Art and Thoughts

RSS
best special effect of 2013

the rest of the movie was not, but, you know

best special effect of 2013

the rest of the movie was not, but, you know

(Source: charlycarrizo)

smashsurvey:

Now think of how many of those female characters and protagonists are oversexed, created for the male gaze, or put in an inactive damsel role for the plot of the game. Representation matters. A Study last year proved that exposure to tv shows increased the self esteem of young white boys and markedly decreased the confidence and self esteem of girls across the board (and we haven’t even started on the representation of characters of color and the effect it has on children’s self perception). 

Video games are a different media, and even more concerning if representation metrics are changing how our kids think of themselves. Especially knowing that 67% of American Households have video game consoles and 91% of Children play video games regularly,how do you think the portrayal (and lack of portrayals) of women and girls in these games is affecting little girls – or influencing how little boys view their importance and/or influence over them? 

Comics. Movies. Lit. Pop Culture. The Smash Survey is an upcoming podcast project that will critically explore the representation of race, gender, and queer identity in media and pop culture in a fun and engaging format. 

(Source: childrennow.org)

'Noah' screenwriter attempts to explain why everyone in his movie is white. "The race of individuals doesn't matter."

racebending:

If you’ve seen Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, you may have noticed something a little weird about the semi-Biblical, semi-apocalyptic cast of the movie: they’re all white. Even the extras.

In an interview with The Higher Calling, Noah screenwriter Ari Handel spoke about the reasoning behind the lack of racial diversity in the cast.

“From the beginning, we were concerned about casting, the issue of race. What we realized is that this story is functioning at the level of myth, and as a mythical story, the race of the individuals doesn’t matter. They’re supposed to be stand-ins for all people. Either you end up with a Bennetton ad or the crew of the Starship Enterprise. You either try to put everything in there, which just calls attention to it, or you just say, ‘Let’s make that not a factor, because we’re trying to deal with everyman.’

Looking at this story through that kind of lens is the same as saying, ‘Would the ark float and is it big enough to get all the species in there?’ That’s irrelevant to the questions because the questions are operating on a different plane than that; they’re operating on the mythical plane.”

In summary, white people are stand-ins “for all people,” and no other race could possibly qualify for “everyman” status. Ari Handel’s reasoning is that the only way to dispense with the issue of racism is to remove everyone who isn’t white. Asking what happened to all the other races is akin to nitpicking about whether the arc would float or not. It’s just silly, OK? “The race of individuals doesn’t matter,” which is why they made absolutely sure that all of those individuals were white. Or something.

Unintentionally, Handel managed to illustrate everything that’s wrong with the ongoing attitude towards casting actors of color in major Hollywood movies. White people are the norm, and everyone else is just a distraction. God forbid anyone attempt to be as diverse as the cast of the Star Trek, which debuted in 1966 and included a grand total of two non-white characters.

[READ MORE]

Normative whiteness at work.

(Source: hellotailor)

The Racial Equality Proposal of 1919

In February 1919, in the aftermath of WWI, Japan proposed an amendment to the League of Nations, stating “The equality of nations being a basic principle of the League of Nations, the High Contracting Parties agree to accord as soon as possible to all alien nationals of states, members of the League, equal and just treatment in every respect making no distinction, either in law or in fact, on account of their race or nationality.”

Surprise! Even though a majority of delegates voted for it, President Woodrow Wilson overturned it, ruling that a unanimous vote was required.

Of course, something like this would make it into article 1 of the UN charter, a generation later. That’s positive.

donthatemecusimbeautiful:

The Original Eight

Apr 9

fen-1994:

Why do you keep saying that?!

Heteronormativity in action.

(Source: ballcocktail)

Apr 8

evolution is great

Apr 7

To the anonymous person who messaged me “HIIIII:”

Hi. Here is your interesting wikipedia article of the week.

Apr 5

Got to sing in a chapel yesterday (with my group, not by myself). It was nice. Lots of reverb. The soloists got kind of drowned out in the space, but the audience was into it, which is always nice.

