The Big Picture: Is Django Racist?

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Anoni Mus:
Tarentino is savvy.

Does anyone know if there's a topic for this interview? This guy is awesome.

I loved how that hit some media outlets over the weekend with "OMG Tarantino's bizarre rant!" and some screenshots taken out of context; spend a few minutes actually watching the interview, and you see how much Guru-Murthy was trying to bait him. "So violence, why do people like violent films, why do you make violent films, violence, violence, what about your responsibilities as a filmmaker using all this violence, do you think there's a link between violent films and psychopaths, violence, violence?"

The Graham Norton Show was brilliant last week; with Tarantino, James McAvoy and Alan Davies. Not particularly deep (what do you expect from Graham Norton?) but a good laugh.

hermes200:
I am confused (haven't seen Django yet), but is this not the same argument that can be used for Inglorious Bastards; i.e. that the oversimplification and cartoonization of a dramatic period and the protagonists makes the power fantasy backlash on its intent? So, I guess Django is as racist as Inglorious Bastards was antisemitic. Or is it that nazis are a valid karmic target for people, while white colonial landlords are not?

I am genuinely curious, since I didn't like the way the power fantasy plays on Inglorious Bastards, but I got that it was not meant to be an historical reconstruction; so I don't really get where the Spike Lee comments come from.

I think part of Bobs point is that Django ISN'T simple, that it actually is genuinely about something. Bob said in his review that Django is actually pretty down to earth when compared to, say, Kill Bill, because since the slavery era was already such a violent period of American history, Tarantino didn't have to make that much up.

Bobs argument, and I would agree, is that to treat dark parts of history like they can never be spoken of has, ironically, the very same effect that people accuse Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained of having; it distances them from public conscience.

A great man once said "Artists use lies to tell the truth", and I think that applies; by being boisterous and over the top, by depicting these atrocities in a extreme way, you get people to pay attention to them, you make sure people don't forget them. An interesting fact is that human beings don't respond as strongly to large quantities of suffering as they do to individual suffering.

Sometimes just saying it how it is, just being cold and factual isn't enough, sometimes it's more important that you communicate what something meant to you, that you really make something FEEL real to your audience, instead of just telling them it is.

I completely agree with Bob's final points and also I think that's exactly what Mel Gibson was aiming for with The Passion of the Christ.

PainInTheAssInternet:

What are you going on about? You think that black people are suddenly going to become remorseless killing machines after watching Django? The same way video games cause young, stupid people to start school shootings? You might want to review your prejudices.

Well, I suppose I see your point. I guess I'm just worried about the young, stupid black people. The rest of them are probably fine, just like I'm sure the rest of the world that isn't young or stupid probably won't do much harm.

Xman490:
Dr. Schultz added another literary reference by quoting a philosopher (whose name I forget) who spoke out against slavery or abuse right before...

I believe it was Alexander Dumas, author of Count of Monte Cristo, and the Three Musketeers, and who was also black.

josh4president:
The guys over at Spill.com are still banging on about how this movie was "just an excuse for Tarantino to use the N-word" so I doubt this controversy is going away anytime soon.

Liked the movie just fine, myself. Would like to see Samuel L. Jackson get some very deserved props for infusing so much sheer hate into his character.

I wonder if some of those guys have ever seen an un-censored episode of the Boondocks. I would be very surprised if the average episode wasn't as dense with the N-word as Django is, if not more so.

RJ 17:
Of course Spike Lee was going to be against this movie...it's a movie about black people (well, person in this case) and he didn't make it.

On a bit of a tangent: evidently a lot of people in Hollywood are pissed off at the director of Zero Dark Thirty because the director didn't use the movie to openly criticize "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" torture.

So apparently if your movie isn't openly pushing liberal/progressive messages, Hollywood's gonna be upset with you.

