Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” plunges us deep into a world America barely wants to visit as it represents our lowest period but it promises this trip to Hell will be worth it because this time the slave wins. Slavery’s official end was just 150 years and 3 days ago, not a long time in the scope of history.
Tarantino is always creating films about art of film-making, and “Django” unravels as a Western set in the south while capturing a Blaxploitation film set in slavery. That underrated genre gives us fantasies of black empowerment and the catharsis of seeing blacks outsmart and overcome immoral oppressive whites.
“Django” follows this script featuring an heroic ex-slave filled with swagger, intelligence, and a blood deep loyalty to his wife which leads him to kill a slew of slavemasters. I daresay if visions of a freed slave outfoxing and murdering the masses who enslaved him and his wife so she can be free don’t move you, then something may be wrong with your heart.
What else is a slave to do with the author of his evil? This is righteous violence in the service of moral justice and in the service of love. What’s more romantic than a man who’ll slog through Hell to rescue his woman?
“Django” is one of two recent films to deal with slavery but where Lincoln reacts genteelly, counting votes, Django the character and the movie are an aggressive assault on slavery, from a hilarious scene where a Klan forerunner group is reduced to a laughingstock to Jamie Foxx’s character destroying the white supremacist mindset within himself and moving through the film’s world with this bad-ass power, this royal dignity shining out from inside him.
The zeitgeist may not have been ready for this particular attack on slavery before the Obama era but now I think we’re more ready to move through a nightmarish vision of slavery while seeing someone liberating himself and his family and in a way, liberating us, too.
Nothing excuses slavery, but there is catharsis in seeing it defeated just as there was a catharsis in Obama’s election. And what would the ancestors say? About the story of a slave who rebels and gets revenge and frees his wife?
I suspect if we could wake them from their graves and show them this movie, I suspect they might be quite pleased. I wonder if they’d enjoy Django more than, say, “Do the Right Thing.”