Today I am in another comedy show.

Apr 4

Me Tarzan, You Jane. Me Django, You Chains

jessehimself:

Quentin Tarantino & Nichole Galicia

 Scene Analysis of Django Unchained

(This is a companion piece to http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/19/opinion/williams-django-still-chained/index.html which you may want to read first.)

I find that I am often less interested in how you feel, than why you feel. It’s a running theme in my personal and professional life. Too often we wax poetic about our conclusions while overlooking the importance of whether or not we’re talking about the same thing. We’ve all wasted energy arguing with a friend, spouse or coworker, only to learn that we don’t agree on the facts.

We all have subjective experiences during and after viewing a film. Strong feelings about art are not easily transferred onto others. If you didn’t think it was amazing, or offensive, it’s going to be tough for someone to convince you that it was. We need to feel for ourselves.  

Not “feeling offended” does not mean the material itself was not offensive. The most effective propaganda goes unnoticed. That’s kind of how it works. Neither damage nor ignorance require intent. 

And reckless arrogance is not the same as bravery. The trendy suggestion that Django Unchained’s mere existence is stimulating “a conversation about slavery” is bizarrely vague and incomplete. To suggest that something’s mere presence grants it merit, applies a false metric.Do we now credit kidnappers for stimulating the national discourse on child safety? Of course not and by recognizing that, we recognize that a line does exist. Why are we reflexively handing out praise just for showing up? Is just showing up good enough in all sensitive genres now or only the ones based in specific atrocities or by specific directors?

When people are starved of something for long enough, in this case, inspiring historical narratives and human loss during slavery, it’s mere presence, regardless of quality or purpose, can trigger a grateful response. They may even blurt out sounds of approval; gratitude even. Touting that absence of outrage as validation of achievement, or worse yet, service to an underserved subject matter and people, is weak. 

Django Unchained could have been amazing, had it been interested in the cinematic leadership it so proudly advertised. With that in mind, I offer a breakdown of the scenes that affected me. I may have missed something you loved or noticed something you didn’t. 

The film itself:

We open on a montage of enslaved men, led in shackles through harsh terrain. Among them is Django. At nightfall, a fascinatingly fearless and witty Dr. King Schultz emerges. He verbally toys with their enslavers before murdering one, wounding the other| and liberating Django from his shackles. Without so much as a glance, Django walks directly away from his fellow men. The shackled men have just witnessed a truly incredible series of events, yet at no point in the entire experience do they ever acknowledge or communicate with each other. (Their entire existence is awash with violence, so it’s not a result of shock.) Dr. King throws them the key to their shackles and advises them to head north. These men literally hold the key to their shackles and they never try to free themselves, or even look at each other. They don’t consider or confer. They just stand there mouths agape, like shackled apes, and as if with one mind, they trudge forward on cue, to inflict violence upon the wounded white oppressor before them. This imagery is a choice that defies all survivalist logic. You have the key to the iron shackles that eat away at your raw ankles. Take them off. When first glimpsing freedom, they look not to each other or their own shackled ankles, but first to inflict violence upon the nearest white person. Which, incidentally is exactly what Django did when freed; physically assaulted the wounded white man by pressing the horses weight into his wound. Could the black men not have looked to North Star themselves? Displayed human initiative by assembling supplies from the wreckage or anything else a real, experienced adult man might do?

Django has lived and worked exclusively with enslaved black people for all 40+ years of his life, yet his behavior obstructs the viewers’ ability to empathize with these characters, and the millions they represent. They demonstrate absolutely no potential, no personhood. Violent crimes committed against children are generally viewed as more heinous than those against adults because it is inconceivable that they could have done anything to warrant brutal abuse. They are “innocent kids” “brimming with potential,” “they have their whole life ahead of them.” Is the exact same not true for people with dark complexions? Does illiteracy castrate personhood entirely? 