Actually, what *people* (not the nebulous, evil cabal of "Hollywood," which is a meaningless word anyway you're using to group a bunch of people together to create some sort of silly conspiracy) are angry about is the fact that the Senate report on the CIA's use of torture recently came out, and it turns out that torture was NOT used in the effective manner portrayed in the film. People are angry that the director and producers decided to rely on the CIA itself for information, fostering a relationship with its spokespeople for that information, and essentially getting misled in the process into making a film that portrays torture being used in the hunt for bin Laden in a manner that is factually untrue.

A little bit of research goes a long way.

EDIT: and perhaps you should question your own views before posting? You know, ask simple questions like, "if I'm right and Hollywood hates Zero Dark Thirty, why is the old guard of the industry, that most entrenched and powerful of groups in the town -- you know, the Academy -- giving it recognition? Why did the awards show to which all of the big names show up and respect nominate the film for FIVE Oscars, including BEST PICTURE, best actress, and best screenplay?"

Bob, this was one of your best, most well-constructed episodes ever. Kudos to you.

Also, people should read the text below the video before watching, as that is where Bob often puts his spoiler warnings (as in this case). I'm not saying it's fair that he counts on everyone reading that text -- it's probably not. But I'm just letting people know it's there for the next time they watch one of these episodes, in case he continues to put the warnings there and not in the actual video.

Great, didn't see the spoiler warning since it was just a text line under the video. Urgh, I hope this doesn't completely ruin the experience for me...

Arslan Aladeen:

josh4president:
The guys over at Spill.com are still banging on about how this movie was "just an excuse for Tarantino to use the N-word" so I doubt this controversy is going away anytime soon.

Liked the movie just fine, myself. Would like to see Samuel L. Jackson get some very deserved props for infusing so much sheer hate into his character.

I wonder if some of those guys have ever seen an un-censored episode of the Boondocks. I would be very surprised if the average episode wasn't as dense with the N-word as Django is, if not more so.

Yes, actually. Main Spill guy Korey Coleman has said that he could never get into The Boondocks, because the show seriously overuses the N-word.

The Spill Crew also called the film a cartoon, like Bob suggested that some people might find it to be. Furthermore, they said it was "irredeemably uneven, way too long and not nearly as funny as it thinks it is", in the words of Spill Crew member Martin "Leon" Thomas. Leon - who, like Korey, is black - also said regarding Tarantino's statements about wanting to create a hero for black people in Django: "Hey, man; next time, ask me when you wanna do something for me, so I can tell you early on, 'That's stupid and stop, because you're making things worse'."

Movie Bob always manages to produce the most level and unequivocal justifications for his opinions than anyone else I care to listen to.
I'm happy to almost always take his opinion as the 'correct' option as I've been watching his videos for the longest time and I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I've disagreed with him.

Holocaust movie? I thought Tarantino did that movie already.

Spike Lee gets pissed always seems like a punch line to me. When isn't he pissed.

Not only am I mad that Spike Lee still has enough cachet to say he won't watch a movie and have people listen to him, I'm annoyed that he gets called a great filmmaker. Name a Spike Lee movie that's not "Do The Right Thing" (1989) or "Malcolm X" (1992). He hasn't made a great movie in twenty years. Why are we talking about him like he's some sort of visionary?

At 2:00 that face Dicaprio makes I need that as a gif can anyone manage that?

hermes200:
I am confused (haven't seen Django yet), but is this not the same argument that can be used for Inglorious Bastards; i.e. that the oversimplification and cartoonization of a dramatic period and the protagonists makes the power fantasy backlash on its intent? So, I guess Django is as racist as Inglorious Bastards was antisemitic. Or is it that nazis are a valid karmic target for people, while white colonial landlords are not?

I am genuinely curious, since I didn't like the way the power fantasy plays on Inglorious Bastards, but I got that it was not meant to be an historical reconstruction; so I don't really get where the Spike Lee comments come from.

The thing is Basterds was kind of pulling double duty in terms of its themes/message compared to Django.

ALOT of Basterds fixated around film-related stuff (the theater owns by the Jewish girl, the soldier/film star, the critic-spy).

