Still Chained: Django, Tarantino and the Exploitation of Black History

Django-Unchained-Leoby Ewuare X Osayande

I am not a fan of Quentin Tarantino or his movies. I find his treatment of race, gender and class issues trivial and demeaning, lacking any depth whatsoever.

He is a member of a generation of white men who were weaned on a version of Blackness that was served from the shelves of corporate America in the mid-70s. Let him tell it, it was in the theaters watching films like “Shaft” and “Superfly” that he discovered his desire to become a filmmaker.

Blaxploitation films were Hollywood’s answer to the Black Power and Black Arts movements of the late Sixties. In these films we witness the real aspirations of working class Black people at that time as evidenced by organizations such as The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense turned inside out, gutted of all political relevance. These films became the canvas for white men to project their guilt-ridden fantasies of racial retribution. They turned our self-defined expression into a fashion statement, a corporate-sponsored slogan propped up on the billboards that scoured the skylines of ghettos across the country. Tarantino’s fascination with Black culture is not based on actual experience or concern with Black people’s organized struggle for justice, self-determination and liberation. It is based on his coming-of-age white boy experience with commercialized Blackness as filtered through the lens of Hollywood’s B-rated white directors, producers and executives.

So when I walked into the theaters to watch “Django Unchained,” I wasn’t expecting much. What I was expecting was what I have come to expect from a Tarantino film – gratitutous violence intermingled with homoerotic overtones, the overt exploitation of women and a sadistic use of the n-word. The thing is that in doing a film that proposes to treat the issue of slavery in the United States, such images and usages would be required given the obscene and brutal reality that slavery was. So, again, I was expecting Tarantino to have a field day. The problem with Tarantino’s film lies not in that he made use of such images; the problem is in how he used them.

Tarantino’s film was not as violent as I thought it would be or could have been. In fact, he was restrained. Slavery in the United States was violence unmitigated and without restraint.  To define it otherwise, is to tell the most blatant of lies. Tarantino’s treatment of violence of slavery was timid in comparison to the daily reality faced by enslaved Africans. That said, the film failed to faithfully depict the Black men and women that lived under slavery. In “Django Unchained,” Black women are cast as mindless vixens and willing sexual liaisons to white men. Having a white master named “Big Daddy” (with all of its 70’s pimp nostalgia in tact) being called upon affectionately by enslaved women is a disservice to the memories of women like Harriet Jacobs, who resisted the sexual advances of her slave master for seven years by hiding away in the crawl space above a porch. Although Tarantino does manage to portray Kerry Washington’s Broomhilda as having agency (she runs away twice in the film), she never manages to escape the typical patriarchal frame being cast as a mere object for the hero’s affection. Rather than escaping slavery on her own merit, she is made to be rescued by her prince on horseback … and Harriet Tubman rolls over in her grave.

In Tarantino’s homoerotic white patriarchal fantasy we witness what is rare in American cinema – a blockbuster film that portrays the Black man as “the hero that rescues the girl and kills everyone that dares to stand in his way.” The problem with this is that the depiction of Django is a parody of history. From the moment Django and Schultz step out of the saloon facing an entire town of angry white men with their guns aimed at their faces, I knew that what would come after this would render the rest of the film mere fantasy. And from that scene to the last, every interaction Django has with a white man is unrealistic and unfaithful to the history the story is set in.

No, this film is not history. Neither is it historical. Tarantino does what white men do. Rewrite history. The facts are irrelevant. For white filmmakers, truth is in the mind of the beholder. When it comes to the Black experience, they can do what they have done to Black people throughout American history – whatever they please.

For me, the greater crime in this regard goes to Spielberg and his film “Lincoln.” Spielberg promotes this film as being true to history, yet leaves out a critical player in that history. For him to make a film about Abraham Lincoln and the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and not include Frederick Douglass is be akin to someone making a film about Lyndon Johnson and the signing of the Voting Rights Act and leave out Dr. King. Incredible, right? Yet, that is exactly what Spielberg did.