If the slave is just that; some zombie slave, what can you expect of your audience when faced with their bondage? A shrug? A common 21st century version of this clouded lens reveals itself in simple distillations of modern behavior, “This guy cut in front of me in line.” vs. “This black guy cut in front of me in line.” What does his blackness have to do with it? We have become conditioned to view Blackness with distinct value associations that often double as qualifiers for behavior.

You didn’t notice that the black people in this scene appeared lobotomized because that’s usually how slaves are portrayed. Black males on screen are consistently represented as dumb, incurious and/or prone to violence. If we want true progress, we have to stop sharing the same lack of curiosity displayed by Tarantino and his fictional slaves.

More scenes:

Dr. King commandeers a saloon and pours beers for the both of them. There is an odd series of obsessive, tight shots of King’s hands pouring and preparing the mugs of beer, wiping away the foam, etc. I promise I’ll come back to that later.

Dr. King collects his first bounty and they make camp for the night. Finally Dr. King coaxes out of Django that he has a wife still in slavery. Django will seek her out once he earns his freedom. 

Then they go shopping for clothes. 

Django asks exactly zero questions about how best to find his beloved wife. He just tries on hats, asking Schultz if a certain hat looks okay. As he rummages through other fashions King tells Django to select his clothes already. Django cannot believe he’s being permitted to select his own clothing! Except that for this entire scene he’s been doing just that: picking out his own clothing. 

We cut to Django on a horse dressed like Little Boy Blue Ludwig Van Negro. Get it? No matter the era, Negros naturally have childish tastes. He looks like a cartoon lawn jockey. Can’t you hear them laughing about it on set? 

Django arrives to our first plantation just in time to be welcomed coldly by plantation owner Big Daddy Bennett (played by Don Johnson). This is a most bizarre slave plantation for a director who “wanted to explore slavery” and said “I am responsible for people talking about slavery in America in a way they haven’t in 30 yrs.” On his custom built slave plantation, a fleet of slave women stroll the grounds giggling, in floor-to-shoulder gowns, like they’re in Versailles. Seriously, slaves, without a care in the world, swinging on swings and cracking jokes all day. Oh, and there’s a white guy with a rifle propped up and ready, like a prison guard in the yard. What are you doing sir — making sure they stroll casually enough? Tarantino was right, we have never felt the need to talk about slavery this way. Nor felt the need to clarify that chattel slavery was kind of the opposite of this strolling-in-finery situation we’re presented with.  

Don Johnson is outraged by the sight of “a nigger on a horse” and demands that Django dismount. 

King prompts Big Daddy to allow Django to tour the grounds, with his young slave girl. Considering that Django has spent virtually every waking minute of his life as a slave, on a plantation, it’s odd that he never seems to process the complexity his very first moments on a slave plantation as a “free man.” Instead he’s nasty to the slave girl and never even asks her if his wife Broomhilda is there on the plantation! We’ve established that she’s been sold and could be anywhere, you don’t want to give a quick description and see if she’s around?

When Django spots Ellis, the first Brittle brother, the slaves he is overseeing are just out of frame; faceless atmosphere. 

In Django’s only real [non-imaginary] scene with his wife, Broomhilda, a flashback before they reunite, Django appears to save her from further whipping and escape to the woods with her. They finally begin to speak to each other; lovers communicating before us for the very first time until suddenly a contemporary singer’s voice is drowning out and distracting us from their [generic] dialogue. Why during the only definitive and incredibly vulnerable moment in the lives of Django and his wife, does the filmmaker literally construct an offscreen, off-century sound obstacle to detach us from the very characters whose story he claims to be telling? Guess who’s dialogue is never so irrelevant that it’s pitted against loud, off-century music? Dr. King, Calvin Candy or any other white person. It was our opportunity to align ourselves with our title character in his quest to get her back- it’s the only scene where they have a conversation in the entire film. 

