I saw Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained about four hours ago. Without any advanced knowledge of the plot, it was everything I expected from a Tarantino movie; the dialogue was intriguing, the pacing was perfect, the acting was charismatic (though I was disappointed in how few lines Kerry Washington had) and Tarantino once again paid perfect homage to a genre of film, this being the western. However, during the third act of the film the audience is introduced to the character Steven, played by the ever-loud-and-exciting Samuel L. Jackson, and I wondered where I had seen this character before. Without spoiling too much of the movie, Steven plays the right-hand man to Monsieur Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), to the point that he refers to other black people as “ignorant niggers” and laments that misbehaving slaves aren’t given harsher punishment. Basically, he was Uncle Ruckus from Cartoon Network’s show The Boondocks.
Not familiar with The Boondocks? It’s okay, because I have a feeling many more people will be discussing this similarity in the weeks to come. In fact, I have flashbacks of the “argument” that the movie The Hunger Games was basically a rip off of the 2000 Japanese thriller Battle Royale. Anyway, the show has a huge cast of characters and secondary characters that shape the show. One of the most controversial secondary characters is Uncle Ruckus. He is a black man that claims to have 32 jobs and doesn’t understand how “young black people today” don’t know how to get and keep a job. He also is completely racist against his own race. I think there’s a name for that. Wait, let me consult my partner Google. *several seconds later* Alright, “internal racism” is the more compact way to say it. There is one episode of The Boondocks in which Grandpa (voiced by John Witherspoon) tells his grandchildren Riley and Huey (both voiced by Regina King) a story about their ancestor Catcher Freeman. Catcher Freeman, according to Grandpa, was a slave-turned-killer in an effort to save his girlfriend from fiendish white masters. Uncle Ruckus steps in to inform the kids that Catcher actually worked with white slave owners to “catch a free man” and bring them back to the plantations. Get it? Catcher Freeman. Catch a free man. You get it. Sorry for dumbing it down. Django’s partner and savior is Dr. King (ahem) Schultz, played by Christoph Waltz. Dr. Schultz gives Django the appropriate last name of Freeman. Hmm.
Kind of seems like Django Freeman is a product of both the stories of Catcher Freeman from The Boondocks. In one, he murders white men in an effort to find his wife, whom he was separated from before the movie began. In the other, he is partnered up with a white man. But when did it strike me that Steven was like Uncle Ruckus? Perhaps it was the visual:
Uncle Ruckus, in the show, hates black people. Steven, in Django Unchained, hates black people. He ridicules, humiliates and yells at the other black servants in the Candie house right along with Monsieur Candie. Only once does Candie reprimand him, but mostly he is overjoyed at his old confidante that helped raise him and his father.
I guess this was less a review of ‘Django’ and more a comparison. I really did enjoy the movie. In fact, when it was over I wanted to see it again! (By the way, there is a little something extra after the credits).
I will leave you with this: the episode of The Boondocks about Catcher Freeman. For some reason this copy is backwards (as in the images are backwards, but you get the idea)
Oh! Also the soundtrack was amazing! I kind of love when films are self-reflexive, and the opening song features singers wailing the name “Djaaaangoooo”. Oh and there was this song which I might love; a mashup (you know I LOVE mashups) featuring James Brown and Tupac. It also unnecessarily features clips from the movie sometimes interrupting the song
So I was just about to end this post with these clips, but in my “research” discovered some backlash to this movie. Specifically from Spike Lee and Tavis Smiley. Sorry, what exactly is the point of boycotting a movie YOU HAVEN’T EVEN SEEN? I could understand if you’re skeptical going into a movie theater, but you should never completely write off a movie simply because you read the plot and decided you didn’t like. True to what Spike Lee says, ‘Django’ is being promoted as a ‘spaghetti western’, or more accurately a “spaghetti southern” as it primarily takes place in Texas and Mississippi. Lee also writes that he doesn’t want to see it because the movie is disrespectful. Uh sorry fellas but how is a slave that revolts against the system of slavery and kills slave owners and baddies not a good thing? I take it the ‘disrespect’ lies in the fact that this not an historical film. Tarantino said that ‘Django’ “is meant to be an entertaining look at a shameful era in American history”, and that is EXACTLY what it is. If a movie were made about a Jewish man turning the tables on German Nazis, would there be an equal celebrity backlash? I wonder if Spike Lee’s Twitter followers will blindly heed his advice and avoid seeing the movie in an effort to respect their ancestors. I’m not taking sides or anything, but wasn’t Steven Spielberg’s film The Color Purple snubbed by many people because he was a white director at the helm of a “black movie”?
Anyone have any particular thoughts on anything I’ve discussed in this post? Is the Django Unchained versus The Boondocks even a relevant discussion people care about? Is Quentin Tarantino turning his nose up at slavery in the United States, by telling the story in the form of a spaghetti western? Hmm, could be the homemade pina colada talking but I don’t think anyone has heard the last of either of these arguments. (Speaking of which I was considering changing the name of this account to something like Boozy Musings…might be taken though…)