I did find Tarantino’s treatment of white people interesting in this movie. He does a decent job of treating the dynamics of whiteness as played out in the plantation system – and in the process makes a statement on whiteness as it is played out today. He showcases white men who are enforcers of the plantation system. These white men do not own plantations, themselves. They merely work to enforce the plantation system. But that is not meant to diminish the power they wield over the lives of the enslaved. Even mired in ignorance and illiteracy, they still command a clear authority above the very Africans who are more intelligent than they are – as evidenced by the character of Django. This dynamic is played out very well in the scene where one of Candie’s “Mandigoes” is captured after attempting escape. In it, we see a dialogue between Candie and one of his white overseers whose garbled words are not intelligible, whatsoever. That scene was a telling indictment on the wage of whiteness that was paid out to buy the systemic complicity of impoverished whites who had more in common with enslaved Africans than the men and women who exploited them both. But that one scene and scenes like it were undermined by the comedic atmosphere that surrounded them throughout the film, enabling most viewers to just laugh it off and miss the message.

“Django Unchained” is a knock-off of Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 spaghetti western. According to Austin Fisher’sRadical Frontiers in the Spaghetti Western: Politics, Violence and Popular Italian Cinema, Sergio Corbucci’s films were revolutionary efforts to dramatize the brutality of the Italian state at a time when the working class were literally in the streets protesting policies they considered neo-fascist. Many of the directors of these films found inspiration from the writings of Che Guevera, Mao Tse-Tung, Leon Trotsky and Frantz Fanon! Imagine what kind of film Tarantino could have made had he injected “Django Unchained” with the philosophy of a Fanon. But that would have been too much work for Tarantino. He can’t seem to get past his juvenile obsession with gun-fire, bloodshed and gore to investigate the political messages that lie behind the bullets.

One of the most disturbing moments in the film was when Candie snorts “Why don’t they [the enslaved Africans] just rise up?” The rhetorical remark plays into the American white supremacist myth that Black people passively accepted slavery. No white slave owner conscious of the history of just his lifetime would make such an unchallenged statement in the late 1850′s. He would surely know the story of Nat Turner. He would certainly have been told of the conspiracies of Denmark Vesey and Gabriel Prosser. And that is just the short-list. In placing such ahistoric commentary in the film, Tarantino does more than lie on the history of slavery, he trashes the legacies of true Black heroes.

In keeping with his desire to mash up Blaxploitation and Spaghetti Westerns, he messed over the memory of a people still chained by the legacy of slavery. In an interview on NPR he was asked what he thought about his film premiering soon after the Sandy Hook mass shooting. A more appropriate question in light of the film’s subject matter would be to consider how his film glorifies the gun violence that has too many young Black men  believing they can shoot their way out of the conflicts they encounter on the street. His film aggrandizes a violence that is not history but present day reality. A reality that has the Black community left grappling with the crippling effects of a startling statistic: there are as many Black people in the criminal justice system today as there were Black people enslaved in the late 1850′s. Fact is, shooting one’s self out of slavery was a much riskier venture than the film proposes. The system knew and knows how to handle that. Black men and women had to be and were smarter than that. They came together and organized collectively. They had to outfox the fox. I am referring to men like Robert Smalls who stole a ship right under the noses of the Confederate army and liberated himself and a band of his fellows and their families. He would go on to become one of the first Black elected officials from the South to serve in the U.S. Congress.

Tarantino could have tried to make a film about any number of great Black men and women who beat slavery on their own terms. Thing is, making such a film would require having a real relationship with Black struggle. Tarantino is confused. He believes that dabbling in stereotypes is the equivalent to treating the Black experience. He doesn’t have a real relationship with Black people, our history, our culture, our reality. And he doesn’t want one. To paraphrase Frederick Douglass he wants Blackness without the struggle.

With “Django Unchained,” Tarantino is saying to Black people, “I know Hollywood won’t let y’all make a movie like this, so let me do it for you.” He is one of those whites who believe they can use their privilege for the benefit of the oppressed. But in the process, what real benefits are gained?

As the Black intelligentsia and artistic elite bemoan and debate the merits of this film, there is a greater concern here that is being missed – our  lack of control and influence in Hollywood. Yes, it is true – a Black person could not have gotten this film made in Hollywood. Even truer, a Black person cannot get any film green-lighted in Hollywood that attempts to tell the story of slavery in the Americas as it actually happened. Just ask famed actor Danny Glover who has been working for years to get a film made on the Haitian Revolution. In 2008 Glover, appearing at a press conference in Paris, stated that Hollywood financiers dismissed the film stating that it lacked white heroes. The racism of the industry remains as virulent as when the first Hollywood film “A Birth of a Nation” appeared in theaters across the country. The NAACP picketed that film in 1915. This year, “Django Unchained” is up for four NAACP awards. Is this a sign of progress or of something else? Such valorization of Hollywood and films that Hollywood produces casts a long shadow over the incredible films that are being produced by independent Black filmmakers. We lack a viable organization that would check Hollywood’s racism as well as highlight the considerable and valuable work being done by Black filmmakers not chained to the deep pockets of the likes of 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros. or Columbia. Sad fact is that Black actors in Hollywood, those that could bankroll such an organization or such an effort, are still chained to the executive offices of these corporations. Thus, we are left with great Black actors confined to roles that leave us engaged in a debate that does little to empower us, either economically or culturally.

