Wednesday, December 26

The Conflict With 'Django Unchained": Slavery as a Comedy?

By now, I'm sure you have heard all the press and talk surrounding Quentin Tarantino's latest film Django Unchained. The film, in typical Tarantino fashion is quite unconventional in that it tells the story of a slave-turned-bounty hunter who sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner. 

There have been plenty of rave reviews so far including one from Oprah who called the film, “laugh out loud funny” and “cathartic”. Are we talking about the same movie? Folks, clearly this is not your typical Roots or Alex Haley's Queen film that shows the same image of slaves that we've seen for many years.

The reviews pouring in so far and pre-screenings have had quite a few people up in arms about the lightness in which the film is portrayed. Spike Lee spoke out this past weekend, stating that he refuses to see it. He later posted to his Twitter account that, "American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It Was A Holocaust. My Ancestors Are Slaves. Stolen From Africa. I Will Honor Them."

To find humour in a subject that runs so deep that we still see the effects of it to this day, does not sit well with a lot of people. One of the darkest moments in history is now a story that is projected onscreen for all people of all races to see and to potentially find humour in?

It is a difficult issue to draw the line on because as a comedian I understand the importance of humour. Especially with serious topics, comedy often serves as the medicine in a candy as it creates the ability to get a message across and reach people in a way that resonates with them. Humour often creates openness and dialogue. But, can you sugar coat a film about slavery?

We haven't seen a story told about slavery in a very long time as it is a topic that has increasingly become one that is swept under the rug for people to deny its current day impact. Perhaps, this film can serve as an entertaining way to appeal to the masses and re-start the conversation on our history.

I'm still deciding on if I will go and check it out. Will you be hitting up the theatres this week to see Django Unchained? Who saw it yesterday? Let me know your thoughts and reviews!


Anonymous said...

I can empathize.

Doubtless, Django Unchained will evoke similar emotions in the African American community as Benigni's Life Is Beautiful did in the world's Jewish community.

Having just seen the former, I will say that I'm glad that Tarantino had the wherewithal to develop a mass market feature film that at least begins to address the issue of American slavery, rather than sweep it under the rug (as is far too often the case).

If Tarantino's film engenders discussion, and sheds light on some of the continuing societal inequities facing the African American community, so much the better.

Wr said...

Saw it. Enjoyed it for various reasons including it was the first story I've ever seen where a Black woman was a damsel in distress. The humor was sparse, particularly notable was a scene where members of KKK were depicted as idiots. One may argue this was social commentary on their intellect. Slavery wasnt beat beat beat all the time. Very few sustems of oppression function effectively if only punishment is employed. Even in during slavery people laughed.