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The Slave Revenge Narrative Many Hoped For... And It's Not 'Django Unchained'

by Tambay A. Obenson
June 8, 2012 10:00 AM
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I don't know if I've ever seen so many white people this excited about a slave movie.

And from reading the thoughts of many others, a common belief seems to be that you're apparently *uncool* if you aren't damned excited about Django Unchained.

Well, I guess I'm *uncool.*

Since the trailer was officially released earlier this week, several folks have asked me for my thoughts on what we've seen thus far of Quentin Tarantino's revisionist slave revenge pic Django Unchained. I thought I'd already been clear about all that, sharing concerns I've had since first reading a draft of the script about a year ago, and posting my thoughts here.

To summarize, based on all I've seen thus far, this isn't the slave revenge movie I (and I know countless others) were hoping for. 

And no, it has little to do with the fact that the director is not black, which I know has bothered many others. But that's not the point of contention for me.

I think I speak for a lot of you when I say that, when we first learned that Tarantino was making a slave revenge movie, we immediately thought, Inglorious Basterds Part 2, except the Basterds this time would be slaves, and the villains whose scalps are sliced off in full 35mm color glory, would be the KKK (or any supporters/enforcers of the face of white supremacy during that era).

I'd say there was some excitement about the possibilities. And then I read a draft of the script, and realized that it wasn't at all anything like what many of us hoped for; instead, call it the frivolity of slavery - superficial, exploitation cinema that would've likely been an easier pill to swallow 35 - 40 years ago. A blend of spaghetti westerns and blaxploitation cinema.

And any excitement I previously had for the project almost entirely vanished.

So what were many within the black audience hoping for?

Recall when I had Wendell B Harris Jr (Chameleon Street) on the Shadow & Act Livecast 3 years ago, in 2009, and he relayed a time when he pitched a contemporary lynching retribution film to studio execs, who, not-so-surprisingly weren’t interested. And in a later post, I made connections between Wendell's idea and another Tarantino movie (which hadn't been released at the time), Inglorious Basterds - the revisionist history movie on how WWII ended, set in Nazi-occupied France. It’s a revenge flick; as Jeffrey Wells put it: “a Jewish payback movie in which all kinds of brutal and sadistic killings of Germans are presented as not only righteous but delicious, because “them Nazis”… are viciously anti-Semitic and deserve it all to hell.

Now repeat that last sentence replacing "Jewish" with "slave," "Germans" with "white supremacists," "Nazis" with "KKKs," and finally "anti-Semitic" with "racists."

Revenge in Basterds, unlike Wendell Harris’ lynching retribution idea, does not take place almost a century after the crime. It happens synchronously, in the era it references – essentially one man’s fantasy about what could have been, and not what actually was.

So, it got me thinking further - what if Wendell B Harris’ lynching revenge flick followed a similar storyline? Again, revisionist history, set during the days in which the lynching of black people were de facto commonplace.

Thus, like Tarantino’s Basterds, two story lines converge. Borrowing almost verbatim from the Basterds synopsis, with some obvious alterations made with purpose: One story would follow a ragtag group of black men (escaped slaves) whose mission is to take out as many offending whites as they can get their hands on. They ambush and kill white men responsible for the lynchings of blacks (whether members of the KKK, officers of the so-called law, and members of any white supremacist mobs usually found at the center of lynchings), unabashedly desecrating their corpses, always leaving one alive, so that he can tell others. And the second storyline follows a young black woman (also an escaped slave) who seeks to avenge the death of her family at the hands of white supremacists, by sabotaging the premiere of some supremacist group’s latest propaganda film release, by luring all the guilty parties and their leaders into her theatre, with the intent to seal them all in, and burn the building down, killing them all. And given the time the movie will take place, we’ll make the propaganda film within the film, D.W. Griffith’s Birth Of A Nation.

The title of Wendell Harris’s version can stay the same – Inglorious Basterds. It still works, right?

But that’s not quite the kind of film you’re going to see here, with Django Unchained. It’s not Inglorious Basterds with black Basterds, and white supremacists getting their skulls crushed with baseball bats.

Unless the script has changed drastically since the draft I read (and I hear Tarantino has rewritten parts of it). But all I can go on is what's been revealed so far, which doesn't appear to be very different from what I read. Specific sequences may have have changed, but the overall idea that Django exists in a white protag's shadow, before being able to eventually come into his own and "claim what's his in the end," still appears to be at the heart of the story.

