1. Ishmael Reed is right. The first thing easily noticed is that the promotion of the film is largely false. The film does not star and is not about Black people. Jamie Foxx is at best a supporting player behind Waltz and probably also behind DiCaprio. The film is pure White-centered propaganda where the moral is that Black liberation and sovereignty are not possible, only a permanent subservience that is itself only granted to the extent White men with money are liberal. And Namibians, Tanzanians, Jews, Gypsies, Communists and poor Germans know better than the film’s promoted myth of humanist German saviors. Kerry Washington barely even speaks in this film despite being described in the film as one who does so well. In fact, her’s is the most “honest” depiction in the film in that she appears as only honorable Black women can – as a mirage or a silent memory (other then when she is crying out in pain from being tortured).
2. Jelani Cobb is right. This film does to Africans and Black-led liberation struggles what Tarrentino’s Basterds did to Russian involvement in World War II. That is, in each case those most involved in the fighting are removed to tell a barely-loosely-based non-historical narrative. Just like Lincoln, Black leadership in the abolitionist movement is invisible. So the tremendous amounts of Black-led – and equally violent – rebellions that terrified those engaged in the “business” of enslaving Africans are replaced with Django, or in Tarantino’s words, the “exceptional nigger” who is only accidentally and ironically referred to as “non-exceptional” by DiCaprio. Rebellion among Africans was not rare, nor “exceptional,” and quite unlike the extras Africans lingering in the backgrounds of this film real life was replete with their heavy involvement – even the films’ maligned “house slaves” were in reality highly involved in supporting rebellion, even poisoning their “owners.” So for all the excitement at seeing a Black man kill Whites with impunity that many seem to use as an excuse to like this film the reality is that in real life there were many more Djangos/Harriets none of whom needed White men to give them license or sanction.
3. I don’t care about cinematic traditions, most of which in this country are firmly grounded in severe anti-Black “antagonisms,” so I don’t like seeing any humor in a film about enslavement that includes violent beatings, lynchings, rape, dog attacks, branding of African people and the violent demonstration of this country’s foundational love of the violence of boxing, football and to a lesser extent basketball – in this film called “Mandingo fighting.” Jonah Hill is funny, no doubt, but in his silly White-boy movies. I don’t want to see his comedic talents applied to night-riding Klansmen (and never mind that the Klan didn’t even exist yet). Nothing about enslavement was/is funny, no matter how many Africans found ways to find humor during their suffering and no matter how many times Whites could be themselves the butt of the joke. And since we see no films telling these histories from the perspective of the enslaved and from the perspective of total overthrow, and since the effects of enslavement – or better, its persistence through mass incarceration, political imprisonment and wild inequalities of life – I don’t want to see or hear about people laughing at all for any reason associated with this history.
4. I’ve heard some speak of “catharsis” in seeing Django exact revenge. But his isn’t even the noble total liberating revenge against the institution of slavery as would be the case if the real story of Harriet Tubman or Nat Turner were ever told honestly (as opposed to making a Styron film about the latter or a Tarantino film about anyone). The cathartic moment for Django is carried out on Sam Jackson, a house slave (and not even a radical one as did exist), nor is it against the ruling southern plantocracy (Waltz gets to kill DiCaprio) or the northern capitalist bank-rollers. And the film is so horrible in its delivery of the history of enslavement that even White southern journalists have called seeing the film a “liberating experience.” Catharsis for whom?
Awwww, bump this, I’m leaving it at 4, the film doesn’t even deserve the promised 5. Spike Lee may have been wrong in his making of Malcolm X but he is damn right here (or at least excused) for dismissing this film without seeing it and knowing it would be what it is, disrespectful to our ancestors.