Tarantino has stated that there are many great films that have yet to be made on the subject of slavery. I agree. “Django Unchained” is not one of them. Until we are able to pay our ten or twelve dollars to see Glover’s story of Toussaint L’Ouverture and the Haitian Revolution brought to the silver screen or any other film on slavery that has the gall to tell it like it was without apology and that captures the victorious spirit of our people’s struggle, I encourage you to search out Haile Gerima’s “Sankofa.” You will not be disappointed.

Ewuare X. Osayande (www.osayande.org) is a poet, essayist and political activist. He is founder and director of POWER: People Organized Working to Eradicate Racism. Follow his work on Facebook: Ewuare Xola Osayandeand Twitter: @EwuareXOsayande. His latest book is entitled Whose America?

44 comments on “Still Chained: Django, Tarantino and the Exploitation of Black History

  1. This was interesting.

    I would like to read the authors thoughts on the “abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter” film; because despite the obviously problematic aspects of that movie, I thought that the analogy between the Conferedate States and its slave economy with vampirism was a rather effective one; not least because it both attributed the right amount of stigma and disgust to slavery as an institution, but also because it rescues vampire films from the emo/goth nonsense of the Twilight stories; and restored the older theme of vampirism as being a dark legacy of superstition and feudalism.

  2. jack ford on said:

    You could do a film with vamprirism as the dark reality behind Goldman Sachs JP Morgan and the other Wall Street bloodsuckers with the manipulation of debt their chief weapon in restoring a neofeudal society. Who gets to be Lincoln?

  3. I take some issue with the author’s characterisation of the original “Blaxploitation” films as being simply “the canvas for white men to project their guilt-ridden fantasies of racial retribution.” Pam Grier, who is the most well-known female star of many of those films,and was also the main character in Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, has spoken of them as being very positive experiences for her and other African-American actors. Tarantino is ceratinly limited by his lack of political depth, but I get a bit twitchy when people start to dictate who can make what kind of movies they wish.

  4. “I find his treatment of race, gender and class issues trivial and demeaning, lacking any depth whatsoever.”

    Art is not about these things.

  5. Jellytot on said:

    @4 I take some issue with the author’s characterisation of the original “Blaxploitation” films as being simply “the canvas for white men to project their guilt-ridden fantasies of racial retribution.”

    Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song certainly wasn’t.

    Opening Credit:

    “The film is dedicated to all the Brothers and Sisters who had enough of the Man”

  6. Feodor on said:

    Interesting article. Haven’t seen the film, so can’t comment on any of the specifics, though, and perhaps I should be a little embarrassed about this, I can’t say I previously found Tarantino’s films ‘treatment of race, gender and class issues trivial and demeaning, lacking any depth whatsoever’. Indeed I haven’t even considered such themes when watching them. Tarantino’s always just struck me as someone who everyone says is ‘edgy’, but you’d really struggle to discern what the ‘edge’ is. Glorification of slasher-type violence is really quite standard these days.

    I suppose I have a quite superficial approach to art and, to piss in the holy font, I’ve generally found a lot of the left-wing films I’ve watched to be a bit crap, thinking the director would have been better off making a documentary. Films just don’t seem to be a good medium for making serious and deep points of analysis, though German cinema seems to do this better than most – recently watched the Baader-Meinhof Complex, thought it was a brilliant film the types of which you’d rarely see in English-language cinema.

    And Jellytot, am I right in thinking Kermode is/was a socialist? I seem to remember reading he was in a Maoist group back in the day, though the later political courses of people in these groups has often been, well, rather erratic.

  7. Chris: Art is not about these things.

    What is it about?