Therein lies the problem I believe many of us have with the film, and which some still don't seem to quite understand. That and the fact that Django's bride, Broomhilda, reads like more of a prop in the draft of the script I have seen. For all intents and purposes, she’s the lead female in the film, but, returning to the Inglorious Basterds comparison, she’s no Shosanna. The black female "lead" here doesn’t get the same kind of stately treatment that Tarantino gave Shosanna in Basterds. Not even close.

And in anticipation of those who will comment on how true to life the story is, and how representative it is of the time it takes place, my response will be - what part of the term "revisionist history" don't you quite understand? Last I checked, Adolph Hitler didn't die from gunshot wounds, in a Paris movie theater set ablaze - a plan orchestrated by a Jewish woman calling herself Emmanuelle Mimieux (after assuming a new identity in France, to protect herself).

Tarantino had countless options with Django; but he went with the most obvious, uninventive choices here, in my humble opinion. American history is littered with black slave rebellions and insurrections that took place during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, and most of them didn't require a white mentor figure to essentially teach them and show them way. 

Unlike Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction, Django doesn't get to call up on a few "hard, pipe-hittin' niggers" to go to work on their plantation masters "with a pair a pliers and a blowtorch." There are seemingly no obvious opportunities to "get medieval" on whitey's ass here, because, given all he and Broomhilda are put through in the film, I think some of us would prefer if he (or rather THEY - enslaved women did also rage against the machine) went all id, in psychoanalytic terms.

I've obviously not seen the entire film; no one has - a fact that makes it all-the-more strange that there are some who seem intent on suppressing the voices of those with concerns about the upcoming film, as if they themselves have already seen it. Let's face it, we're all basing our thoughts on available data, and every opinion, as long as it's adequately supported, is valid at this point.

And no, I'm not a Tarantino "hater," but I wouldn't call myself a "fanboy" either. This is simply not the slave revenge narrative I hoped for; and given the likelihood that we'll see another one - especially of this scale - is quite slim, it's too bad.

Aside from this seeming thus far be more of a fanboy's wet dream, I'll certainly still see Django Unchained; I have to, given the work I do here on Shadow And Act. Maybe plenty has indeed changed from script to screen (or at least, since the draft that I read last year), and I'll be pleasantly surprised. And if that happens, I'll eat crow.

But if you're asking me (as many have) what I think of what I know of the project so far (again, based on the script I read, the trailer that's been released, the bits and pieces revealed by the cast and crew over the last many months), these are my thoughts.

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  • Donella | June 14, 2012 4:17 PMReply

    "...there are some who seem intent on suppressing the voices of those with concerns about the upcoming film..." Yes, indeed.

  • Melanie | June 12, 2012 5:41 PMReply

    Honestly, I'm not a film buff or historian. My opinion on the trailer is just that it looks weak. The film looks weak and I don't think I watched it in its full entirety before my mind started to wander.

    I understand the author's points on the film's lack of gravity when it comes to slavery, but honestly I think I could have gone with that if the concept itself seemed better executed, but it doesn't feel like it is. A big part of what turns me off is that Jamie Foxx feels very wrong for this role. Very, Very wrong. It just doesn't resonate, at all.

    If it's going to be absurd, let it be absurd....but somehting just felt off.

  • NameYsaye | June 11, 2012 5:23 PMReply

    I don't take anything Tarantino does seriously; his films are meant solely as entertainment. He is purposely irreverent and takes artistic license to the extreme. He is not a historian. He takes stories and events from history, culture, and myth and creates something on the screen for people who like his work. Don't expect factual data out of Tarantino's films not to be skewed. Every last one of his pics has been retarded, yet brilliant. Django is not going to be any different. He won't be re-writing history with this film. He will be feeding the imaginations of people whose lives would be otherwise bland. For 2 hours Django will be an escape, a way out, for people living quietly desperate lives, who are looking for adventure, a story, and some way to enliven their world through a fiction too ridiculous to be real. If I were looking for a movie to be on point and true about the condition of the enslaved in America, or to give me a history lesson about the numerous acts of heroism of Afro American women and men and children during that period of time, that has never ended only morphed into something new and improved, I would not expect it from Tarantino. He is not in it for the glory of having made a contribution to the knowledge about any event in history, no matter where it happened or when or to whom. He is in it for the gore, for the shock, for the talk, for the money. Sure, there needs to be some form of media that depicts true images of what truly happened and how Black people freed themselves, but that will only happen when we control the media and the message, and the form and distribution of that form. Until then, I will buy my ticket and sit in a crowded theatre to watch the action and adventure and artistic talent of those on screen, with full knowledge that this ain't real and it don't mean a thing. We put absolutely too much energy into finding meaning where there isn't any. Tarantino makes that point every time he makes a movie. It is his own failure to be unable to rise above his conditioned mind, his personality and the limits of his brilliance, to use the power he has earned to make a movie true to the reality that Blacks were their own saviors and inspirations because that is the truth. That he would bring to screen a film that does not allow his characters to be true representatives of Black life in telling this story indicates how immature his mind remains. We should remember he is still just a man, not a god with a camera. Let's not make this failure our remorse.