Much of that plot centered at a movie made by Joesph Gurbals who made a ton propaganda movies for the Nazis in an attept to influence people. The tone of the movie and the Bastereds themselves were kind of cartoon-y and very "movie" like on purpose. Yes it was for Jewish revenge but it was also kind of "movies getting revenge" for being misused for evil by people like Gurbals (this is also shown by what was used to set the theater on fire).

Django had a different thing going on like Bob pointed out. Basterds was about movies getting revenge on people who use them for evil as well as a holocaust revenge film.

.....But thats just MY interpretation so maybe I am full of it =p

Maybe it's just me, but I felt greatly disappointed when Spike Lee pulled the equivalent of sharia-induced hatred on cartoon muhammad.

"I have not seen the movie, but it's racist and even trying to accept or actually watch it would mean to disrespect and denigrate my ancestors."

Not exactly something I can easily accept from a film maker and public figure. It's like he crawls up his own bottom to fire up Twitter.

Also, he just single-handedly crushed any and all hopes for his (obsolete) remake of Old Boy to be worthwhile or relevant in any way, shape or form. If you want to see Old Boy, go watch it, as in, now. Why wait for Spike Lee's vision of a decade-old movie?

I appreciate there's only so much you can do in 6 minutes but I feel this video only skims the surface of the controversy. To begin with, a lot of the complaints have to do with the factual accuracy of QT's portayal of slavery in the southern plantations. There's also the issue of whether QT is in a position to preach about slavery or if he's just a casual spectator trying to impose his ignorant ideas into the debate. Many people have problems with particular pivotal scenes that don't handle the tone of the violence against black people with proper care. A lot of people have issues with the scarcity of well-developed, important black characters and the scarcity of dialogue lines spoken by black characters.

It's in no way a simple argument to take part in but the trend I find most worrying is that the camps of for/against can be neatly divided into black people noting it is kind of racist here and there and white people enthusiastically denying any possible hint of racism in any shape or form. I don't really feel there are many people who aren't black who actually want to have a conversation about why it is or isn't racist while there are a lot them who just want to completely win the argument and keep QT's record untarnished, as if that's the point of art or conversations.

I mean seriously, the film's poster shows three people: only one of them is black and all of them are middle-aged men. In a movie supposedly about slavery, this strikes me as odd.

In some ways, arguably Django Unchained is a step up simply because Django is, in fact, the main character. Dr. King is an interesting character and an important one, and his presence is necessary not only as a mentor but to make the ruse that occupies the second half of the movie possible- but he's not the hero. How many movies "confronting" their issues are sure to make certain that the "real" hero isn't one of the afflicted, but someone the audience can more easily identify with and perhaps dodge any possibility that they'll feel guilt that people not so dissimilar from themselves were the villains in the related histories?

I'd also have to confess that after movies like Bamboozled I'm not entirely willing to give a filmmaker like Lee an automatic pass on his credentials to address historical racism with clear vision.

Nautical Honors Society:
Short answer, no. Long answer no it is not racist.

Even longer answer: Jamie Foxx said his favorite part about the movie was getting to shoot white people. That line makes it into the movie, but he said it before the script did.

mrblakemiller:
Not only am I mad that Spike Lee still has enough cachet to say he won't watch a movie and have people listen to him, I'm annoyed that he gets called a great filmmaker. Name a Spike Lee movie that's not "Do The Right Thing" (1989) or "Malcolm X" (1992). He hasn't made a great movie in twenty years. Why are we talking about him like he's some sort of visionary?

Crooklyn, Tales from the Hood, He Got Game, Summer of Sam, The Original Kings of Comedy, and 25th Hour I'm no fan of Spike Lee if I saw the man on the street I would probably just say hey there goes Spike Lee. I just only know these movies because of certain actors or actress.

Markunator:

Arslan Aladeen:

josh4president:
The guys over at Spill.com are still banging on about how this movie was "just an excuse for Tarantino to use the N-word" so I doubt this controversy is going away anytime soon.