    I think this article is very well considered. Tarantino is clearly a white man and filmmaker who’s fascinated and obsessed with ‘black’ American culture. If you watch him being interviewed, he comes across as a white guy who wishes he was black. But his conception of being black is a stereotypical, street criminal/thug, hyper-cool, violence-prone black man of the Blaxploitation movies, as the author states.

    His scripts are suffused with these types of characters, both black and white, combining cartoon-level violence with super-slick dialogue to great effect.

    I think with this particular movie, and I’ve seen interviews with Spike Lee, who is a very vocal critic of Tarantino for his depiction of black characters and of this movie in particular, the issue is over slavery being reduced to a spaghetti western, which he claims trivialises it.

    Tarantino, in interviews I’ve seen, defends the movie in this regard on the grounds that he did not want to make a slavery movie with a capital-H (as in history), because he didn’t feel that people would have engaged with the subject-matter if he had.

    But what this throws up is the wider issue of race in America, and how in Hollywood there remains a dearth of black filmmakers given the opportunity to tell their own stories and that of their people. There is a sense that the paternalism involved in white filmmakers like Tarantino being the arbiter of how black characters are written and portrayed reflects the paternalism that has long existed in US culture when it comes to race.

  8. Jellytot on said:

    @11#9 Get the name right.

    Apologies, Yes, Virag Mendis.

    Not to be confused with Sergio Mendis :-)

  9. Feodor on said:

    Cheers for the info and link Jellytot.

    I think he’s a little unfair on the film – but he wouldn’t a critic if he didn’t automatically criticise, I suppose. To me not trying to get inside inside their heads was one of the strong points, as it means the film proceeds more from the facts than conjecture – a lot of the conversations, e.g. while they’re in prison, you imagine are fairly accurate and based on the prison records, though I don’t know enough to confirm that with any authority.

    Has anyone else seen it? What were your thoughts?

    And the question that kicked of the review had me rolling. Roughly transcribed:

    ‘Was the now familiar Kermonde critical delivery honed by hours of spouting dense agitpropy Bolshie Trot Marxist tripe at his fellow student revolutionaries. Was it then, even, that the legendary Kermodian breathing technique was developed wherein he might inhale using his bottom and speak with his mouth – or is it vice versa? – whilst losing all gaps between words thus preventing anyone from getting any words in edgeways or otherwise. Will he give us another virtuoso demonstration whilst giving us his views on the Baader-Meinhof Complex.’

    In all fairness, that’s anti-Communist comedy gold!

    Kermode does tries hard to distance himself from his former politics though – I was only in a single-issue campaign, honest!

  10. Marxist Lenonist on said:

    #1 Totally agree. Having first heard, incredulously, about that film in a pub and gone to it thinking it might be so bad its good, I thought it was actually quite genuinely good. As well as the better spin on the vampire theme you mentioned, another interesting element of the film was that its Lincoln was shown as an active anti-racist with strong black friends and co-workers; as ahistorical perhaps as the airbrushing of Douglas in the Spielberg film, but perhaps in a more positive direction…

  11. Feodor on said:

    Marxist Lenonist:
    …another interesting element of the film was that its Lincoln was shown as an active anti-racist with strong black friends and co-workers; as ahistorical perhaps as the airbrushing of Douglas in the Spielberg film, but perhaps in a more positive direction…

    This is the problem with putting too much faith in film as a good medium of analysis. How in visual form can you convey the wider social context of a Lincoln? Far easier to portray him ‘as an active anti-racist with strong black friends and co-workers’ and consider that symbolic. But as art is pretty much always symbolic and subjective, it’s going to consistently fall short in the eyes of those who want it to be analytical and objective – though given how visual media increasingly provides peoples’ frames of reference, critiques like the one above have an important role to play.

    (I say this without having seen the film, btw.)

  12. Marxist Lenonist on said:

    #16 True, thats why I said while ahistorical it was so in a more positive way than the airbrushing of Fredrick Douglas from the Spielburg film. And of course unlike in a “serious” film like Spielburg’s, the clue that its not historically accurate is in the vampires =) But while art can’t be “analytical”, surely there is an imbalance when such an over-preponderance of directors are white? I’m not saying that their viewpoint is necessarily racist or illegitimat btw, or that I, myself a white guy, begrudge them it, just that more diversity, more viewpoints could surely lead to better art?

  13. Feodor on said:

    ML, I don’t disagree. My comment was intended more to add to what you’d said rather than take particular issue with it.

