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Opinion: Why 'Django Unchained' stirs race debate
January 8th, 2013
03:00 AM ET

Opinion: Why 'Django Unchained' stirs race debate

Editor's note: Gene Seymour is a film critic who has written about music, movies and culture for The New York Times, Newsday, Entertainment Weekly and The Washington Post.

By Gene Seymour, Special to CNN

(CNN) – Spike Lee says he's never going to see Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" because he's certain it is "disrespectful of my ancestors." Tarantino says he doesn't need to waste time responding to Lee's accusation. That, as they say, is that.

So why do we insist on staring at two egomaniacs staring down each other?

Race. Again. The subject that never fails to provoke, antagonize, alienate - and fascinate rubber-necking onlookers from sea to shining sea. Fixating on race is an absurdity that has no rational reason to exist, yet no one quite knows how to eliminate it from humankind. The only thing dumber than race is underestimating its importance.

"Django Unchained" is Tarantino's latest exercise in genre-bending audacity, an antic ripsnorter folding in most of what its director knows and loves about spaghetti westerns, 1970s blaxploitation thrillers and his own ribald, recklessly violent body of work. Its title character, played by Jamie Foxx, is a slave bought and freed by a drolly effective German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz), who agrees to help Django emancipate his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), from a decadent plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).

"Django" makes no pretense of being anything other than a phantasmagoric pseudo-western, rife with calculated vulgarity, anachronism and impropriety. Its body count rivals that of Tarantino's 2003 martial-arts epic, "Kill Bill Vol. 1" (to whose messily operatic set pieces of slaughter "Django" bears an uncanny resemblance).

Read Gene Seymour's full column
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. dr Blais

    spike lee made Malcolm X about the black version of Hitler i think he has no right to be offended

    February 4, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Big Shiz

    Hey editor,you suck. You shoot down any comment you don't like. It takes away the validity of your blog. I bet I know a lot more about these subjects than you. I could do a better job in my sleep.

    January 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Amanda

    For someone to say the Django Unchained movie wasn't anything but great because of the overuse of the "N" word is quite ignorant. In my opinion if you are still to this day associating the "N" word with African Americans then that makes you the racist. Tarantino made a movie that captured they way civilization treated slaves and it was blunt and factual in slaves treatment. The reason he says it so bluntly is that it should not be referenced to African Americans, and if people are so offended by the word then maybe they should take it out of everything including rap,movies and any other product that uses the word. I found the movie refreshingly honest and apparently so did the rest of America because it did win a few awards. I hope Tarantino continues to make movies so bluntly because to sugar coat something as harsh as slavery would be wrong and down right offensive to African Americans.

    January 14, 2013 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  4. Asking Questions

    1. Do you think there should be a DJango inspired film about the Holocaust?
    2. Why was S. L. Jackson's character filled with hatred toward his own race?
    3. Freedom was handed to S. L. Jackson's character but he decided to stay in his "position" after his "master's" death. Why? Please note: S. L. Jackson's character was a "free" man.
    4. How far off are the descriptors of African-American people in the movie from The Bell Curve?
    5. Did slavery really end with the Emancipation Proclamation?

    January 12, 2013 at 3:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Big Shiz

      1. Yes 2. It's called the house slave syndrome,or uncle tom. Slave owners used to put certain slaves in the house and they would be given more rights and privileges than other slaves so they would identify with there owners. 3. He hated him self and other black folks(something you see in black cops now of days). 4. Not far at all. 5. No it got worse,southern states just arrested black people for anything and everything and they would be made to work for all types of companies and the government and since there was a never ending supply they where treated worse than the slave days.

      January 13, 2013 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |