movie.

  • “then realize that it isn’t historical accuracy you are shooting for, but some moral/racial compass you wish was there.”

    Williams was disagreeing with Tarantino for failing to imbue the slaves with an iota of realism, dignity, and intelligence. He wasn’t asking for much. Not sure how you’re reading that as “historical accuracy.”

  • “Just 3 guys are really smart … i don’t think you can go further on naming this a racist movie.”

    You can go further and name the movie artificially self-congratulatory. And that you didn’t name the title characters as one of the really smart guys says it all.

    Again, he wasn’t just trying to make a “fun” movie about slavery. It wasn’t just a movie. He was trying to “start a conversation about slavery.” His words. His intentions may have been pure, but he got in his own way and fell subject to his own shortcomings as a filmmaker.

  • the other mike

    ryan really owning this conversation. i get why some would get defensive because some intelligent criticism has been applied to their favorite film. but really. like i said, as entertainmemt only, then fine. but QT is going around patting himself on the back as some brave distiller of truth and well, people who understand this topic are calling him out on it.

    as i mentioned earlier, the sexualixation of the slaves fighting to the death, and the sexily dressed black women who witness it, all while catering to their white master is extremely perverted and troubling.

    bottom line, the black people in this film showed no humanity. like ryan said, either they were a badass or a dumb zombie.

  • Andrew

    Sorry guys, but ‘I’m black and I liked it, or my black friend liked it’ does not invalidate the arguments presented here.

    Good on you Ryan for your passionate criticism of this movie.

    I liked IB, but IMO Tarantino is the most overrated director of this generation. Why he feels the need to make film after film with excessive, sadistic, glorified violence escapes me. And people admire him as an artist. Give me a break

  • Craig

    “ryan really owning this conversation.”

    -Not from my perspective. I’ve sat here and watched him make the same argument over and over again and people offering well thought out rebuttals that were dismissed with little to no consideration.

    “bottom line, the black people in this film showed no humanity. like ryan said, either they were a badass or a dumb zombie.”

    -Give me a list of movies having to do with the Middle Passage-slavery-the Nadir-Jim Crow-the prison industrial complex, that you would recommend. This goes for all the critics of DU. This isn’t a trap. I’m really curious.

    “Sorry guys, but ‘I’m black and I liked it, or my black friend liked it’ does not invalidate the arguments presented here.”

    -When you claim no black person liked this movie, it sure hurts the arguments. I’m black. I loved it. So does every black person I know. Most of the black people I’ve come across liked/loved it. The theater with mostly blacks in attendance seemed to enjoy themselves. My family liked it. It’s all some of them could talk about before and after seeing the movie. A lot of my black friends have seen it multiple times.

    I’m probably jumping to conclusions, but it seems like the only people who hated this movie are Tarantino haters, conservatives, and middle/upper class black intellectual, uber social justice types.

    If a poll was taken, I bet over 70% of black Americans who saw this movie would say they at least liked it. I’m willing to bet my life on this guesstimate.

  • Kane

    @The other mike, I would argue heavily that against no black person showed any humanity. I stated this above, which of course now gets lost in a sea of opinions (and I’m actually happy people give a shit enough to talk about it), the slave that tells Candie he doesn’t want to be a mandingo anymore and he knows what that could mean for him in the end. I think that man must’ve weighed his options pretty damn good. Samuel L. Jackson, playing the Uncle Ruckus (Boondocks, baby!), essentially knows what it means to make it in the white man’s world. He was probably transformed along the way to be a bit more evil however he used his wits to stay a step ahead. SPOILERS He was pulling the strings all along, he told Calvin what to do and the way he sat in the chair, sipping what I assume is a brandy, look at his pose. It’s so much more confident and commanding than before when he was a mumbling servant. My point is that we can’t assume ALL black people would’ve done what was right back then. None of us lived through those times. We could have versions from QT, Spike Lee, John Singleton, Steve McQueen, George Lucas, John Wayne, Elmo, and Zach Galifianakis and none of them will truly get what wass actually FELT back then. We can only hear old tales from our old grandparents and read books. As much information as we get from them we’ll never completely get it all, only our own representation, whether they’re meant to be taken seriously or not.

  • Kane

    And lest we forget, showing humanity or some sense of want or need was the difference between life and death.