As Django storms towards the other two Brittle brothers, he passes more frolicking, well-dressed slaves playing on swings. The Brittle Brothers are cartoonish, bloodthirsty buffoons better suited to share the screen with Yosemite Sam than spark a real “conversation about slavery”. Sloppy, loud Big John Brittle, with Bible pages pinned all over his shirt, immediately declares his instability. His brother Lil Raj, ties a girl to a tree, while Big John continues deliriously babbling bible verses and gleefully warming up his bull whip for some good lashin’. Django has never held a gun before but he expertly whips out Dr. King’s under-the-cuff-gun-on-a-slide contraption and fires one perfect shot to Brittle’s heart, killing him instantly. Lil Raj witnesses this and literally bats his pistol around on his stomach like a blind, hooved drunkard for what felt like an eternity until finally Django strikes him with his brothers bullwhip. Cue the circus music, clowns and unicycle bear! The camera looks up at the heroic Django, the sweeping music belies a dignity that simply cannot be matched by a grown man in a ridiculous velvet lawn jockey outfit.

The Brittle brothers are not generic representatives to Django. They are specifically Django’s horribly abusive overseers: his entire life of oppression personified before him, right now. Yet they weren’t mighty at all. In fact, an illiterate man who dresses like a child, and has never fired a weapon before, can just walk up and destroy them in 40 seconds flat. Slavery’s not that big a deal if you show some initiative.

Dr. King rides up and assesses Django’s work. He spots Ellis, the first Brittle brother Django laid eyes on. King lines him up with his rifle and guns him down. This marks the only time in the entire film where we see clean images of slaves laboring in the field. There’s only four of them and again, they’re not worthy of proper framing, never mind a close up. Which is odd because back in town, where Dr. King commandeered that saloon, we had plenty of time for a barrage of elaborate and irrelevant close ups of King’s hands pouring draft beers and wiping away the foam, etc. Why is that? Why must the field slaves remain faceless and out of frame for the entirety of this nearly three hour film but we have exhaustive closeups of pouring the perfect draft beer?

Our silly plantation owner Big Daddy, arrives to the commotion with the most bizarre and poorly researched posse ever assembled. 

image

A few moments ago, this guy was disgusted by the concept of a black man being allowed to ride a horse. Now he selects a posse made up of armed blacks? One of them’s a child. He’s got every generation and every complexion alongside him like it’s a plantation Bennetton ad. Black men are banned from riding horses, which could actually be useful to the functionality of your property (and happened in real life) but you give black men guns to point at other white men?! THIS SCENARIO WOULD NEVER HAPPEN. If they made PUNK’D, but for excitable historians instead of celebrities, this would be in it. 

This scene is yet another cartoonish invalidation of the black experience, suggesting that the barbarism of slavery was carried out, not by our high functioning “Christian” society for successful centuries, but by some other wacky people who were merely playing by the rules of the day. On the topic of black oppression, we must see anything but ourselves in the mirror. The audience runs no risk of seeing our actual history reflected in this goofy Harlem Globetrotters of a Plantation. Slavery was not a wacky episode of the Beverly Hillbillies. It was normal. There is an enormous difference.

That evening, Big Daddy wants his revenge and Dr. King is ready for him. They lay in wait as Big Daddy assembles about twenty terrorists to kill the intruders. These guys were the pre-Klan, in makeshift cloth masks. Unlike the black characters, these guys were not exploited as extreme versions of their race. Not bloodthirsty, not toothless, not naked and sweaty or physically violent; just dudes. In fact, they were totally relatable, funny, regular guys bickering. Just like us, ha ha lol facebook. They’re complaining about the eye holes being off/too small and having difficulty seeing while riding. When Jonah Hill and another guy rip the holes a little bigger, they both say, “I made it worse.” (I don’t understand how that makes it worse). 