    And Spielburg seems to have a unique capacity to produce completely a-historical historical films. Yet he’s honoured as one of Hollywood’s finest. Go figure.

  14. Funky Joe Stalin on said:

    John: What is it about?

    I think this article is very well considered. Tarantino is clearly a white man and filmmaker who’s fascinated and obsessed with ‘black’ American culture. If you watch him being interviewed, he comes across as a white guy who wishes he was black. But his conception of being black is a stereotypical, street criminal/thug, hyper-cool, violence-prone black man of the Blaxploitation movies, as the author states.

    His scripts are suffused with these types of characters, both black and white, combining cartoon-level violence with super-slick dialogue to great effect.

    I think with this particular movie, and I’ve seen interviews with Spike Lee, who is a very vocal critic of Tarantino for his depiction of black characters and of this movie in particular, the issue is over slavery being reduced to a spaghetti western, which he claims trivialises it.

    Tarantino, in interviews I’ve seen, defends the movie in this regard on the grounds that he did not want to make a slavery movie with a capital-H (as in history), because he didn’t feel that people would have engaged with the subject-matter if he had.

    But what this throws up is the wider issue of race in America, and how in Hollywood there remains a dearth of black filmmakers given the opportunity to tell their own stories and that of their people. There is a sense that the paternalism involved in white filmmakers like Tarantino being the arbiter of how black characters are written and portrayed reflects the paternalism that has long existed in US culture when it comes to race.

    What this throws up is your personal opinion. With the exception of Spike Lee, who’s not averse to stereotypes himself and who apparently has said he will not see the movie (!), it seems most black hollywood types have no issues at all with what is after all a form of entertainment, not documentary history. Did you see Inglorious Basterds? I would assume you would have the same criticism of what is a (Jewish) revenge fantasy of the same ilk? It’s hardly a realistic portrayal of the Shoah is it? I’m Jewish and I enjoyed it. He doesn’t have to make the link to my incinerated relatives because I can separate the reality from a fantasy. Can you?

    You really think Samuel Jackson and Jamie Foxx (and the myriad of respected black actors who are also fairly politically aware) would hitch their rides with such a paternalistic white ‘arbiter’? Or are they just Uncle Tom’s? Because that can be the only conclusion as a result of your ‘analysis’.

    Seems to me that quite a few black people think QT is a fairly cool chap – and likewise I think he genuinely likes and enjoys black (popular) culture without the politically correct hang-ups that would have us bogged down in documentary realism. Everything would end up like

  15. Danial young on said:

    John.Tarantino,is a modern day UNCLE TOM.He does not like Trade Unions,and they stand for all forms of race and employment usery.

  16. Funky Joe Stalin: With the exception of Spike Lee, who’s not averse to stereotypes himself and who apparently has said he will not see the movie (!), it seems most black hollywood types have no issues at all with what is after all a form of entertainment, not documentary history.

    No one is claiming that Spike Lee speaks for every black filmmaker or actor in Hollywood on the issue. Speaking for myself, I like some of Tarantino’s movies. I thought Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Jackie Brown were excellent. I thought True Romance, which he wrote, was brilliant too. On the other hand, I attended a press screening for Kill Bill V1 a few years ago and walked out after an hour because I thought it was terrible. You mention Inglourious Bastards. I caught a bit of it on TV the other night and switched over after 15 mins. So for me he’s made some great stuff and some rubbish as well.

    Funky Joe Stalin: You really think Samuel Jackson and Jamie Foxx (and the myriad of respected black actors who are also fairly politically aware) would hitch their rides with such a paternalistic white ‘arbiter’? Or are they just Uncle Tom’s? Because that can be the only conclusion as a result of your ‘analysis’.

    I’m afraid you’ve drawn the wrong conclusion from what I wrote. I was trying to see where the likes of Spike Lee and the author of this article were coming from. I’m sure they’re not the only black critics of Tarantino’s work, but likewise people like Sam Jackson and Jamie Foxx cannot be called Uncle Tom’s for appearing in his movies.

    Sam Jackson has also appeared in Spike Lee movies and in the Tarantino movies he’s been in, he usually plays a strong character. I don’t think Tarantino writes Uncle Tom stories at all. But he does specialise in a certain black stereotype in his work.

    Jamie Foxx was active in the campaign to stop the execution of Stan Tookie Williams a few years ago. Williams was credited with founding the Crips street gang in LA back in the 70s and was scheduled to be executed for murder. Whilst in prison he became reformed and wrote award winning anti-gang books for kids. Foxx played him in a TV biopic. I think Jamie Foxx is an excellent actor.