  • Scotty

    I actually thought there were smart rebuttals and responses, but I think people just get trapped into what they want to see and focus on “winning” the argument.

    Anyway, I think the only reason why people brought up the “I’m black and I liked it” or “I saw it with black people and they loved it”, etc. was because very early on, someone made a huge generalization about how black people didn’t like Django.

    They only offered this opinion in order to give their own personal opinion from their black point-of-view, or from people’s different experiences observing how blacks reacted to the film.

    I also don’t think all black intellectuals/academics disliked the film either as I’ve read some articles that analyzed the film positively. I think Henry Louis Gates was receptive to it, and he’s as academic as one can get.

  • Brian

    “Williams was disagreeing with Tarantino for failing to imbue the slaves with an iota of realism, dignity, and intelligence. He wasn’t asking for much. Not sure how you’re reading that as “historical accuracy.”

    The entire system was built on denying dignity and, for most slaves, intelligence. The slaves were a product of their system, just as the white men were.

    As for ‘historical accuracy’, I think it is just ‘realism’ by another name. To-may-toe, to-mah-to. There seems to be a big deal about the fact that the slaves didn’t run, as if that was the only realistic option they had. It wasn’t, and what they did do was perhaps not out-of-line with what anyone would have done in that situation. The whole system was built on violence, and violence is what it reaped. While I didn’t like the film, and while I love Lincoln more than any other film last year, Tarantino’s film probably did kick off a conversation about slavery in ways more profound than Spielberg’s film. You wouldn’t have this back-and-forth on a Lincoln post. I don’t think Tarantino was particularly brilliant with his insight (slavery is dehumanizing to all who touch it), though I am surprised people are simply shocked that Morgan Freeman’s Glory character isn’t littered throughout the film. When you start a debate where you are shocked that slaves could be laughing, than you know you have gone a ways down the bend to shoehorn your opinion in. Jesse Williams didn’t like the film, there was no amazing renaissance slave, and he simply doesn’t like the subgenre blaxploitation. I don’t blame him, I can’t say I love it either. But some of the criticism is weird.

  • Scotty

    BTW, what do you guys think of the point that Spike Lee brought up.

    He said that he would not have been able to do a film like Django for many obvious reasons, but an important reason is that the reception would have been brutal.

    I think he has a valid point. How do you think Django, assuming being done in the same way as Tarantino, would have been received if done by a black filmmaker? Assuming that the director is also known for taking genres and twisting them in an exaggerated, stylized way the same way Tarantino is known for doing.

  • Victor Barreto

    I will use here the same type of argument I read on a topic about Tony Kushner:

    Sure, let’s teach the Palm D’Or winner legendary filmmaker how to make films…

    ::rolling eyes::

    Frankly, I saw the black people on this movie as repressed people, who were born on a opressing world and never thought it could change. Most of this text goes like this:
    “They just stand there mouths agape, like shackled apes”

    This little comment after the comma is his take, not Tarantino’s. Spike Lee blamed Eastwood for not showing any black soldiers on his war bilogy, but that doesn’t mean Clint is racist at all. Too me, it just looks like SL reads too much into some things, in a very pathetic way. The same happened here.

  • brendon

    I’m only now getting around to being offended by this movie, because frankly, it’s so terribly bad, I couldn’t even be bothered.

    Not a single interesting narrative reversal or unexpected occurrence in the film to challenge, provoke, or intrigue me. Not a single good interior moment with the protagonist.

    If you had asked me before I walked in to summarize what I thought the plot of the movie was going to be, based on what I knew about Tarantino, I would’ve nailed about 98% of the major plot points.

  • julian the emperor

    I have no political or moral qualms over Django, I find it essentially refreshing that a major filmmaker like Tarantino dares to deal with stuff like this, even when he knows that it will provoke a lot of people. I wish more filmmakers would approach history with less reverence and more vigor.

    My problem with Django is purely aesthetic: It is a messy script, there are LONG stretches of the movie that are just not working on a narrative level. Some scenes are way too long, some characters are under-developed, others are given too long a leash. The whole third act (the revenge part) I could have done without, I completely lost interest the minute Waltz is no longer there with his often hilarious “Old World-cultivation-meets-New World-ignorance”-schtick.

