Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Unchained Django vs. Uncle Abe


It’s February.  Black History Month you say?  No.  It’s Oscar time.  A time for all of the Hollywood stars and starlets to get decked out and celebrate their wonderfulness in a room that has the collective net worth larger than the GDP of a handful of developing nations.

But this year’s award show has a little bit of a twist.  A twist that fits perfectly during this month formerly known as Negro History Week.

We have two “Black” movies going head-to-head in the Best Picture category: Django Unchained and Lincoln.

Mind you, I don’t think either movie will beat out the award season sweeper, Argo, but imagine for a second the Oscars decided to have a new category for movies set in the mid-nineteenth century that had to do with slavery.

If you haven’t seen either of these two movies here’s a brief synopsis:

Lincoln is a (good and accurate) historical movie set on the eve of the end of the Civil War in 1865 and Abraham Lincoln’s push to pass the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution to end slavery in the United States.  It’s not a war “shoot-em-up” movie like the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, so some people might get bored of the heavy dialogue and political narrative.  Others might actually enjoy the acting.  Who knew?

Lincoln is a movie that makes White people feel good about themselves and what they did for Black people.  I would put it in the same category as The Help and The Blind Side.  (Sandra Bullock should be happy that her fictional son, Michael Oher, just won the non-fictional Super Bowl.)

The Canadian equivalent would be if someone made a big budget movie about Theresa Spence in one hundred years that depicted how Stephen Harper and Patrick Brazeau saved her from dying of starvation.

Taking a sharp left turn at “What-Makes-White-People-Cringe” street, we have Django Unchained.

All the big hoopla around Quentin Tarantino’s instant classic, Django Unchained, starring the angry runaway field nigger (Jamie Foxx), the brainwashed house nigger (Samuel L. Jackson), the bloodthirsty nigger-hater (Leonardo DiCaprio), and the nigger Jezebel (Kerry Washington), may not come from the movie’s cinematic and historical wizardry, but because of the insecurity and racism of an overwhelmingly ignorant White audience. 

Does my use of the word “nigger” make your toes curl up and sweat beads start to form on your forehead?  Did you pause after I wrote “runaway field nigger” and start to question my political correctness?

If you had no problem reading my brief synopsis on Lincoln, but felt like you were listening to a Drake record when it came to my take on Django Unchained, then you know one of the reasons why the Unchained Nigger could never beat out Uncle Abe:

The word “nigger”.

Why did it make the White lady in the row in front of me cringe when Whites called Blacks “niggers” in the movie?  Why did she cringe even though the word was used so much that you thought there was some kind of tally amongst the cast members with the winner getting a bottle of Aunt Jemima syrup and a box of Uncle Ben’s rice?  Better yet, why would some people find it offensive when during slavery the common reference of an African-American or Black man was to call him or her a nigger? 

The other reason?

Django – the runaway field nigger – won.  He killed all the White folks and got his wife back.

How can the White-man-killing Jamie Foxx compete against the Black-man-saving Daniel Day-Lewis when White people are still uncomfortable watching and accepting Blacks dominating and beating Whites?  (Football and basketball not included.)

Think about when Denzel Washington won the Academy Award for Training Day.  He was a corrupt African-American cop while White audiences could find solace and peace in the fact that he didn’t get a chance to kill his White partner, Ethan Hawke.

He was a comfortable stereotype that White people could accept.

Django?  And the entire Django Unchained “Black hero” storyline?  Not so much.

When Django rides off into the sunset (he actually rides off into the darkness, but the sunset gives for a cooler visual effect if you haven’t seen the movie), are the people of the Academy thinking: “Man, now that is a Black hero story worthy of an Academy Award”.  No.

They were hoping that Django just kept on picking cotton for a few years and waited for good ol’ Uncle Abe and his Thirteenth Amendment.

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