These pre-Klan members represent the general population of the day more than any other group in the film. The other white villains are too wealthy and/or cartoonish to be representative of the cultural norm that we’re pretending to address. That’s right, the friggin’ Klu Klux Klan was the most relatable group of people in the film. You might say, “They were just there for some comic relief.” But in this entire nearly three hour film, that marketed itself with leads played by Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington, exactly how many relaxed, human, comically relatable conversations* do we witness between black people? Any black people at all? ………. Zero. None. It never happens. How could that be? Why, could that be?

*The one in Candie’s kitchen between Stephen and the light skinned lady was about sex and “wantin’ some of this” or some childish low brow crap and it lasted all of 3 seconds. It IS the oversexed stereotype. The pre-Klan’s whole gag and charm was that their dialogue was against type; they offered a more-than-meets-the-eye moment. We just talk about sex.

The fact that Django was instantly a sharp shooter who never missed, was an odd weakness in his character development because it gave Django, already the most underwritten male, nowhere to physically improve. Later in the film, there is a long target shooting montage where Django “improves” but it’s a complete waste of time since he’s always been a perfect shot and remains so throughout. They could have easily done a similar montage before pursuing the Brittle brothers, then it would explain Django’s expertise with various weapons and horseback riding. 

After Django kills Big Daddy Bennett with a perfect shot, they make camp. Django says that his wife’s name is Broomhilda. Astonished, King repeats her name, in an obvious accent, then asks, 

“We’re her owners German?” 

Django, “How you know Broomhilda’s first masters was German?” 

King, “Broomilda’s a German name. If they named her, it stands to reason that they were German.” 

So Django is so incredibly dumb that he, himself, did not know that his own wife’s name, Broomhilda Von Shaft, was German? She’s not some girl in the neighborhood, she’s your wife! Broomhilda Von Shaft’s German owners who speak German and taught her German must be fairly unique where Django is from. Of course Django would know that her name and all the Von Shaft names are German. It’s as is they wrote Django’s lines at the very last minute before the scene. The glaring oversights are always at the expense of black character development. This plodding exposition weakens Django unnecessarily, making him unworthy of our full investment. It also blurs the comprehension of who exactly Django is. Are you smart or stupid? Or just uneducated? Are you good and decent or a selfish prick who’s decided he’s the only black person of value in this world? Are you a quick study with weapons and violence or are you just magical?

image

Dr. King shares a [German] story about a heroic man reaching the mountaintop to save a woman. This story is clearly positioned to be motivational for Django. Django needs to be motivated to save his own wife by his white scene partner telling him a folktale. And yes, Dr. King just told the black guy a story about traveling to the mountain top. 

When it comes to his behavior towards his fellow black folks, there is no characteristic that distinguishes enslaved Django from Django, the free man. He’s the same asshole to every black person he encounters. 

Dr. King shows Django a bounty poster and Django reads it aloud, kind of. Django is completely lost with the word “gang” but breezes through “stagecoach” without a second thought (“stagecoach” has a hard “a” sound, a silent “e”, the combined “oa” makes a hard “o” and the distinct “ch” sound). There’s only three letters in “gang” and he knows how to pronounce all three because he does so while reading the entire poster, two of which are in “stagecoach”. Whatever, I realize that may seem “nit-picky” but it just magnifies a lack of attention to detail regarding Django the man, and his journey.

There’s a montage of Dr. King training Django in shooting. They have an incredible task ahead of them and we’ve already established that horse-riding, gun-toting, sass-mouthing Django is at serious risk of violence from, well, everyone. What every non-white person in America learned at that time (and over one hundred years later) was behavioral rules for survival around white folks: avoid unnecessary eye contact, interacting with white females, etc. They never discuss behavior, just an oddly timed target practice montage. 

Dr. King discovers some incredible news and delivers it to Django: Your beloved wife, is enslaved by none other than Clavin Candie, the 4th most vicious plantation owner in Mississippi. Surely this is complex and impactful news to Django! He now knows exactly where she is, which is great. But also just learned that she is most assuredly experiencing unspeakable treatment. This is heavy. You really have to watch this moment on screen to appreciate how under served the moment is for our main character.