    The good ideas abound in Django, but the bad ones make it a less than consistent effort and, frankly, one of the weakest of this years’ nine bp nominees (Les Mis sight unseen).

  • the other mke

    a lot of defensive white people in here. and sure, just because some black people like it doesnt mean the film aint foul. i just dont think tarantino takes the subject of slavery as seriously as he does having his own cooool spaghetti western with slavey as the backdrop. and it has nothing to do with sensitivity, we can all agree that blazing sadles is a classic film and i wouldnt call it sensitive. in blazing saddles you never feel like the joke is on you. nothing sensitive there at all. but when QT brings his typical sadistic aesthetic to something like slavery, well sure, people are gonna be offended. they are not sure whether to trust him. on one hand, he gets props for hiring black actors consistently. on the other had, is this just a filmmaker version of the hipster kids who get off on violent rap music? jonathan demme and spielberg have both done great world with regards to stories set within slavery. i think their history grants them that trust. with QT and his obsession with cooool but wicked black dudes and his love of the N word. some are weary.

  • @julian

    I understand that the third act lacked the oomph that the first two acts had, but without it the film wouldn’t be Django, it would be Schultz Unchained. We needed that last bit where Django saves the day on his own.

  • Kane

    @The other mike, of course some people will be offended. I can certainly see why but how you feel about the film depends on how you view it. Anybody making a case against Django is fine by me however there’s always the flipside to every coin. I also wouldn’t quite agree that QT “loves” the N word. If it fits the characters he creates then why shouldn’t that word be spouted off? Should Edward Norton in American History X, or even that bathroom scene in The 25th Hour, have had to have tone down the racial slurs simply because it got excessive? No because it’s in his character’s nature to be hateful. That hate triggers us to dislike him, which is why we cheer for him all the more when he befriends a black man in prison and makes a 180 turn.

  • Scotty

    That’s funny theothermike because a lot of people’s criticism with the criticism directed at Django is that they’re bringing on their middle-class white 21st century perspective onto the characterizations on the slaves who aren’t Django. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that all-the-way, but it’s there.

    Also, I’ve read criticism of Spielberg’s Lincoln about sanitizing slavery, not having Frederick Douglas, promoting a sort of God-like mythological portrayal of Lincoln, etc.

    There were also problems with The Help because it seemed to be a film that white suburban people embraced while a lot of black writers or scholars were a lot more critical of it.

    We don’t have a poll or anything, but I wonder where the idea stems from that there’s a consensus that black movie-goers (not just film writers, critics, or academics but regular movie goers) didn’t enjoy Django. I haven’t done much research into it myself, but I don’t think you can ignore people’s own personal experience that contradicts that notion. It’s at least just as valid as assuming that there’s a general consensus that blacks overwhelmingly hated or detested Django.

  • The Dude

    @Julian- Yeah, I had some problems with Django as well, but, like you, on the storytelling/structure front, not in the WASP middle class people from a 1st world country in the 21st century think 19th century black people who were born and raised as slaves don’t act the way they expect to way, which is the case of most criticism here.

  • julian the emperor

    The Dude: You are being a bit polemic (as well as slightly cynical) here, but I can’t say I don’t agree with you.

    Colin Biggs: Of course, you have a point. All along, I saw that third act coming, though. Obviously Django needed to step up and sort it all out himself. But exactly because it was obvious (and an obvious point to make on behalf of the “inner logic” of the movie and the genre it is a pastiche of), I found it dull and tiring (and I wonder if Tarantino didn’t strive for the audience to feel some kind of redemption on behalf of his protagonist instead).

  • I’m probably jumping to conclusions, but it seems like the only people who hated this movie are Tarantino haters, conservatives, and middle/upper class black intellectual, uber social justice types.

    Wow, you’ve described me perfectly!

    except that I wildly adore 5 of Tarantino’s previous movies, I’m ultra-liberal, white working-class gay, who spent 7 solid years in Thailand as an expat because lol @ social justice in America. But aside from that, you’re spot on!

    “jumping to conclusions”? nah, I just thought you were a ballet dancer.