  • Dr. Phil Valentine | June 11, 2012 3:13 PMReply

    Excellent analysis. This type of controlled and marginalized "Black fury on screen" is in keeping with the not-too-publicized Khazaarian racism that is awash in Hollywood. Here we are in the 21st century putting white people into other dimensions and distant planets in outer space, and you can't find 2 or more black people of authority anywhere in the same screen-shot! The writer and director of the movie "Sankofa" had to re-do the story-line and re-edit some 16 times because the Khazaarian owners of Hollywood didn't want as much "violence" being shown against whites in the film. Thus we saw the black female lead take her revenge on her rapist master OFF-screen, while Mutabaruka, the ONE man with the heart of a Nat Turner, slink back into the shadows (with a readied machete), while his woman is being abused by slavers. But the rape and brutality of Black women by the whites was VIVID and EXPLICIT, as was the on-screen emasculation of the Black males. Look at the film "Panther". Mario Van Peebles was refused funding by the Khazaarian elite of Hollywood because he wouldn't put a few whites into the "Black" Panther Movement. All this is quite in keeping with the psycho-political subtext of a not-too-well-known movie starring Marlon Brando entitled "Burn". The main gist of the movie (regardless of what Wikipedia says) is that on an island in the Lesser Antilles, whites had achieved "god-like" status among the enslaved population there; so much so that the natives were made to believe that whites could not be killed or harmed in any way. Whites were never to show that they were vulnerable to the majority population, and any affront to them was met with lethal retribution. The idea was to never let the slave population know that they possessed the ability kill and remove these maggot parasites from their homeland, if they only had the WILL to do so. Of course, as is the down-low racist policy of Hollywood, a "white" savior must be there to "show them the way". Brando literally kills a white man in front of the natives and gives the black men of the island their "balls back". And we've seen the same "massa-messiah" bulls#*t perpetuated in the movie "Avatar".
    So what else is new...???

  • jenny lansing | June 11, 2012 3:10 PMReply

    CareyCarey, if you don't see AVATAR as a "white Savior" film you're just not seein.' Just sayin.' Django may be all that you describe. But AVATAR?! They're even "White-savin'" the indigenous on other planets now in Hollywood!

  • CareyCarey | June 11, 2012 3:58 PM

    "Just like a bobbin' head doll, they're NOT GOING ANYWHERE"

  • CareyCarey | June 11, 2012 3:55 PM

    Yes Jenny, I have to admit that I did not see AVATAR as a "white Savior" film. And you're right, I just wasn't seein' cuz I just wasn't lookin' -- for it. I retired my red, black and green dashiki at the same time I realized that searching under every rock for "What-The-White-Man-Did-To-Us" is as pointless as letting another person fart in your face and then cussing him out because his ass stinks. Booty-hole stanks and white people are going to do what they do, so I don't need anyone pointing me in the direction of those foul smells. I got it and I GET IT. I understand why some have a need to sit around and show people how "down" they are. I don't know why the caged bird sings, but I know why some folks dress to impress. Yes sir, they will talk that thang to the point you'd think they was Booker T. Washington's son, but unfortunately, many are just "talking". Just like a bobbin' head doll, they're going anyway. They just move their heads UP-and-DOWN.... UP-and-Down... in agreement with the most popular voice. But now that I've found out that AVATAR was a white savior film (I'll take your word for that) who should I pimp slap first? James Cameron... my lady (because she didn't tell me) or Shadow and Act? Damn damn damn, woe is me, now I'm all fk'ed up because they shot me with that bop gun. :-O

  • Mark Dudley | June 11, 2012 1:57 PMReply

    I applaud your thorough examination thus far of the thematic realities of this, yet to be released film. However, I make the same challenge to you critics as I would to any artist, " You don't like where a film has gone or is likely headed? Make one yourself".

