‘Django Unchained’ & American Society- What’s it say about us?

movie poster cover for Django Unchained
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Django Unchained was a 2012 American movie by Quentin Tarantino that shook up so many of its viewers. With references to Spaghetti Westerns, Southern epics, and slavery pieces to name a few, this movie also had a lot to say about American society overall. Down below are a few of the points about our society, past and present, that were referenced in Django Unchained.

That’s Racist

The most obvious thing that Django Unchained tells us about America is slavery and racism. We all know about the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and the nation’s history of African enslavement. In the movie, we see how pseudo-religious and pseudo-scientific concepts were used in those days to justify slavery.

You remember the whole scene where Mr. Candie (DiCaprio’s character) uses one of his former slave’s skulls to demonstrate how black people are anatomically inferior to whites. Or that scene where the slaver uses the Bible to justify his whipping and punishing of the “sub-human” slaves.

The cold part is that this stuff really happened, and a lot. It seems like every five words in Django is the “n-word,” and this is more for a shock effect than anything. I mean, I’m sure white people in those days called black people nigger a lot, but not like every five seconds. Still, the use of this word and other racial slurs in the movie shows us how language has been used throughout our country’s history to uplift certain groups and diminish others. And that goes both ways.

Read more: Are there many interracial couples in America?

Okay, so we saw whips and chains, physical representations of bondage and dominance — not to get freaky. Oh, and we saw a glimpse of a pre-Ku Klux Klan group in one of the funniest scenes of the entire movie. The KKK really formed after abolition as a kind of retaliation against blacks gaining equality. Django (Jamie Foxx) and Dr. Schultz (Cristoph Waltz) later in the movie start to be treated with a bit of respect when they are presumed to have money and status. This shows how even racism can be curbed when there are benefits involved.

Frontier Living

Django Unchained at its heart is a Western, so the usual gun-slinging and street shootouts had to be a part of it. The characters throughout most of the movie are riding horses and carriages across open landscapes, mountains, and everything we associate with the Old West. We even see the classic cowboy stand-offs in the small frontier town, people running to get the sheriff, and a saloon fight.

The Antebellum South is also represented when they get to Mississippi. There we see big plantations and plantation homes being worked by slaves. Besides that, we get a look at some slave quarters, those common oak and poplar trees of the South, and big fields of cotton to be picked. And of course, all around is the sense of white dominance and complacency for being in control of that crazy world they’d created.

Read more: Isn’t America all cold and snowy?

The Outlaw is B(l)ack!

Another thing this movie does is show audiences how black outlaws and bounty hunters did exist in the Old Western days. I feel like this movie opened up in many ways for people to learn about such figures as black cowboys and bounty hunters, a subject that was not really touched on before in movies or TV (at least to this extent).

Django shows in part the presence of these lesser-known historic black figures of that time, informing that they were also a part of the development of the country. There’s also something many people forget, that some slaves were able to buy their freedom and lead interesting lives outside of the establishment.

Read more: Aren’t there a lot of black people in America, like on TV?

Reparations … or Revenge?

Since the times of slavery in America, there has been a sense of black people recovering some kind of dignity, strength, even ranging into dominance. It’s important to remember that not all people in any group will want the same things, which is normal. Still, when Django goes and kills all of the slavers that did him wrong, there’s this sense of “justice served cold” that reverberates off of every gunshot and explosion.

There’s a constant debate in the USA of whether there should be reparations or compensation given to black Americans for the terrible deeds taken against their ancestors. There is this underlying feeling of getting revenge on these racist actions, which is completely exploited in this movie. Let me also remind you that the German’s full name is Dr. “King” Schultz, likely a nod to Dr. Martin Luther King as a kind of liberator and symbol for good.

Through all the killing that Django does, we also get an idea of the violent nature of rebellions in general, especially as it deals with the black-led ones. There was many a violent uprising in America’s past, and this movie plays a bit on such true historic bloodbaths.

And the White Director

So Quentin Tarantino doesn’t look very black, as far as most of us can tell. The fact that a white guy had directed a movie like this did conjure up some backlash for the film. Django Unchained touches on some pretty sensitive subject matter, particularly concerning black Americans. So one might imagine how some people felt uncomfortable with it.

Tarantino movies aren’t for everyone and lots of people are already uneased by the cartoonish violence in them. Put that together with about a thousand “n-bombs” and you’ve got a sure recipe for retaliation. Even though many people thought he had no business making a movie about slavery, there were still those that enjoyed Django Unchained regardless of its crazy subject matter. Q. T. does actually have a cameo in the movie and gets blown up, which shows that even the director wasn’t safe from Django’s vengeful rage.

Boy, I Swear

Another common feature in Tarantino’s movies is the liberal and consistent tendency of his characters to swear. This is just his style, and it comes more so from this culture surrounding Hollywood or Southern California — where almost everyone I know curses. Some are offended by this constant use of bad words, and others could care less.

One thing that’s funny about this, though, is that people back in those times (early-mid 1800s) definitely did not curse as much as in the movie. Sure, there was cursing, but people back in those days were generally pretty conservative and religious by today’s standards. I had this same thought watching The Hateful Eight which had a similar amount of cussing in a time period that people probably didn’t have such dirty mouths.

Read more: The Wolf of Wall Street

This feature of the movie was likely used to connect modern audiences to this past period in time, similar to how the score contained some rap songs. It also reminds audiences that this story is fictional and for entertainment purposes, so don’t be taking it all so seriously.