  17. Danial young on said:

    Uncle Tom,is a known not favourable term, for those who some deem to sell their culture in favour of another.

  18. Danial young: Uncle Tom,is a known not favourable term, for those who some deem to sell their culture in favour of another.

    Not really, its someone who ingratiates themselves with their oppressor out of self interest as in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s abolitionist novel. Uncle Tom retains his black culture, indeed he’s a cypher for a certain type of black.

    I haven’t seen the film but would agree with John’s comments on the Tarantino ones I have seen. But isn’t all Tarantino’s work self conciously steriotypical, is that not what he set out to do resurrecting the ‘B’ movie?

  19. Feodor on said:

    Danial young:
    Uncle Tom,is a known not favourable term, for those who some deem to sell their culture in favour of another.

    Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which I believe popularised the term, was partially inspired by the life of Josiah Henson. Everything I’ve read of that man suggests he was a remarkable individual who should be considered a true hero of his people.

    In some respects it’s sad to see the pejorative association the term has since taken. It’s become little more than a term of abuse that those in the radical separatist tradition of African-American politics direct at those in the reformist integrationist tradition. Indeed it was a term that was sometimes even directed at Dr. King. And I believe Marcus Garvey was also quite happy to describe DuBois in this way.

    Yet when all is said and done, people like King, Henson and DuBois were great fighters for African-Americans. Whatever criticisms we may have of their politics, they deserve more respect than to be called ‘Uncle Tom’s’ – as do many other figures who the label is attached to.

    And moreover, as problematic as it is, the desire of many white people today to identify with an albeit stereotypical idea of ‘blackness’ is surely better than, even an advance on, the complete dismissal and denigration of black culture that was dominant in the past.

  20. At the theatre in the Phila PA area where I saw the movie, the crowd was 95 percent Black ( I am white) and I heard cheers when Django gunned down the evil, toothless hillbillies. Seems like Tarantino still knows the formula works because the theatre was full.

  21. The trouble with this sort of approach to the world is that it drains all joy and pleasure from existence. Everything is racist or “misogynist” (till a few years ago it would have been sexist, but apparently that doesn’t sound damning enough).

  22. Jellytot on said:

    @26On the other hand, I attended a press screening for Kill Bill V1 a few years ago and walked out after an hour because I thought it was terrible.

    My first viewing of that movie was a subtitled version in a movie theatre in Fukuoka.

    I noted that the Japanese audience reaction alternated between incredulity and utter incomprehension – especially at the sight of the (very Han Chinese looking) actress Lucy Liu tottering around in a pair of geta and a kimono!

  23. Funky Joe Stalin on said:

    jon l:
    At the theatre in the Phila PA area where I saw the movie, the crowd was 95 percent Black ( I am white) and I heard cheers when Django gunneddown the evil, toothless hillbillies. Seems like Tarantino still knows the formula works because the theatre was full.

    I once saw the Nutty Professor (Eddie Murphy version) at Times Square. The audience was about 80% black. Murphy and co. pulled out every stereotype in the book – about white people, (attractive) light skinned black girls, fat farting black people, etc. etc. Basically crude stuff – albeit quite sweet and humorous.

    I kid you not that the audience was literally rolling in the aisles, crying hysterical tears of laughter. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and greatly enjoyed the experience.

    But it emphasizes that we can’t just legislate what is the correct approach to these things. Most black people are pretty thick skinned and I don’t think there is any one way of looking at this issue.

    QT is obviously not a racist – if anything he clearly likes black culture in the broadest sense.

  24. Feodor on said:

    Funky Joe, laughing at yourself is a great tonic – I love the skits Rod Gilbert and Michael McIntyre do about the Welsh, and also the one’s McIntyre does about hoovering and using the sky remote. Unless it’s malicious in intent, there’s nothing wrong with poking fun at people via exaggerated caricatures. (There’s a few middle eastern comics whose performances, shown quite regularly on TV, have probably worked to undermine anti-Muslim prejudice a lot more than we realise.)

    Out of curiosity, aside from the Eddie Murphy one, what other versions of the Nutty Professor are there?