  • Charles Judson | June 11, 2012 1:53 AMReply

    Misha, as Carey rightfully points out the Savior in White Savior has tended to have a more figurative than a literal connotation and it shows in the most well known examples. Jake in AVATAR is resurrected from the dead. Dunbar in DANCES dies a metaphorical death and is given a new name, then lives among the natives for so long that when he returns to his fort he's unrecognizable and his fellow soldiers shoot at him. Kurtz in APOCALYPSE NOW is treated as a God. Tarzan is a demigod like figure, a man born mortal with preternatural abilities along the lines of Hercules. Speaking to Fred's points about the technology, even in films like DANGEROUS MINDS, Michelle Pfeiffer's teacher is a Prometheus surrogate, bringing "fire" (aka knowledge) to her students. Same with THE BLIND SIDE. Even based on true stories, there are still elements of the Prometheus portion of the White Savior trope that are evident. Without the Savior's knowledge, the primitive people the Savior is helping will not progress, they will not evolve, and as a result they won't be protected. Remember, it's Jesus Christ's death and his teachings that were to change the world. Moses gave the 10 commandments to the Israelites. In STAR TREK: TNG the Prime Directive is a subversion of the Prometheus myth. The Federation holds back knowledge for the "benefit" of the primitive civilizations they encounter, placing TNG's Federation in the role of a benevolent White Savior. To quote Arthur C. Clarke: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." TNG's crew are basically gods making decisions on behalf of the people below them. It's been interesting over the last few years to see how much the White Savior Trope has been stretched beyond its original use to encompass so much.

  • Fred | June 11, 2012 5:32 PM

    @CareyCarey I wasn't trying to be funny at all. I assumed you were female because I've only seen females with the name "Carey" yet BondGirl referred to you as male.

  • CareyCarey | June 11, 2012 4:18 PM

    "P.S. CareyCarey is a "he"??" OOOOH, you're trying to be funny, huh Fred? Okay... back at you... Let me count the ways I am a "he" **mooning you with my two balls hanging out the back**... I'm jigglin' and janglin' baby

  • Fred | June 11, 2012 3:16 PM

    @BondGirl You really are going to want to start to try to make sense. You never told me to "beat it". You wrote, "NIGGA, BYE!!" saying that you wouldn't be engaging in any discussions with me anymore. I wrote one last reply because things you said still needed addressing and I thought that was that. Never was I "running down the street after" you to engage in anything. Just look at the thread here. You came replying to me! That's you "running down the street after" me to engage in dialog! And you accuse me of "spin"?? My dog analogy does apply because you weren't making any sense (as usual) in your attempt to use the word "sometimes" against my own argument. It's quite a horrible argument you put together and it does smack of desperation. I used a simple analogy to get the point across because nothing in that article is against me despite you trying to claim otherwise. You keep not making any sense and making horrible arguments. Therefore I find it amusing that you decided to compare yourself to a retard. P.S. CareyCarey is a "he"??

  • CareyCarey | June 11, 2012 2:31 PM

    LOL @ Bondgirl. I wonder if Fred knows he's the perfect foil? Surely he knows he has become the perfect Lou Costello to our Bud Abbott? "Who's on second. No, he's on first... no he's the white savior, but wikipinka said". But this one cracked me up-->"At this juncture, debating you is like racing in the Special Olympics...even if I win, I'm still retarded". lmao

  • bondgirl | June 11, 2012 1:01 PM

    @Fred: Your dog analogy doesn't even begin to apply. I love how you try to cite my examples of movies, and Charles' wiki reference, and you spin it to claim it actually proves your point. You should be a politician. I am "desperate" and "grasping at straws"?? After I told you to beat it, you still insisted on running down the street after me to engage me in dialogue, and when Carey told you to beat it, you ran after him too! But were're part of the Gangster Desperate Squad, right? Now I'm clear you are projecting, because you are the one that's hopeless. Please just go around my comments in the interim, and reply to someone else. At this juncture, debating you is like racing in the Special Olympics...even if I win, I'm still retarded.

  • Fred | June 11, 2012 12:29 PM

    @Charles Judson Thanks, but I know well the story of Prometheus and what the word "surrogate" mean. Problem is sir, the entire point of the Prometheus story is that he provides something crucial to an inferior group and thus gets punished for it. If you say that such a character is a "Prometheus surrogate" then the implication is that the character gives something to a group of people that are not as well off and then gets punished for it. Ignoring that second part of that equation renders it a meaningless comparison. And Pfeiffer does not suffer for providing "fire" to her students. From Wikipeida, here is the ending to Dangerous Minds: "At the end of the year, she (Pfeiffer) announces to the class that she will not be continuing to teach at the school, which prompts an unbridled display of emotion from the students who refuse to let her leave. Overwhelmed, she reconsiders the decision." Hardly what would equal "punishment" or "suffering" in anyone's book.