  • Yona Hall

    I am an African American Jew who lives in Israel.I am also a Tarantino fan and followed the progress of this movie the year before it was released.There was no way that I could have watched this movie in an audience of white people in the States and all the more so here in Israel,although I have seen numerous Black themed movies in Israel,but never with a subject matter this close to me.Anyway, for the first time in my life I obtained a bootleg copy of a movie and have watched it several times.I loved it and even though I saw some of the things that were brought out in the article,such as the slave master Candie sitting with slaves eating at The Cleopatra Club,and Big Daddy’s armed Black Slaves,as highly improbable,this film could serve well as a jumping off point for the discussion of chattel slavery in the US,because it did contain enough truths that have never before been shown in a film on slavery.For me it was not cartoonish,but a bit over the top as is the style of the spaghetti Western.

    I am referring to the torture devices that slaves were shown with,including Django himself.I have seen them in an exhibition on slavery and have certainly seen drawings in books with the devices depicted as ways to punish difficult and runaway slaves.

    I have tried to understand what people found so funny in this movie,because I can assure you that I only laughed once and yes,I did think the headbag scene was funny,but I didn’t find it hilarious!It’s just not the same experience that I would have enjoyed at The Magic Johnson theatre in the Crenshaw Mall in Los Angeles,but when you’re Black and living overseas,there was no way I was waiting for the DVD.Something tells me that I would have enjoyed it even more with that kind of enthusiastic Black audience,but the internet allows me to enjoy the interaction of many others,and that is important to me.

  • Jeremie

    “I just love when people claim a movie is substantive and then fail to elaborate on any way that it’s substantive as if the claim is all that is needed. It’s not.”

    Well probably because it is a lot easier to jump into a conversation, poopoo everyone and dismiss a film in one sentence than to write a substantive response who will manage to convince people like Ryan or you, who have made up their mind about the film anyway and are sharpening their knives ready to twist and ridicule the next poor bugger who will dare expressing his views.

    The fact is that, if you want to have a substantive view as to why people disagree with Williams’ article, you have more than plenty to chew on in the above comments. (And by the way I have yet to see any actual, serious responses to the very valid comment that where made by someone like Jesus Alonso.)

    And to be fair I am absolutely not bothered whether we can convince you or Ryan or other detractors of the film. I personally felt it was a brilliant film, I enjoyed it, it provoked me, it made me think and I liked Tarantino’s take on the subject. I am sorry you didn’t. Tough shit. I am glad I come from a country where the film was adored, hailed by critics as one of the very of the year and had the very rare privilege of being praised by Les Cahiers du Cinema, Positif, Les Inrocks and Liberation (who actually understood the film, imagine). Such consensus rarely happens. But I guess the Atlantic ocean between us gives us some useful perspective on such a touchy subject.

  • Kane

    Well if everyone else is going to say…I’m a white, 26 year old epoxy stick and sealant salesman from Philadelphia, I like long walks on the beach when I’m not in Jersey and I have an incredible love for crabcake sandwiches. I loved Django Unchained. :WHEW: wow…now I want a crabcake sandwich.

  • Should Edward Norton in American History X, or even that bathroom scene in The 25th Hour, have had to have tone down the racial slurs simply because it got excessive? No because it’s in his character’s nature to be hateful.

    I don’t remember anybody having a problem with the dialogue in The 25th Hour at all, because it felt right and genuine. It never came up as an issue. Because it made sense and didn’t feel like easy sleaze.

    The use of the N word in Django isn’t even one of the top 25 things that annoys me. I don’t even care about that. Inconsequential in the whole messy scheme of the movie. To me it’s just intellectually equivalent to the Klump family farting around the dinner table. Laugh it up. Lazy writing.

    I wish the script had twice as many N words as it already does so everybody could have twice the fun.

    dang, now I wish the hour-long dinner table scene at Candieland had included a lot more farting.

  • Nick Ray

    >>>>>>>> Tough shit. I am glad I come from a country where the film was adored, hailed by critics as one of the very of the year and had the very rare privilege of being praised by Les Cahiers du Cinema, Positif, Les Inrocks and Liberation (who actually understood the film, imagine). But I guess the Atlantic ocean between us gives us some useful perspective on such a touchy subject. <<<<<<<<

    YES!!!! I wish Hollywood had listened to what France told us to adore YEARS AGO!! Jerry Lewis would have more Oscars than the Coen Brothers.

  • Kane

    Well damn, Ryan…if farting at a dinner table was all you were after I could try to find a copy of The Fatties starring Jack Black—errr Jeff Portnoy.

