My wife and I saw Django. It was a Tarantino film. My wife is extremely sensitive to any distortion of the experiences of Black people in this country. At the age of 70 and having lived in East Texas until she was about 9 plus growing up in Phoenix, AZ, not a hotbed of liberal thought, she has no patience with White folk and their myths. But as we sat through Django, we saw what ost everyone else has: a spaghetti western, a revenge fantasy, an excuse to rend bodies in a variety of ways accompanied by buckets of blood, and really good film making.
I saw Fargo. I didn’t like the movie. I thought it was one of the best movies I’ve seen. No contradiction there. If I want to see a movie on slavery that tells the story in a way to make us think and feel about slavery, I’ll have to purchase a DVD of Roots. Hollywood will not do this. A few years ago, there was a TV series on slavery that was pretty good but it did not tell a story that lots of people wanted to see. Beyond the reluctance to discuss race and slavery on the part of Whites that I’ve observed over the years, most people watch TV and go to the movies not to be taught something but to be entertained. Quality movies do make us think, but that’s a by-product of the movie maker’s intention. Tarantino does not intend to teach us in a way that will get in the way of a good story with lots of violence.
Those who have complained about the movie, what little I’ve heard, seem to focus on one of 3 things: the use of nigger, the historical inaccuracies, and the poor taste in making a farce about slavery. On the first, I just don’t think there’s an answer. I’m not even sure slave owners used the word a lot they like to refer to “our people”, a hand, and, especially, servants. I may be wrong, but I think the so-called N-word (when will we stop pussy-footing around issues?) has taken on post-Civil War significance just like the Confederate flag has.
Historical accuracy from Hollywood? Historical accuracy from Quentin Tarantino? Historical accuracy to attract a mainly White American audience? I noticed that in the scene where the White “gentlemen” in their gentlemen’s club were dining, their female companions were clearly Black. In reality, as I’ve read a little history, most of those women would have been much younger and very white in complexion. However, if the scene had opened up with a bunch of White men sitting around the table with a bunch of White women, there would have been no impact on the audience even if it had been somehow made clear that these were light-skinned slaves. So even with a nod to accuracy, movies have to be made so the intended impact is achieved.
Regarding the untouchability of dealing with slavery, I can only suggest then that we make a list of untouchable topics, perhaps the Holocaust would be #1, prostitution, drug addiction and alcoholism, organized crime, prisons life, murder, rape, insanity, divorce, residential fires, serious illnesses, child abuse, and many more I could think of that might pain us to see depicted by an insensitive director trying to make a funny movie. Remember A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum? Roman slaves cavorting about, avoiding the whip by being clever, etc.
What I see and hear about and read about how slavery is dealt with in our educational system is more to the point. As long as our teachers are unprepared to show the lingering effects, the long-term damage, of slavery, as long as adults generally are reluctant to discuss slavery including lots of Black adults then our children will grow up to think of slavery as something long ago that has absolutely nothing to do with them.