  • Fred | June 11, 2012 12:18 PM

    @BondGirl First of all, you wrote this to me before: "NIGGA, BYE!!". So why are you back replying to me again? I already left you a reply for that response which you haven't addressed. So I find it humorous you're back to me again and so soon too. Even though you can't keep your promise there, at least you are consistent with having bad arguments. Let's see: "'I'm sorry Fred, does "sometimes" mean "every time" to you? Does "sometimes" mean "in each situation"? Does "sometimes" mean "always"? Or does "sometimes" mean that in other instances that LOOK like the trope, and has similar factors, it won't apply?" BondGirl, you really need to stop grasping at straws because you are so desperate to latch on to anything to maintain your position that you end up not making any sense. "Sometimes" in that quote is referring different instances of the trope. For example, "sometimes a dog can be small". That clearly does not mean that every dog is small just that there are dogs that are small. The same basic factors of what makes a dog a "dog" a small dog will still possess. That is why Charles Judson's comments do not apply because he is treating his angle as the sole definition which it is not. "White savior" does not need to carry religious-like implications which is what he is forcing. The reason why "white savior" is a trope is because Hollywood continually uses it in stories that involve nonwhite struggles yet you can found hundreds of Hollywood films where whites empower themselves and do not need leadership, inspiration or provisions from nonwhites.

  • Charles Judson | June 11, 2012 11:43 AM

    From Wikipedia: "Prometheus (Greek: Προμηθεύς) is a Titan, culture hero, and trickster figure who in Greek mythology is credited with the creation of man from clay and the theft of fire for human use, an act that enabled progress and civilization. He is known for his intelligence, and as a champion of mankind." Surrogate: "a person or thing acting as a substitute". I'm not saying she is exactly like Prometheus, only that she metaphorically shares traits with Prometheus. It's no different than saying Neo is a Christ surrogate even though he becomes immortal so he can't suffer physical pain before he dies. Like Prometheus, Pfeiffer's teacher angers those she works for, those who would be her "gods". "Henceforth, humans would keep that meat for themselves and burn the bones wrapped in fat as an offering to the gods. This angered Zeus, who hid fire from humans in retribution. In this version of the myth, the use of fire was already known to humans, but withdrawn by Zeus.[7] Prometheus, however, stole back fire in a giant fennel-stalk and restored it to mankind." "Desperate to reach the students, LouAnne devises classroom exercises that teach similar principles to the prescribed work, but using themes and language that appeal to the streetwise students. Her methods attract the anger of the school authorities, George Grandey (Courtney B. Vance) and Carla Nichols (Robin Bartlett), who try to force her to remain within the curriculum." The White Savior trope is very much about the reuse of myth and mythological structures, even on a subtle level to prop up some questionable ideas. What's fascinating, is that some of these myths are so embedded in our psychological make up, many writers don't even notice when it appears. I still think there's a trope that fits what you see in Django better than the White Savior one. But, like Star Trek's Prime Directive, it could be an inversion of it that ultimately reaches the same destination more often than not.

  • bondgirl | June 11, 2012 11:42 AM

    Your Honor, permission to treat the witness as hostile. @Fred: You said that the definition from wiki of white savior is "In modern-day fiction, sometimes the Mighty Whitey is there to lead or inspire the Noble Savages or bring some aspect of modern technology or knowledge to their aid, something they presumably could not do before he showed up." Do you support and approve of this definition? Do you believe this definition should be used in examining this film? Is there any other definition other than wiki's that you'd like to supplement this with? Okay, so let's see here...Exhibit A says, "SOMETIMES THE MIGHTY WHITEY IS THERE...", I'm sorry Fred, does "sometimes" mean "every time" to you? Does "sometimes" mean "in each situation"? Does "sometimes" mean "always"? Or does "sometimes" mean that in other instances that LOOK like the trope, and has similar factors, it won't apply? I'm asking, if the white savior trope was cut and dry like you would have this jury believe, why would it say "sometimes"? If there weren't nuances, exceptions, factors to be considered outside of the typical racial implications, why wouldn't it just say "always"? Isn't it because wiki has done what you refuse to do....allow for the nuance and mitigating circumstance of each project? Isn't that why wiki wouldn't be so bold and unyielding to define each film carrying the same characteristics, as white savior? And since you applied their own definition as THE source, I'd say you have left the door wide open for even more ambiguity in the term. "Sometimes" is not "always". You are asking us to condemn a man (Jamie Foxx) for taking a role in this film based on "sometimes"? I think not! Your Honor, I'm done with this witness, and retain the ability to recall him.