The next night, King and Django appear at the doorstep of the Cleopatra club for their appointment with Candy. They’re greeted at the door by a black servant in a French maid outfit. She is completely unfazed by Django’s presence as a free man, even though everyone before her has been utterly flabbergasted. She says “Bon jour” despite it being night time, and “entraah”. Candy’s lawyer soon informs Django and Dr. King that they mustn’t ever speak French around Candie, as he cannot speak French and it makes him insecure. If these are the house rules, why is his black servant standing at the front door throwing around sloppy french to the guests? 

Dr. King and Django masquerade as Mandingo fighter dealers, with Django as the discerning specialist who’s unimpressed by Candie’s stock. Django is eye-fucking Candy and every other white man in the world. I understand the strategy; play the role of an extremely confident free man and they will take you seriously. But he’s never challenged by anyone with any authority so we’re never really at risk. 

The next night, they all sit down to dinner in a scene that i’m sure was staged as a joke: At his five person table, Calvin Candie, the owner of the 4th largest slave plantation in all of Mississippi, is dining with his slaves. One is still in her French maid outfit, chomping on some corn on the cob, and the other is Sheba, his sexual play thing. Django and Dr. King are there as well. In what world, especially when trying to impress guests who have expressed skepticism, would one of the meanest slave owners in MISSISSIPPI, sit down for dinner with his nigger maids?! This is a world where black folks are banned from riding horses, reading, and as we’ll soon learn, sleeping under the same roof as whites, buuuuuut the slaves, in uniform,  dine with their masters. 

Slavery, according to this film, was not an all encompassing 24/7/365 condition as much as it was a long period of recess, with a few customarily brutal spectacles thrown in for good measure.

Django, calls an older black man a “pickaninny” for the delight of his white counterparts. Everyone knows that a pickaninny is a [derogatory] term used for a black child. Not an adult man. How is it possible that they do not [care to] know this most basic colloquial stuff? 

On the road to Candie Land, Calvin, Django, etc. come upon a tree’d black man named D’Artagnan. He is Candie’s property, surrounded by eager hillbillies and there equally eager frothing dogs. 

image
 

They tell Candie that D’Artagnan ran away again. Candy asks them how far D’Artagnan got this time. I didn’t understand this question since we can plainly see exactly how far he got because we’re looking at him on the exact spot that his escape was foiled. He doesn’t have a car- This IS how far he got. I guess it was exposition to let us know that he got 20 miles away before being caught. It’s an impressive number and also a testament to the lengths slavers will go to reclaim their property. 

Django does not object, and even encourages Candie to adjudicate D’Artagnan’s infraction as he sees fit: death by dogs. While this scene initially bothered me in it’s construction, upon further examination, I saw the moments of inner conflict for Django. He did feel that he was being tested by Candie and that he must do anything and everything he could, to convince Candie he was the real deal. It wasn’t easy for him and he rightly anticipated Candie’s watchful eye. However, Django’s humanity, his conscience, his remorse, was consistently dwarfed by Dr. King’s. At every turn, Dr. King struggles with the immorality surrounding him. Django increasingly wants to be cool, use his power, and also get his woman back, as long as it looks cool.

Finally we pull up to the front door of Candie Land, advertised as the fourth largest slave plantation in all of Mississippi. There are exactly zero slaves working the grounds of the entire plantation, and the first black woman we see has waxed eyebrows.

image
 

Stephen, played by Sam Jackson is the elderly head “house nigger”. He rips into Django and immediately starts talking shit to his owner, Calvin Candie. It’s playful in nature but further demonstrates that Django is in fact not a one of a kind character for Candie. His house slave interrupts, argues and ridicules him, his random house maids dine with him in uniform, his mistress sasses him and Django does whatever he wants whenever he wants. 