    I wasn’t sure where the use of the N word ranked on your list of annoyances but my comment was directed to those who felt like that word was used excessively and without good reason, as if the N word was used specifically for comedic effect like it was a Dave Chapelle sketch.

  • Craig

    I’d like to point out that I have no problem with criticism like the one Brendon and julian the emperor made. If a person doesn’t like a movie because they feel it’s too long, or they feel two or three scenes don’t work, all I can say is either I agree, I disagree or I agree, but I liked it anyway. It’s the social criticism I have a bone to pick with.

    Scotty said

    “He said that he would not have been able to do a film like Django for many obvious reasons, but an important reason is that the reception would have been brutal.”

    Spike is sorta right in those regards, but I’m not gonna crap on Tarantino because Hollywood is f-ed up like that. It also doesn’t help that Hollywood is kind of a reflection for our society. Just talk to a random non black person about the idea of making Superman, James Bond, Spider-Man, or Wonder Woman black.

    Ryan Adams said

    “except that I wildly adore 5 of Tarantino’s previous movies, I’m ultra-liberal, white working-class gay, who spent 7 solid years in Thailand as an expat because lol @ social justice in America. But aside from that, you’re spot on!”

    I feel like you’re grasping for straws. After reading this article, I assumed you were white, ultra-liberal, and maybe middle-class. I didn’t think about whether you were gay or not, but I guess it’s cool to see you and I relate on something 😉

    Look, I’ve been avoiding internet forums about Django, but your site stuck out because it’s using Jesse Williams off the mark, nit-picky article as evidence that DU was somehow racist.

    I’ll it all on the table. As a black man, I found DU to be incredibly cathartic. You get tired of your race constantly being portrayed as criminal, destructive, magical, or in need of white people’s help. I felt that DU used those elements and turned them upside down. I can understand how that could be misconstrued, but Jesse Williams, Spike Lee, etc, takes it too far.

  • The Chuck

    The Dude said it perfectly and I cannot figure out for the life of me why it is is difficult to find “the point” as it were, though I hate using that phrase. The nitpicking and whining I’m fairly certain are borne of blatant dislike, either after or before viewing the film. Let’s be damn honest it is borderline impossible for anyone that would regularly visit a message board such as this to be anywhere near 50% objective by the time an “Oscar potential” film hits theaters.

    My main question of Ryan (and Jesse for that matter) is why in the HELL did you take is film seriously..whatsoever? You make me feel (I clearly know the exact opposite is true) that you have no clue about QT as a person, filmmaker, “historian”, or fiction in general as a successful medium. This wasn’t a documentary. QT studies film, in a theater and out of one, and a little bit of historical accuracy, throws in some of his prowess as a writer, and goes from there…if it fits his mold or plan, he adds it and exaggerates it, if the truth turns out to be less “filmable” or Quentinesque, he’ll gladly amend it and no sweat. He basically said as much after shockingly winning the Globe…he wants ZERO feedback on his writing or directorial choices, but he appreciates folks listening.

  • Melissa

    Here’s the problem that I see throughout the comments. Oh Black people seemed to like it, oh no they didn’t. I’m sorry all Black people aren’t the same or think the same. I mean just BC a bunch of Black people enjoyed it in a movie theater doesn’t mean that there aren’t any problems with it. How many of these White and Black moviegoers were cinephiles?The average moviegoer liked Transformers too.So I think that’s kind of a moot point.

    I did find Django to be an entertaining film and I did find some of it cringeworthy, but it was never meant to be this important Slave movie. I only wished that the female characters especially Kerry had more to do and say.

  • MikieRotten

    Tarantino’s sense of humor is played out (to me, I’m 45) and it flailed in absolute parodic (word?) misery in Django. I truly thought it was a parody yet an unfunny, tired one (I tend to be a bit redundant, that’s how I flow, sorry). I left the theater disappointed and feeling a bit cheated, like most posts are saying it was lazy, cartoonish and there for it sucked, regardless of it’s historical inaccuracy, regardless of it’s portrayal of slaves, it failed as a film. Even as just pure obvious entertainment it failed, in my opinion. Predictable, implausible, unfunny, cliched (in relation to Q.T’s other films) and pandering to African Americans and Hollywood politics, I think? Forgive my grammar.