  • Fred | June 11, 2012 11:00 AM

    @Charles Judson "More accurate use of the trope"? I'm sorry to say but your use isn't accurate because like I said you are forcing it. For example, you write: "Speaking to Fred's points about the technology, even in films like DANGEROUS MINDS, Michelle Pfeiffer's teacher is a Prometheus surrogate, bringing "fire" (aka knowledge) to her students." Here's the problem with that: Unlike Prometheus, Pfeiffer does not suffer for bringing "fire" to her students. Thus, the Prometheus analogy fails and that film does not fit the frame you set.

  • Charles Judson | June 11, 2012 9:52 AM

    If there's a bias it's for a more accurate use of the trope. Notice, I never said if Schultz using Django is good or bad or morally just. I've made no value judgement about that at all. Although, I think my reading of Schultz keeping Django enslaved is by itself enough to make me uncomfortable. It's like saying, hey you can go to college, but you have to be my unpaid maid for 4 years. But, that's what makes the film interesting to me. The irony of keeping someone enslaved so they can one day be free and as well give them freedom to kill White people with impunity. It's like being the guy who has to come up with the next FLAVOR OF LOVE because you've been promised you can create the next COSBY SHOW if FLAVOR is a hit. Although, killing Brittle Bros sounds much more honorable than creating a new FLAVOR show. But, if Tarantino recognizes those contradictions it will make the film watchable for me. If he ignores that, I'll probably be visibly angry and shaking by the end of the film. Much like I was after watching SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN and realizing how much it couldn't escape its Hollywood trappings, resulting in a film that props up traditional patriarchal ideals in the guise of a feminist protagonist and a toothless narrative. My point is that the blanket use of the White Savior trope the last few years pretty much robs it of its meaning and power. Not everyone loves Deep Space Nine's darker world and what it did to undermine The Federation as an enlightened organization, however it explores the contradictions inherent in creating a sci-fi universe that exists on the idea that Man will one day, again becoming god like, will create a paradise on Earth. It's in this quote from the show that I think demonstrates why the traditional reading of the White Savior trope is so important: "I know you. I was like you once, but then I opened my eyes. Open your eyes, Captain. Why is the Federation so obsessed with the Maquis? We've never harmed you. And yet we're constantly arrested and charged with terrorism. Starships chase us through the Badlands and our supporters are harassed and ridiculed. Why? Because we've left the Federation, and that's the one thing you can't accept. Nobody leaves paradise. Everyone should want to be in the Federation. Hell, you even want the Cardassians to join. You're only sending them replicators because one day they can take their "rightful place" on the Federation Council. You know In some ways you're even worse than the Borg. At least they tell you about their plans for assimilation. You're more insidious. You assimilate people and they don't even know it." The White Savior trope and its implications are WORSE than what I've seen in Django so far.

  • Fred | June 11, 2012 8:09 AM

    @ Charles Judson CareyCarey has not rightfully pointed out anything. I'm suspicious if from seeing your argument here if you are being lead on bias for this movie because you keep insisting on a rule that was never THE definition of the trope. The very website you cited backs me up on this. I quoted it for you and all you did was dismiss it. I'll quote TV Tropes again: "In modern-day fiction, sometimes the Mighty Whitey is there to lead or inspire the Noble Savages or bring some aspect of modern technology or knowledge to their aid, something they presumably could not do before he showed up." Repeat that last phrase, "something they (nonwhites) presumably could not do before he (white person) showed up". Django could not do anything about his situation until Shultz showed up. Django could not escape captivity until Shultz showed up. Django would not be able to go around and kill evil white people if Shultz didn't show up. Django would not be able to confront the person holding his wife and possibly get his wife back if Shultz didn't show up. There is no equality in this relationship either because if Django wants anything he must follow the rules Shultz lays out.

  • CareyCarey | June 10, 2012 8:58 AMReply

    CHECKMATE! The wicked witches are dead. "Also, I always assumed white saviors saved just because they are so wholesome and white...not because they have their own devious intentions". Great insight Ali. The noun phrase "White" saviors, as utilized by blacks in this context, has traditionally been applied to someone above reproach/saintly. Their rewards are based solely on the spirit of helping a person in dire consequences, not personal gain! Dr. King Schultz ( Christoph Waltz) is not a savior nor a "saint". Django and Schultz have a reciprocal relationship... each needs each other.~ by WOW | June 10, 2012 8:40 AM (after the dust settled and the kneejerks were asleep). GAME-SET-MATCH.... they all fall down.