Broomhilda is being held in the “hotbox”, which is supposed to be just that; a sweltering box in the sun. Except this box is dug into the cool ground, all but it’s roof being sheltered from the sun. As far as I know, holes were dug to keep things cool back then. Put the box above ground the bake in the Mississippi sun and you’ve got yourself a hot box. Maybe I am missing something here- maybe I’m wrong- I really hope I’m wrong and they actually got this right.

Broomhilda is brought up to King’s room for sex and they speak to each other in German. The subtitles tell us that even in German, Broomhilda talks like an uneducated slave. 

Django reveals himself and finally stands before Broomhilda. They don’t even get to share a moment together because she faints. So Dr. King has now spent more quality time with Broomhilda than Django has. They have no one writing specific moments for them to share- A hint of burning and specific magnetism between them, to fuel this heroic endeavor. 

Fast forwarding a bit, Stephen alerts Candie to their con and Candie detains the men until they strike a deal. Before Dr. King and Django are to leave, with the newly purchased Broomhilda, Dr. King is overwhelmed by flashbacks of D’Artagnan’s body being ripped apart by dogs. His good conscience can’t stand the idea of letting the barbarian Candie live. Django doesn’t have this problem, he’s winking at his wife and ready to go. Dr. King walks up to Candie and shoots him right in the heart. He doesn’t then turn and begin firing on Candie’s other men or even communicate with Django. Instead, he stands there, resigned, turning around just in time to take hot buckshot to the chest from Candy’s guy. Django could have done that. Django could have taken the cue and walked over, hand outstretched and put a bullet in Candie’s heart. King could have still been the next one killed and we haven’t lost anything. We could have witnessed Django’s heroic revenge, instead of just hearing how special he is. Dr. King sacrifices his life, to avenge black oppression. He acted with both generosity and selfishness but his seemingly heroic gesture, essentially sabotaged their clean escape by ensuring that Django would be alone, with no gun, outnumbered by Candie Land henchmen. 

Is this not the classic liberal white savior role, trotted out like all the rest? What is so unique about the white guy, moved by conscience, sacrificing his lovely life for the black victim? You might say that Dr. King is Tarantino, blessing us with his Black liberation film with no awareness of the damage being done by marketing tattered slave toys and black brainlessness to a planet already swimming in black commodification and danger. You might say that.

Django grabs a weapon and the interior shoot out begins! A plodding mashup of a Tupac/James Brown song that attempts to guide us through a hyper masculine, black rage, revenge fantasy. Except killing white people has never been our fantasy. Freedom is our fantasy. And Django is in no position to take on the confident posture of Tupac’s tone, because Django didn’t choose this. He hasn’t done chosen much of anything. He was dragged into the previous scenario, then abandoned by his leader and forced into a gun fight that he can’t win. The filmmaker is again “telling” the audience that Django is a bad ass, instead of taking the time to create a story wherein Django can actually BE a bad ass. And then, randomly, Tupac speaks over the track, “Expect me nigga. Expect me like you expect Jesus to come back. Expect me nigga.” What does that even mean? We’re now pretending this was Django’s master plan? Expect me nigga — expect me to abandon my wife then run out of bullets and then give my self up. GTFOH

Stephen has been pathetically weeping over his master’s carcass this entire time, until he finally calls out to ceasefire. Then he reminds us all what Django’s entire journey was supposed to be about: Broomhilda. He tells Django that they have Broomhilda and they’ll kill her unless he comes out. That’s when we realize, Whoa, this whole time, Django had forgotten about his wife. You can see it on his face when Stephen says her name. Once Candie was killed, Django never reached to protect her. He never called out for her, looked for her, nothing. He had no idea if she was dead, alive, being carried off on horseback, anything. What is our hero if not heroic of heart? Dr. King was heroic of heart.

Now Django and Stephen have a stand off. This marks Stephen’s first sober moments after he no longer has a slave master, yet he never has even a flicker of introspection on this complex  issue. Two black men stand alone and “free” for the first time ever and they strictly use derogatory language to each other. (With or without white power, niggers are still niggers. So why invest resources in their betterment? They do it to themselves.)

