In Defense of Django


American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western.  It Was A Holocaust.  My Ancestors Are Slaves.  Stolen From Africa.  I Will Honor Them.

-Spike Lee via Twitter, 12/22/12 10:18pm

Those were the words that Spike Lee used to disparage Quentin Tarantino’s new epic film Django Unchained. The plot centers around a slave who is freed and becomes a bounty hunter. He then embarks on a mission to rescue his wife from a sadistic plantation owner. That’s about all that Spike Lee knows about the movie since he has not seen it and will not see it.

Saying that slavery was not a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western is not only obvious, it’s completely irrelevant. The style of movie in which slavery is depicted should not matter. The content is what should matter, and the content of Django Unchained is something that Spike Lee is not versed on whatsoever.

Mr. Lee later said in an interview with VIBETV that it would be “disrespectful to (his) ancestors to see that film.” If he had seen it, then maybe he’d see how Quentin Tarantino did not disrespect any slaves or their memories by exploiting their pain or by making light of what took place during that horrible time in American history. In fact, Quentin depicted the horrific nature of slavery as just that: horrific. Sure, there are some laughs to be had during the picture, but not laughs directed towards slavery. It’s hard to see how Spike Lee would be disrespecting any ancestors by giving Django a chance.

Spike once criticized Amistad, saying “Where the real story is about the slaves, they chose to focus on Matthew McConaughey and Anthony Hopkins.” In Django, Quentin doesn’t use the plight of slaves as a device to elevate the white main characters as many films about slavery have. The story is about a slave and from a slave’s perspective which is the only way the movie would have worked and is what makes it so enthralling. There is one other big difference between Amistad and Django… Spike saw Amistad.

So, why the spilling out of so much Hater-ade over a movie Spike hasn’t even seen and knows little about? Well, it turns out that Spike Lee has had a problem with Quentin Tarantino since the release of Jackie Brown:

The problem with Jackie Brown- I will say it again and again. I have a definite problem with Quentin Tarantino’s excessive use of the n-word. And let the record show that I never said that he cannot use that word-I’ve used that word in many of my films-but I think something is wrong with him. You look at Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and even that thing with Christian Slater, True Romance. It’s just the n-word, the n-word, the n-word. He says he grew up on Blaxploitation films and that they were his favorite films but he has to realize that those films do not speak to the breadth of the entire African-American experience. I mean the guy’s just stupid.”

-SPIKE LEE: INTERVIEWS, Edited by Cynthia Fuchs

Apparently, all of Tarantino’s scripts just have people throwing around the N-word, then… credits. That is just not true. The word is said plenty of times in Tarantino’s scripts but guess where else the word is said plenty of times. Real life. People say that word behind closed doors and blatantly in public every day. Tarantino has been known to write very realistic dialogue which holds a mirror up to the dialogue of everyday people. It is important for art to reflect the world that helped create it, and to slight a man for such art seems ignorant and irresponsible.

Spike has spoken out against the use of the N-word in general which most decent people can agree with. It’s a nasty, terrible slur that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I hear it. But, I’ve said it too. Mostly when I’m rapping along with Wu-Tang songs in my car, but still… Until the world gets rid of that word, it’s going to pop up in movies, songs, literature, and more.

Just because Quentin Tarantino chooses to create characters who may be less enlightened than most and use far too many racial slurs doesn’t mean that those characters reflect his personality directly. If we assumed that of all writers, I’m pretty sure that Brett Easton Ellis and Thomas Harris would have been locked up a while ago.

Spike Lee has a personal problem with Quentin Tarantino and in my opinion, it’s simply unfounded. So whatever color your skin is; it doesn’t matter. Django Unchained is an absolutely horrifying, cathartic and entertaining movie. So much so that the NAACP has nominated it for four Image Awards. Do not let Spike Lee’s petty vendetta against one of the greatest directors of our time stop you from seeing it this winter.


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