  • CareyCarey | June 13, 2012 10:59 AM

    Oh Jenny Lansing, I think I love you. Do you have a man or do you fool around? *lol* But seriously, if I didn't know better I'd believe (after reading your comment) that you were actually my defense lawyer. Now didn't I hear you say "I've never heard the term "White Savior" used in any context except tongue-in-cheek"? Well I'll be damn, so Freddie ain't dead -huh? I mean, all this time Misha, Fred, Blutopaz, YOU, Moonrapper, Curtis Blow and the rest of the legion of "blackbirders" were doing what? Surely you're not suggesting you guys were upset at a statement that everybody knows is nothing but a phrase with humorous intend and it should not be taken seriously? Then again, maybe you're assisting my argument on the Q/T. Surely you know the purpose behind freed slaves fighting in the Civil War was not motivated by their desire to help vulnerable white people. Btw, did I tell you that my great-great grandfather fought in the Civil War? Yes sir, he was in the 108th colored infantry. Anyway my dear lady, I fail to see the significance of your 11th hour plea?Oh... one last thing. I had to go to the dictionary for "rejoinder", so I also thank you for that.

  • jenny lansing | June 11, 2012 3:02 PM

    CareyCarey, clearly you joke. Your assessment is so out of the realm of real experience as to sound downright alien. I've never heard the term "White Savior" used in any context except tongue-in-cheek! Even white writers have shown that there is no such thing. The novel, THE POISONWOOD BIBLE, underscores that more directly and with more examples than some other works. In it, one relatively new missionary tries to convince a more experienced missionary that the work white people did in bringing roads, bridges, etc. to the Congo was to help native Africans. The more experienced missionary's rejoinder is closer to the truth. "The roads all lead to rubber trees and peter out." They were for easy transport of the natural wealth of Africa OUT of the continent and into Europe and the rest of the West! People know that Jesus didn't/doesn't look like Brad Pitt, either, despite hilarious depictions suggesting otherwise. That there are white people who have genuinely helped or even "saved" some indigenous people is not in doubt just as it is not in doubt that black people have done things like thrown themselves in front of trains or helped win a (Civil) war for vulnerable white people. The problem is the "god-like," white Savior with a capital "S," assignation. Again, there's no such thing. As for whites in the movies teaching "other" people things, we could have each said, "I've now seen it all," when a staid upper-crust Tim Robbins teaches thief Martin Lawrence how to steal.

  • Fred | June 11, 2012 7:51 AM

    @BondGirl You're assumption that the relationship between the two is on equal terms is incorrect. Shultz is the one making the rules that Django must follow. Django helps him first and then Django can get what he wants. Also, the selling point of this story is a slave revenge story. Look at the title of the movie. It's "Django Unchained" not "Dr. Shultz & Django Ride On". However, for Django to get what he needs the white man must agree to provide it for him.

  • CareyCarey | June 11, 2012 12:19 AM

    Wait a minute you knuckleheads (Misha & Fred) the story is not over. Play the movie to the end because you guys are using a very narrow definition of the word "savior" and taking it out of context. In essence you're acting like pulpit pimps who take scripture out of it's context, in an effort to distort it's true meaning (for your own personal satisfaction). "Why did you beat your daughter with that 2 by 4"?. "Well your honor, the bible says spare the rod and spoil the child, so I was just being an obedient daddy". Listen Fred & Misha, tell me, in the movie The Defiant Ones, who was the savior? Now wait, was he a "black" savior or a "white" savior? And doesn't the dynamics change when the noun becomes a "noun-phrase"? Sure it does. Your whole argument and displeasure of the movie rests with the supposed Hapless "black" character being "recued" by a white man, but you failed (consciously) to tell the rest of the story. And we all know the Etymology of the word "savior" and it's various meanings - huh- don't we? Y'all can feign ignorance all you want, but it's not working. Many folks do understand that there's also a Christian definition of the word "savior". So who's fooling who? Now, regardless of what TV Tropes calls it... Mighty Whitey or whatever, er'body knows the shame YOU feel when you think of being saved by an omniscient God. In short, it's not wise to put all your dirty laundry on the street. Someone might play you for a fool or a buster. I mean, Django is obviously not that kind of film. So y'all can flip it all you want, but every silent pen is not asleep. Hold your pain close to your vest and stop projecting it upon us.