America, the Beautiful Mixed Baby

In Django Unchained are black people (obviously), Germans, Australians, other Americans, and Mr. Candie who loves French — even though he can’t speak or understand it. Some aspects of the culture, especially on the German side, are explored a bit deeper. With all of this, we get reminded of America’s very mixed heritage.

Germans at a certain point in the U.S. interior were very prevalent and made up a large part of the immigration there. All these different people of varying backgrounds remind us of this uncommon origin we share that turned the U.S. into a land of immigrants. It also reminds us that a large part of the country, like the West, was built by outlaws, runaways, and people seeking the thrill of adventure until turning it into what it is today.

Read more: Aren’t Americans white?

**What did you think of this movie? Are you fond of Tarantino or do you avoid his movies at all costs? If you can, share what else Django Unchained showed us about American or world society. Also, feel free to check out similar posts on At the Movies. Message me at tietewaller@gmail.com for direct contact or to collaborate on something! Thank you for reading and peace to you.

Aren’t there a lot of black people in America, like on T.V.? – Black identity in the USA

The story of the U.S. is a complicated and controversial one, and few things add to that controversy than the question of race. Topics related to race, slavery, civil rights, citizenship, and even cultural identity can be traced to one of America’s most important groups of people. Speaking of that cultural identity you, as a foreigner, might have noticed that many famous movies (Coming to America, Training Day, Black Panther), T.V. shows (The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Everybody Hates Chris, My Wife and Kids), and social figures (Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., Oprah Winfrey) are African Americans or star lots of black people. When you talk about singers and musical influence, black Americans almost take home the prize for most impactful internationally. With all this influence, you might expect to go to the U.S. and see tons of black folks walking around everywhere. But are there really that many of us?

Fortnite now has a Black Panther skin and a Wakanda Forever emote - Polygon
Even Fortnite uses black culture, Wakanda Forever! from Polygon.com

I previously wrote about the misconception of America being pretty much all white, but this is an interesting turn of thinking. Maybe after seeing and listening to so many things featuring black people, you might conclude:

Hey, there has to be a lot of black people in the U.S., right? Why else would they be so prevalent on T.V. and music and all that?

Well, the answer would be no; black people in America aren’t as prevalent as you might think.

How it can feel to be black in America sometimes… Photo by Nicholas Green on Unsplash

To be fair, even I was surprised by how many African Americans there truly are. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of black Americans. As I said in a previous post, black people are actually a majority or almost half the population in several cities across the country, in places like New Orleans, Atlanta, Detroit, and many others. Despite all that, there are almost 330 million Americans, and people who identify as only black are 13.4% (about 44 million). So yes, that is a lot of black people, but it’s a small number compared to all the other people in the country.

Of course, you have to remember that many African Americans are not fully “black” but may identify as black because of reasons related to cultural identity, family ties, or simply not thinking that much about the question. You might find a light-skinned person with African ancestry more likely to identify as “black” if he or she grew up around mostly black people, lives around mostly black people, and identifies mostly with black American culture. This goes back to the One Drop Rule in the U.S., to which I’ll leave a link for more information down below. That also leaves us with blacks who might consider themselves “mixed-race” even though they are darker-skinned, but that’s a little less common. By the way, colored and mulatto used to be acceptable terms for mixed people, but they are considered offensive by most people nowadays.

Although black people practically make up a small minority in the U.S., there are reasons why they might seem so prevalent on T.V. and other media. One is that the country is huge! 13 percent of 330 million is still a ton of people, so of course, they seem like a lot. Another point is that many of these people went to urban areas like big cities after slavery and especially after suffering discrimination/violence in the South. Cities are where most of the cultural output comes from, so that’s why we seem to have so many black actors, musicians, musical styles, and social figures. Several of these figures exist purely because of the discrimination blacks have suffered. Black people in politics are on the rise recently too, so that could add to this misconception.

One more point I want to make is that black people have been severely and openly discriminated against in the U.S. for centuries, and people who supported slavery had all kinds of misconceptions about race, ethnicity, and what was good for the nation. Of course black people, and almost any minority in fact, have suffered all over the world, but the U.S. handled it a bit differently. After creating some highly significant social leaders and leading its own power movements, a big push has been made by black Americans to support each other, promote each other, and work with each other. There has been such a big momentum with black people trying to “catch up” with white Americans and have equality that this has allowed black people to be present in almost all facets of American life. Think of “#OscarsSoWhite” and the following year when a ton of black movies and filmmakers won awards. Even though black Americans in general are pretty well represented and better off than black people in almost all other American countries (think of Haiti, Brazil, Cuba, and many African nations for that matter), there is always a push for more equality and representation. I suppose all people deserve this and I’m glad to help represent my country and ancestry, even if it’s in a subtle, blog-writing way.

Black-ish guy making a movie, Photo by KASHILEMBO WABU

Even if there aren’t as much of us as you might have thought, I encourage you to keep listening to our music, keep watching our T.V., and keep supporting our social movements. Black people just want respect like anybody else, and I’m sure that they’d be proud to know how truly influential black U.S. culture has been all over the world. Keep up the support!

Speaking of support, I appreciate you for reading this post! Feel free to check the resources below to learn more and keep an open mind. If you liked this post, read some other ones here on the website. Tell me what you think of black American culture or people in the comments, or send me an email at tietewaller@gmail.com. Cool? Peace and take care!

Resources:

U.S. census info 2019: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045219

America’s “One Drop Rule” explained: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/jefferson/mixed/onedrop.html

About #OscarsSoWhite: https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2016/02/02/oscars-academy-award-nominations-diversity/79645542/