  • Matt H

    It is gratifying to see how thoroughly Ryan’s head in the sand stance, and this article’s eye roll inducing incompetence, have been dismantled in these comments. Saves me the trouble of doing it myself. Kudos to you all.

  • Avila

    There once was a tempering force to the great Tarantino’s rambling narcissism. Her name was Sally Menke. Their relationship definitively proved the worth of a quality editor. By rights, Django should have equalled or surpassed Basterds. It was on trajectory. But, Sally died. Viva Sally! Tarantino’s guiding angel is no more. She wouldn’t have let the boredom linger, would have cauterized loose ends, would have gotten Kerry a bit of on-screen badassery to back up her backstory. Everyone, Tarantino needs a new Sally. Her loss is felt throughout this film.

    Beyond that, all else has been said. Ryan, you’re like in Stage 1 racism awareness. You were entitled to all your disgust, but don’t think we all weren’t disgusted along with you. The over-the-top visceral anachronistic screenplay is a very effective way to convey the gross cognitive dissonance of the era. How could they? That’s how. Watch another excellent film employing similar tactics, Walker. How did Nicaragua get so fucked? That’s how. Two novels along the same lines: Catch-22 and Animal Farm.

    And then, can we all move our enhanced awareness back to the 21st century, where, yes Ryan, the deep unsettled roots of this unfinished era have sprung pernicious new weeds. You think this is all in the past? If it was, we wouldn’t look the other way during all the atrocities in Afghanistan. If it was, Hurricane Katrina wouldn’t have been a human disaster (read Zeitoun, Eggers).

    And get a load of this: as a result of this fascinating discourse, I googled “chappelle django” to see if he had any opinion. This is what I found:

    Guess who else took the on-screen action literally? Watch out everyone, strange fruit still grows. This is how.

  • Gerry

    Its a comedy!! Plain and simple!! and seeing as it’s a “movie” after all,why should it have to replicate or follow history to a tee.People who are offended clearly have other deep-seated issues they need to address before they expose themselves to this type of film,they are adults after all,it seems!!

  • Its a comedy!! … People who are offended clearly have other deep-seated issues

    Consider the possibility that not everybody feels it’s very funny to see dogs eating a black man alive or two black men forced to kill each other for sport.

    Consider the possibility that some of us hear insane laughter throughout the mandingo wrestling sequence and wonder what sort of sick ‘deep-seated issues’ somebody has to have in order to find that kind of thing hilarious.

  • That’s on the audience though. You can’t blame the filmmaker for that reaction, I don’t blame Kubrick for some of the crazier people that idealize Alex DeLarge.

  • While we’re blaming people let’s blame the Golden Globes for failing to see Django is “A Comedy!” The Golden Globes, whose concept of comedy is so lax they thought Gosford Park and Nicholas Nickleby were comedies. They thought Charlie Wilson’s War was a comedy because, you know, Afghanistan ROFLMAO!

    The Golden Globes who thought Pride & Prejudice was a comedy (!!) decided Django wasn’t funny enough to be anything but drama.

    Next blame IMDb which lists Django Unchained under 8 dozen genre subcategories including Adventure | Drama | Western | Spaghetti Western | Torture | Gore | Gruesome Violence — but even after more than 100 keywords to describe it, IMDb fails to find reason to call Django a “Comedy.”

  • Avila

    Ryan, just curious as to your removal of part of my comment, where I agreed with you that it was disgusting? That many viewers were disgusted? Liking the film doesn’t mean liking the torture segments. We liked the film because we understood what it was getting at, and did not take that imagery at mere face value.

    Turning away from the reality means we can sweep it under the rug. Hasn’t worked–as noted per the link I posted to some current dangerous discourse. If we’re concerned about portrayals of Black Americans, or any non-Hetero Whites, why don’t we do something about that website and those folks, with their current hallucinatory depictions? If we don’t confront the past, and admit our current complicity in its legacy (see Bell’s, both hooks and Derrick), we’re doomed to repeat it.

  • Avila

    P.S. All I’m saying is, you have *every right* to be offended. It’s a good thing. Just please take that offense, use it, and dig deeper, instead of turning away from the unpleasantries of the harsh reality of our collective past. We didn’t deal with it then, so we’re still dealing with it today.