  25. Funky Joe Stalin on said:

    Feodor:
    Funky Joe, laughing at yourself is a great tonic – I love the skits Rod Gilbert and Michael McIntyre do about the Welsh, and also the one’s McIntyre does about hoovering and using the sky remote. Unless it’s malicious in intent, there’s nothing wrong with poking fun at people via exaggerated caricatures. (There’s a few middle eastern comics whose performances, shown quite regularly on TV, have probably worked to undermine anti-Muslim prejudice a lot more than we realise.)

    Out of curiosity, aside from the Eddie Murphy one, what other versions of the Nutty Professor are there?

    Original 1963 version with Jerry Lewis. A fun movie.

    Not big on Lewis but for me this his finest moment as a slapstick comedian (loved him in King of Comedy as well)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nutty_Professor

  26. I’m always concerned when black folk are quick to support/protect white folks and their right to do whatever, and are equally as quick to castigate a black person for not going with the framed group think.

    Note: Why were so many black folk willing to spend 10+ dollars for the first weekend viewing of this, or any, film?

  27. prianikoff on said:

    Won’t be rushing to see this.
    Since his brilliant debut, Tarantino has made a series of revenger’s fantasies.
    They’re inferior to “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” and all the more dubious for their faux political pretensions.
    “Trivial and demeaning, lacking any depth whatsoever” is about right.
    He operates at the level of cartoon characters.

    I can’t say I’ve ever noticed any “ homoerotic overtones” in his films.
    The torture of the black gangster Marcus in “Pulp Fiction” was hardly an “overtone”, or “erotic”.
    It served to enhance the virility of the white boxer played by Bruce Willis and was then used
    to justify more bloody acts of revenge.

    “Tarantino does what white men do. Rewrite history.”
    A lot wrong with that statement.

  28. Let’s get one thing straight The Black Panther Party is a black supremacist racist group.
    Something like the Klan in reverse, don’t you dare defend’em.

  29. 38# Zap,

    Your ignorance of the Black Panthers ideology and practice is only surpassed by your apparent inability to grasp even the concept of historical and political context. The BPP were quite clear that they were not anti-white but opposed to the “racist power structure” that unquestionably existed in the US, and still does.

    More generally, “something like the Klan in reverse” (by which I’m guessing you mean a black equivalent of the KKK?) is an impossibility in the context of the US. The KKK’s purpose was to defend and strengthen an actually existing racial inequality and oppression. No black organisation in the US could possibly do that “in reverse” because white Americans are not oppressed as a ‘race’ and never have been. Someone who says “white power” is thus in favour of an actually existing oppression, while someone saying “black power” is expressing opposition to that actually existing oppression. Politics takes place in the real world, not in abstract.

    (To be clear, that’s not to say that various white people have not been oppressed or exploited, but that they never have been on account of being white. Also, ‘white’, ‘black’, ‘race’, etc are categories that have no scientific validity but are an undeniable political reality because of the history of slavery, imperialism, etc.)

  30. prianikoff on said:

    A bit of American history relevant to current themes, which I stumbed upon recently. (Some great videos and pictures linked to below)

    Cairo Illinois

    Situated on a peninsula, at the confluence of the Missippi and Ohio Rivers, Cairo once had a promising future. Now it’s often described as the “the most depressing town in America”. A combination of economic depression and racial friction has cursed the town.

    In the 1840′s a firm in London advertised Cairo as a boom town and offered plots of land to settlers.
    The property bubble burst and Cairo’s population stagnated at 1,000. But when the Central Illinois railroad came, it grew once again, as the trade in cotton, molasses, sugar and wool thrived.

    Situated in a free-state bordering the south, Cairo became a centre of the underground railroad, moving freed slaves North to Chicago.
    When the Civil War began in 1861, its population was 2,200, of which, only 55 people were African-American.
    It became a strategically important supply base for the Union army with thousands of runaway slaves seeking refuge there. When the war finally ended, 3,000 of them remained.

    Cairo developed rapidly as a railroad and river traffic hub. By 1890, its population had reached 6,300, peaking at 20,000 in 1907. But this growth was undermined by the decline of river traffic due to new river bridges in the area.

    Most of the black population were unskilled laborers with black women overwhelmingly employed in household service.
    Many of them joined unions, went on strike and demonstrated for their rights, for equal education, government jobs, and more black legislators.
    The town was to experience increasing racial polarisation as White Supremacists resisted them, sometimes violently.

