Three Reasons Why I Loved “Django Unchained”

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After reading this week about the objections that director Spike Lee had about the new film “Django Unchained,” I was both curious and concerned.  I wanted to see the film myself in order to determine if Spike actually had a point in his critique.  I also hoped that Spike would explain himself a bit more, instead of making brief, even cryptic, remarks about the project on his Twitter feed:  I love Spike and his films, but the nature of his criticism didn’t make much sense to me, given that he’d never seen the film in the first place. 

I’ve seen several Quentin Tarantino films in the past, and I honestly find the man to be brilliant, creative and extremely weird.  I wondered if Spike had a point.

But after seeing the film, I have to say that I think the great Spike Lee might have been wrong on this one.  By the end of the film, nearly everyone in the theater was clapping, the story was powerful and the cinematography was stunning.  Tarantino hit the nail on the head with this movie, and he’s probably going to win a few well-deserved awards.  

If you want to understand this film, imagine a mainstream version of the John Singleton film, “Rosewood,” with a lot more action.  To be honest, only a white guy could have made this movie and convinced so many white people to pay money to see it.

But I had my own reasons for loving “Django Unchained,” and here they are:

1) There was a legitimate African American hero:  Jamie Foxx, who played Django, was one of the few serious Black heroes ever produced by Hollywood, a place that tends to put Black people in a box.  Django wasn’t just a sidekick or comedic buffoon.  He didn’t have some ridiculous set of character flaws like Will Smith’s conflicted hero in the movie “Hancock.” 

He didn’t need a White man to save him, like most other fictional or non-fictional accounts we see on screen. Instead, Django was simply a strong, brave, highly-skilled Black man who loved his wife enough to put his life on the line to save her.  In fact, I dare say he was downright inspirational, which is more than you can say about the Black men in “The Color Purple.”

2) It had a beautiful portrayal of Black love:  Far too many Hollywood films enjoy highlighting the incessant conflict between Black men and women.  We live in a world where love and marriage are consistently replaced with abuse, addiction and baby mama drama --just watch nearly any VH1 show or listen to the radio to see at least 25 examples of what I’m talking about. Django’s’ deep love for his wife and desire to save her from her slave masters struck a cord with anyone who has had  a first hand experience with such overwhelming emotion.  It was beautiful to watch a Black man show bravery to protect his family.

3) An in-your-face portrayal of slavery: Most of us are given the polite story about slavery when we’re in school.  It’s as if the period of bondage was but  a moment in history, followed by Abraham Lincoln giving us our freedom, and Martin Luther King giving us a speech. 

This film, to the extent that it is historically accurate, probably mortified many of the people in the audience by showing the depths of dehumanization that took place during the greatest holocaust in American history.  Unfortunately, this film will be the best education on slavery that many of the audience members will ever receive, but it’s certainly better than nothing.

For The rest of commentary see Watkins  

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