Liked the movie just fine, myself. Would like to see Samuel L. Jackson get some very deserved props for infusing so much sheer hate into his character.

I wonder if some of those guys have ever seen an un-censored episode of the Boondocks. I would be very surprised if the average episode wasn't as dense with the N-word as Django is, if not more so.

Yes, actually. Main Spill guy Korey Coleman has said that he could never get into The Boondocks, because the show seriously overuses the N-word.

The Spill Crew also called the film a cartoon, like Bob suggested that some people might find it to be. Furthermore, they said it was "irredeemably uneven, way too long and not nearly as funny as it thinks it is", in the words of Spill Crew member Martin "Leon" Thomas. Leon - who, like Korey, is black - also said regarding Tarantino's statements about wanting to create a hero for black people in Django: "Hey, man; next time, ask me when you wanna do something for me, so I can tell you early on, 'That's stupid and stop, because you're making things worse'."

We're getting hung up on the n-word and missing the broader picture that with every blank Jamie Foxx fired, he wishes they were real bullets. He said the best part of the film was seeing white folks die. Tarantino should've cast another talent that wasn't so hateful.

I take umbrage with Spike Lee's statement because they were not stolen from Africa. African sold other Africans into slavery. Yes, that's oversimplifying how it actually happened. No, I'm not trying to downplay the European's involvement in the African slave trade. No, I'm not saying or claiming that's any better. I'm simply stating that the best way to honor them would be by acknowledging what happened accurately, not by trumping up an already tragic history for your inane argument about why you won't watch a movie.

So now that a sacred cow is in the crosshairs, now we get the qualifier that not everything is racist just because someone claimed it is.

Hey, maybe all you people who liked Django are just secret racists who are completely unconscious of how your predominantly white culture has made you so racist that you didn't realize how racist it was to watch and enjoy a piece of fiction.

RJ 17:
Of course Spike Lee was going to be against this movie...it's a movie about black people (well, person in this case) and he didn't make it.

Pretty much. I really can't think of a reason Spike Lee would dislike the movie so much apart from a white director beat him to the punch and did it better than he would.

MovieBob:
Is Django Racist?

MovieBob gives us his opinion on Quentin Tarantino and race in this.

[This review contains spoilers concerning Django Unchained]

Watch Video

What about Jamie Foxx? I think fantasizing about murder (when a specific race is involved) is extremely racist, and he admitted to it while promoting this movie.

Markunator:

Arslan Aladeen:

josh4president:
The guys over at Spill.com are still banging on about how this movie was "just an excuse for Tarantino to use the N-word" so I doubt this controversy is going away anytime soon.

Liked the movie just fine, myself. Would like to see Samuel L. Jackson get some very deserved props for infusing so much sheer hate into his character.

I wonder if some of those guys have ever seen an un-censored episode of the Boondocks. I would be very surprised if the average episode wasn't as dense with the N-word as Django is, if not more so.

Yes, actually. Main Spill guy Korey Coleman has said that he could never get into The Boondocks, because the show seriously overuses the N-word.

The Spill Crew also called the film a cartoon, like Bob suggested that some people might find it to be. Furthermore, they said it was "irredeemably uneven, way too long and not nearly as funny as it thinks it is", in the words of Spill Crew member Martin "Leon" Thomas. Leon - who, like Korey, is black - also said regarding Tarantino's statements about wanting to create a hero for black people in Django: "Hey, man; next time, ask me when you wanna do something for me, so I can tell you early on, 'That's stupid and stop, because you're making things worse'."

Interesting. At least he's consistent. Not sure I agree that Django overused it. The movie is depicting a time and place where the white people in charge not only didn't care about hurting the feelings of those under them, but would actively do what they can to try to dehumanize them. Or maybe they did overuse it, but that was the point. I'll just stop before I ramble anymore.