Django is sold to Australian miners. In transit, he convinces the Aussies to consider setting him free so they can all ride back to Candie Land and collect a bounty. The Aussies are nearly convinced but need to double check his story. They walk over to the “nigger cage” to see if the other slaves will vouch for Django. Django looks on and knows that his freedom hangs on the words of these three Negros in a cage. He watches them vouch for his story and ultimately save his life. Aussies return, cut him loose and give him a pistol. Django kills the Aussies. Django, the hero that he is, grabs a water canteen, brings it to the guys in the cage, helps them out and onto their feet, gives them water, thanks them and goes on his way… Just kidding, such behavior is for real decent people and heroes. Django never even looks at them, he drinks all the water in front of them, grabs a horse, barks at them to give him the bag of dynamite, turns his back and rides off without the slightest acknowledgement.

Now, this “nigger cage” door has been sitting wide open, and their owners are now dead in the dirt. It’s three occupants are free to get out. They never look at each other, speak to each other, or consider stepping out of the damn cage. They just stare, slack jawed and toothless; useless. Then one smiles admiringly at Django’s back, riding away. This unnecessarily unrealistic charade of human behavior, encourages the subconscious belief that even when no one is looking, black people are unappealing, shiftless crabs in a barrel.

Django returns to Candie Land, finds all of he and Broomhilda’s relevant personal affects in a convenient pile together and then ambushes Steven in the house. (Django also had time to find a custom tailored purple velvet three-piece suit.) Again they tirelessly rip into each other’s niggerness. Django, ever the champion of the people, advises “…the rest of you black folks to get as far away from these white folks as you can.” He then lights the fuse to the dynamite, leaves and rides off with his bride as the house explodes. Cool huh? 

-Django isn’t allowed to achieve meaningful revenge until Dr. King gets his first. The difference being, King’s revenge actually mattered. Stephen doesn’t own the fourth largest slave plantation in Mississippi? He doesn’t buy, sell and brutalize human beings for a living. He’s Candie’s lap dog. Who better to kill him than King’s. Infantry men on the front lines of a war they have no say in. 

His advise to his people points out the ridiculousness of the entire “victory”. You’re in Mississippi before the Civil War. Where exactly are you riding to with no food or water Chief? Django can’t display the foresight to even make/indicate a plan to take his wife somewhere that freedom exists? Just mention a rumored homestead in Kansas, or Seminole territory. Flash a map with an ‘X’ on it, something— anything other than the alternative: an assembling posse 200 yards down the road, ready to capture them and begin the worst chapter of their lives. 

 If you sit/fast-forward through the credits, those three toothless gents appear again, still in the “nigger cage” looking on. It’s quiet, until one says…. wait for it… “What’s that nigger’s name?” It’s supposed to be funny, somehow. These stupid slaves just walked to Candie Land with Django from the Cleopatra Club. They most definitely know Django’s name. Everyone knows his name. You chose only one bonus line after the credits and it’s only purpose was to squeeze in your 177th “nigger”? Really dude? Who is this film for again? Thank you for summing up this experience with a purposeless self-debasing line from the mouth of a cartoonishly dumb, snaggle-toothed black man, in a cage, with the door wide open. 

Poison, so often hidden in plain sight.

image

Appendix thoughts:

IT TAKES TWO: (0:07 - 1:00) http://youtu.be/B3dSCJsYVcE

-Notice how “authenticity” is always the excuse for the black spectacle and carnage but so rarely for clever, ambitious character development? The long standing tradition of setting narratives in notoriously diverse or majority non-white settings (NYC, South Africa, etc.) that only feature white people, UNTIL of course it’s time to go to a “bad neighborhood” or jail and it suddenly gets authentic with some bootleg ethnic music, a stray dog and menacing, low-IQ stares.

If we don’t start noticing, why should it improve?