This past Tuesday (Christmas Day if you’re Christian and/or capitalist) saw the theatrical release of Quentin Tarantino‘s Django Unchained, the blaxploitation/ spaghetti western revenge epic starring Jamie Foxx as a free black bounty hunter, cut loose in the antebellum south with a license to kill crackers. Not surprisingly, the film had already elicited all types of strong reactions long before the curtain went up. Most notoriously, Katt Williams worked an anti-Django/Jamie Foxx rant into his stand-up routine which–setting aside the aspersions cast on Foxx’s sexuality–can best be summed up with this statement: “They offered me the script and I said any n*gga that does this deserves to die…next thing I heard Jamie Foxx was in make-up.” But even in more ‘genteel’ quarters reactions were visceral and widely varied. The Atlantic deplored the film’s amorality, while Esquire declared it a better movie about slavery than Lincoln. Shadow & Act actually gave it two reviews–one good, one bad. The loudest condemnation of the movie may have come from film icon Spike Lee, who simply refused to see it on the basis that ”it’s disrespectful to my ancestors…I can’t do it.” Here at Okayplayer however we were most interested to get the views of writer, filmmaker and activist dream hampton, who for our money may have had the most thought-provoking reaction of all. Here’s what she had to say:
I’m tempted to write about how important Br’er Rabbit revenge fantasies and minstrel shows used by and for enslaved Southerners was to lightening the centuries-long ton of a psychic mindf**k that slavery was and remains. How, of course, Django is incapable of doing for us what Spielberg did for his folks with Munich (his atonement for shufflin-ass Schindler’s List)–but I’d rather write and direct our Munich.
Criticism sharpens and clarifies–and is absolutely necessary. But I have also known it to stand in the place of creative action on my part. So my thoroughly enjoying Django—-almost as much as I enjoyed Death Trap—-does not mean I don’t see what’s wrong with it, and that I’m not reading these thoughtful reads of it. It just means I’d like my protest to be my work, a dream I’ve too long deferred while I produced criticism.