MacNille:
And of course, another jab at The Dark Knight Rises. Yes, we know that you hate the film. Can you shut up about it?

Sorry movie bob can't speak, he currently has the avengers balls on his chin

mrblakemiller:
Not only am I mad that Spike Lee still has enough cachet to say he won't watch a movie and have people listen to him, I'm annoyed that he gets called a great filmmaker. Name a Spike Lee movie that's not "Do The Right Thing" (1989) or "Malcolm X" (1992). He hasn't made a great movie in twenty years. Why are we talking about him like he's some sort of visionary?

Clocker, 4 Little Girls, Bamboozled, Summer of Sam, The 25th Hour, Inside Man and Pariah (producer) would beg to differ.

I was genuinely interested. For once your sheltered views on racism weren't nausea inducing, and actually brought me to consider your view point.

Then your accent cropped in, and I had to stop the video. Are you just not trying anymore? Seriously, I know it probably means nothing, but I refuse to watch your videos til this is fixed. Either let the accent go completely, or keep it masked as you'd done in dozens of your past episodes.

You're better than this Bob.

Sovereignty:
I was genuinely interested. For once your sheltered views on racism weren't nausea inducing, and actually brought me to consider your view point.

Then your accent cropped in, and I had to stop the video. Are you just not trying anymore? Seriously, I know it probably means nothing, but I refuse to watch your videos til this is fixed. Either let the accent go completely, or keep it masked as you'd done in dozens of your past episodes.

You're better than this Bob.

"Fixed"? People's accents need to be "fixed" so they exactly match what you want, or you will boycot them? That's unbelievably sad and misguided. If he "fixes" it to a non-descript American accent, should all British people not watch him? If he switched to a British accent, would you not watch him, or would that be ok with you because you feel British is one of the "proper" accents? Would you mind telling us what, exactly, makes an accent proper to you? Are those traits that make them OK in your eyes shared by everyone's opinion? Or are you suggesting that Bob isn't doing well enough whenever he crosses your personal lines? I'm genuinely curious as to how you arrived at such a silly conclusion.

EDIT: the best part is that you're bringing this up in the thread for a video about racism, which is based at least partly in provincialism, xenophobia, and, ultimately, fear and/or derision of "the other." Oh sweet, sweet irony.

Headdrivehardscrew:
Maybe it's just me, but I felt greatly disappointed when Spike Lee pulled the equivalent of sharia-induced hatred on cartoon muhammad.

"I have not seen the movie, but it's racist and even trying to accept or actually watch it would mean to disrespect and denigrate my ancestors."

Not exactly something I can easily accept from a film maker and public figure. It's like he crawls up his own bottom to fire up Twitter.

Also, he just single-handedly crushed any and all hopes for his remake of Old Boy to be worthwhile or relevant in any way, shape or form.

I think you are exagerating to the point where it compromises the rest of your views. While Lee has a very vitriolic way of voicing his opinions, he has his reasons. While I don't have to agree with his ethics, I can sympathize with his point of view. Just to highlight a few of his concerns:

1) This is a Quentin Tarantino movie. To be honest, maybe this is the only reason he needs. QT is known for his love of blaxploitation cinema which is in itself highly controversial and supports a lot of long-standing racist views. Tarantino is known for his brow-raising portrayals of black people in his films and for his almost obsessive, unnecessary use of the N-word in many if not all of his films when a lot of films avoid the word out of respect. To put it bluntly, QT is not on anybody's list of "people who have something intelligent to contribute to the conversation of racism."

2) It is an action film.

3) It stars mostly middle-aged white men.