    Cairo became the scene of one of the most gruesome lynchings in American history on November 11, 1909.
    An African-American man, Will “Froggy” James, was charged with the rape and murder of white 22 year-old Annie Pelley, who worked as a shop clerk.
    After the trial was delayed, a lynch mob found Jame and, brought him back to town.
    There he was hanged in front of 10,000 citizens.
    Still not dead, his body was riddled with bullets.
    His head was cut off and left on a pole. The body hacked to pieces, with townspeople taking souvenirs.
    Meanwhile a white man called Henry Salzner, suspected of killing his wife was dragged from the county jail and lynched during the disturbances.
    Only after the National Guard arrived in town was order restored, but racial tensions continued to fester for years.

    During the depression, bootleggers and racketeers from Northern Illinois used the town as a base.
    It had the highest murder rate in the USA and was estimated to have 1,000 prostitutes working in the town.
    There were also repeated threats of flooding from the the Ohio and Mississipi rivers.
    The population declined again, but Cairo’s ultimate demise was down to racism.

    A system of de-facto segregation existed in the town.
    The public housing, parks, schools and the local swimming pool were all segregated.
    White owned businesses would rather employ rural whites from Missouri or Kentucky than local blacks.
    After WW2 a movement for racial equality developed.
    In 1946 black teachers filed a lawsuit to secure equal pay. Attempts to integrate the schools started in in 1952, only finally succeeding by 1967.

    Race relations deteriorated into near warfare in 1967, when a 19 year old black soldier on leave died in police custody. Black protestors were met by armed white vigilantes organised in a group called the “White Hats”.
    The black population organised themselves into the United Front of Cairo.
    They boycotted the white shops and businesses that wouldn’t employ them.

    Demonstrations and violence continued into the 1970′s, with more than 150 nights of gunfire; multiple marches, protests and arrests.
    By 1970 the population had dropped to a little over 6,000 people.
    Today Cairo is a “ghost town” , with only about 3,000 people, a third of which are below the poverty line.

    Cairo Il. today:-
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJW8lOzJJPE

    Cairo, Illinois: America’s most depressing city
    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showthread.php?t=39039

    Cairo Civil Rights era photos, showing demonstrations and counter-demonstrations.
    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showthread.php?t=36105

    Longer article on Cairo’s history
    Cairo, Illinois – Death by Racism
    http://www.legendsofamerica.com/il-cairo.html

  31. Jellytot on said:

    R

    ‘Zap’ could be refering to the so-called New Black Panther Party (NBPP) of today which members of the original Party, including Bobby Seale, have disowned and criticised. The NBPP are much closer to the Nation of Islam in terms of their overall tone, style and theories.

    That stated the analogy to the Klan is ridiculous in any context.

  32. prianikoff on said:

    Another factor behind support for segregation in Illinois was its history of brutally contested Miners strikes. In the 1890′s during the “Illinois Coal Wars”, black workers were used as scab-labour by the employers. Afterwards, the leadership of the United Mine Workers colluded with the employers in segregating the pits.

    See:-
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Virden

    However there’s another interesting sidelight on the racial conflict in “Little Egypt”. This concerns the struggle between the Klan and the Bootleggers.
    Besides being racist, the Klan favoured Prohibition.
    While the Bootleggers were popular amongst the miners, for whom beer was part of their way of life.

    One notorious Bootlegger was Charlie Birger, a Russian Jewish immigrant, who’d been in the army and then became a miner. After leaving the pits, he started a legitimate restaurant, which also sold alcohol. But he was driven out of business by Prohibition.

    “Birger came along at a time in Southern Illinois history when immigrants working in the coal mines needed protection against a Klan that not only hated blacks but foreigners and Catholics. Even the U. S. marshal in Saline County was a Klansman.”

    Birger, who pre-dated the Chicago gangsters, was something of a Robin Hood character.
    For instance, he distributed food and coal to the poor in the mining towns. However he had to fight a two-fronted war, against the Klan and against his business rivals.
    A rival gang, which had political muscle, eventually detonated a bomb at his “Shady Rest” roadhouse, burning it to the ground.
    Birger was convicted of ordering a revenge killing and sentenced to death. When he was hanged, he refused a white hood, in case it made him look like a Klansman.

    See:-
    http://www.heritech.com/soil/birger/birger.htm
    http://www.carolyar.com/Illinois/Govern/Birger.htm
    http://historyrat.wordpress.com/tag/shady-rest/