  • Avila, originally your whole sentence read like this:

    Ryan, you’re like in Stage 1 racism awareness. You were entitled to all your disgust, but don’t think we all weren’t disgusted with you.

    Now that I look at it again, I would like to think that was just a typo — maybe, hopefully, you meant: “but don’t think we all weren’t disgusted as you.” — instead of “disgusted with you.”


    I was in no mood that day. I could handle it if 90% of you were disgusted with me — but “don’t think we ALL weren’t disgusted with you” …?


    Tell me that was a typo and I’ll put your sentence back together with the right wording.

    might you have meant it to say ” don’t think we all weren’t disgusted along with you.

    adding “along” will take the knife out of my back.

  • Avila

    Lolz yes, *along* with you!!!

    Thank you for being disgusted–and human!!!

  • whew, I’ll fix it back.

    really bummed me out that afternoon.


  • Avila

    Now what are we going to do about these KKK folks? They’re having a conference–should we all show up w bedsheets?

    “Gentlemen will wear jackets and ties to conference events. We will prepare name tags in advance; during registration, be sure to indicate if you would like to use a nom de guerre.”

    DISTURBING! Wait, what’s more disturbing–the hiding the identity part, or the fact that there’s enough of these folks to HOLD A CONFERENCE?

    Hey, whoever’s in media, feel free to share…

  • Heather Cudnik

    I completely disagree. I see it more as a comic book type movie. Django is the superhero. Slavery isn’t necessarily depicted as reality-tthough it has some realistic elements. From all I’ve read I don’t recall Tarantino saying this film is historically accurate. The treatment of slaves as “property” to be done with as was willed by their owners I think was the point, be it fighting, serving, cooking, farm work, &companions. Though there’s no evidence of Mandingo fighting, who’s to say for sure that kind of thing didn’t happen? Were you alive then? How much of the crap in our school history texts books have we been lied to about? Or been presented with a biased opinion of what happened based on what they think as kids in the US we should be told about to help with white guilt, or perhaps keep us all with our fists in the air chanting USA! Usa!
    The slaves not instantly reacting like ‘oh I’m free!’ Was probably because they’d been beaten for defying their white masters before. Wishing and praying to be set free- but when it actually happens their so shocked and stunned. Especially to see a white man helping them to do so, for all they knew it could’ve been a test, any attempt to unshakle themselves could’ve been seen as an act of defiance. Who’s to say after they took out the man that made them walk shakled in the cold, barefoot & shirtless, that they didn’t make a mad scramble to grab any items they could use for their survival. I’m sure they even took the money Dr. King payed to buy Django.
    As far as the comedy element, first of all its Tarantino, if you don’t like his films, why bother seeing it at all? There’s going to be dark comedy, as there is in all of his films. If there wasn’t any comedy in Django, I think the film would’ve been completely traumatic to the audience.
    I also disagree that black people don’t like this film, that has not been my experience amongst my friends of African descent. I heard nothing but positive comments about it.
    The N-word usage is offensive, and it’s supposed to be. But in reality that’s how they were talked about. Ever read any books from that time period, especially ones that haven’t been edited and abridged, example The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. Prime examples. Most film makers are afraid to go there with the N-word in slavery period films. (This is where I think some of Tarantino’s back patting was coming in to play.) It forces us to deal with uncomfortable truths. I also think it’s usage helps take away the power that we as a society have give it by building a stigma around it. People are afraid of it because it is taboo. (I always have been, I think it’s foul and horrible to use to describe anyone ) but in this context I can understand it’s usage to force us to deal with it. Take away it’s power, we should be passed trivial things such as skin color by now. We are humans. Let’s not be doomed to repeat such a horrible thing.

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  • Dr Dickass


    hahahaha not even fucking close

  • Dr Dickass

    more like an offended for no reason douche tells us why he’s a such a big fucking bitch and reads too much into shit. frequent tumblr

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  • badgyrl_310

    I love that Jesse Williams continues to throw shade and drag society for it’s bullshit. There was a lot in that movie that was ridiculous and completely unrealistic. We can’t wait for them to tell our story or teach our history accurately. We have to do it. With him being a former history teacher and African Studies major, I’m waiting for Jesse Williams to write, produce, direct a movie telling the real story of African history, Black American history, slavery, etc. We have to be in control of telling our own stories.

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