4) I shows black people taking physical revenge on white people. This is a very controversial topic. Most people in the US live terrified of the idea that the day a certain minority reaches equality, the first point on the agenda is to take over the country and put The Man's head on a spike; black people being the prime suspects given that [heavy sarcasm] it is common knowledge black people are ignorant, violent and vengeful [/heavy sarcasm]. This is obviously stupid and shows the disconnect between the privileged majorities and the minorities who only want respect and equal oportunity. If, hypothetically, a black person came out of Django Unchained and were filmed fists in the air and ecstatic, how would the news channels react to this? I wouldn't put it past them to sensationalize this. Does QT have a responsability to avoid this? Maybe not. Should he expected out of decency to not involve himself in this issue? Maybe. One thing I don't even have to check is that millions of angry Klan members have one more piece of evidence in their case of "Why black people are not to be trusted."

These are all things you could gather before even watching the film and I don't think it's surprising someone with strong feelings on racism in the US would reach this conclusion without going to watch the film.

MovieBob:

mrblakemiller:
Not only am I mad that Spike Lee still has enough cachet to say he won't watch a movie and have people listen to him, I'm annoyed that he gets called a great filmmaker. Name a Spike Lee movie that's not "Do The Right Thing" (1989) or "Malcolm X" (1992). He hasn't made a great movie in twenty years. Why are we talking about him like he's some sort of visionary?

Clocker, 4 Little Girls, Bamboozled, Summer of Sam, The 25th Hour, Inside Man and Pariah (producer) would beg to differ.

I did kinda like "Bamboozled," so I'll give you that. But none of those were big box-office draws or get talked about as game-changers in any way. And neither you nor the last guy mentioned "She Hate Me," which I heard was about a whiny beta-male to get drafted into impregnating a bunch of lesbians.

Let's do this: Aside from the first two I mentioned (that are twenty or more years old, remember), has Lee made anything as good as "Pulp Fiction"? As "Kill Bill" (which I think is not amazing but better than anything by Lee)? As one of the best films of the last ten years, "Inglourious Basterds"? He's passe. He's yesterday's news. The only thing that gets his name in headlines anymore is when he gets angry at Clint Eastwood for not having enough black people in his WWII movie or getting mad at Spike TV for using a word that happens to also be his name. He's long since lost the right, if he ever had it, to tell a director like Tarantino what makes a good movie, or whether a particular kind of movie should be made. We should start ignoring him as well.

Azurian:

mrblakemiller:
Not only am I mad that Spike Lee still has enough cachet to say he won't watch a movie and have people listen to him, I'm annoyed that he gets called a great filmmaker. Name a Spike Lee movie that's not "Do The Right Thing" (1989) or "Malcolm X" (1992). He hasn't made a great movie in twenty years. Why are we talking about him like he's some sort of visionary?

Crooklyn, Tales from the Hood, He Got Game, Summer of Sam, The Original Kings of Comedy, and 25th Hour I'm no fan of Spike Lee if I saw the man on the street I would probably just say hey there goes Spike Lee. I just only know these movies because of certain actors or actress.

Inside Man is probably one of the best heist films ever made and shows of Lee's amazing mastery of actually directing, something most people can't appreciate any more.

I think I'm going to need this discussion in print/text. That was all a bit too wordy and rapidly spoken for me.

redknightalex:

Dana22:
Oh god fucking dammit Bob, you forgot the spoiler alert. Everything was pretty fine until "that one bit".

Yeah, tell me about it. Didn't even think it was a spoiler until you pointed it out then it finally dawned on my that "that one bit" was probably a big enough plot twist to take some of the fun out.

Wow, bob really dropped the ball on that for not putting up his SPOILER ALERT screen from his movie reviews. I knew SLJ was in the movie, 'cause he's in a LOT of Tarantino flicks 7 many directors use the same actors in different movies, but Jackson's role was THAT?!
Also, Bob, your analysis of Quentin's extra layers of subtext, as spot-on brilliant as it was, highlights the problem I have with his otherwise excellent body of work (one or two flops not withstanding): I need to have graduated film school just to watch his movies, because otherwise I'm not "really fucking getting it", as his most crazed fans tell me.

MacNille:
And of course, another jab at The Dark Knight Rises. Yes, we know that you hate the film. Can you shut up about it?

Yes, thank you! Preach it, brother!

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