  • bondgirl | June 10, 2012 9:08 PM

    @Fred: You say, "In all of these cases, there is one common denominator which is that the nonwhites achieve something that they supposedly could not do until a white person or white people came in providing the means of making it happen." It is technically Schultz who cannot achieve his goal without Django, hence why he sought him out. He trekked to the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night to free a slave? Not quite. Schultz says to Django, "You're exactly the one I'm looking for." and "I need your help." Freeing him is a contractual obligation that gets him what he'd like, which is money. The contract nullifies the alleged "rescue". What he achieves is through HIS knowledge of being a field slave, and knowing the underpinnings of the institution. 2 men make a gentlemen's agreement, but because 1 is black and the other white, now it's a white savior film? That would literally be every single film involving a black and non-black co-lead, you do realize that? Is that what you're alluding to, because you keep saying these films are being made regularly. There is nuance to this story, and it isn't as black and white as being perceived.

  • Fred | June 10, 2012 7:45 PM

    @ Charles Judson I argue that what you're limiting it to ("enhanced enlightenment") is simply a variant of it not the definition. After all, the website you cited identifies the type I mentioned as also falling into "mighty whitey" (aka white savior). Whatever the background, motivations are or however enlightened or not the white person or white people are or how well off the nonwhites are or not in a story is of no concern because the path is still the same. In all of these cases, there is one common denominator which is that the nonwhites achieve something that they supposedly could not do until a white person or white people came in providing the means of making it happen. Having that narrative repeated so many times throughout the years is telling of Hollywood and the consistent reinforcement of it supports racist beliefs that nonwhites cannot anything on their own that is significant. Even some who defend this movie say that Django needs a white man which pretty much supports my argument for the kind of message that is sent. This despite the fact that not only did slaves fight back without any help from whites but that Tarantino has already demonstrated that he is willing to change history if he needs to just to give his characters the revenge they desire. However when it centers around nonwhite characters Tarantino doesn't provide that kind of treatment.

  • misha | June 10, 2012 7:29 PM

    LOL! @ the idea that a white savior has to be "wholesome or saintly." Really? Is this what the rationalization has come to? Lordy! According to my Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a SAVIOR = a person who saves, rescues, or delivers. Schultz, a white character, RESCUES Django from enslavement. Thus, he is indeed a white savior. The end!

  • Fred | June 10, 2012 5:23 PM

    @CareyCarey I already replied to that BondGirl's response you quoted. It's impossible that you didn't see it since you decided to scroll on down to copy and paste her reply back up here. So I don't know how much more impactful you think it's gonna be by presenting it a second time. As far as your other comments... well we're all talking Django Unchained and you're talking Flintstones. I think that pretty much says it all.

  • Charles Judson | June 10, 2012 5:21 PM

    I see your point Fred. But, I would still see that as an oversimplification of the trope. In DANCES and AVATAR, the people are free, have free agency, have some level of technology that they control, and can already survive on their own. Django starts the movie as a slave and remains one under Schultz. Also, the technology or help offered is altruistic in nature or requires the main character to be a martyr. They never do it for personal gain. Schultz doesn't free Django, he won't till the Brittle Brothers are dead (according to the trailer) and Schultz is doing it for personal reasons, not because he's become Django's "spiritual" brother.

  • CareyCarey | June 10, 2012 4:56 PM

    Well Frederick “Fred” Flintstone, I don't know why you're sippin' on our Kool-aid but I'd suggest you scurry off to find your wife Wilma. Maybe the two of you can look under a rock, or behind dead dinosuar, and uncover a few zippy witticisms, because as it stands, y'all flavor and argument is sho nuff archaic. And believe me, I don't know anything about Bondgirl and I collaborating in a collusionary. I'd like to call it a confluence of similar minds at a common place somewhere in time. We don't always agree, but put this under your pillow --> @Fred: we've tried to have a substantive discussion with you, Lord knows we have. Try as we may to get you to illustrate references to your claims, you evaded the request, and retorted with unfounded rumors and speculation. I tried to share pages of the actual script with you to back up my assertions. You quip about jump shots (NOT SCENES) from a cagey, 2 min trailer. Yes you have. You've even refused at every turn to release conjecture from every statement you make, and present what you are saying as your feelings only. And now you're defining AVATAR!!! OMG... as a white Savior film ( wait, Zoe Saldana, as Neytirias, WAS in that movie. My bad)?! And you have not seen Django? Until then, for the last time....NIGGA, BYE!! Go talk to someone who likes riding a hamster wheel with you. LMAO!

  • Fred | June 10, 2012 4:40 PM

    @Charles Judson You mentioned TVtropes. Well, according as to how that website defines it, it includes this: "In modern-day fiction, sometimes the Mighty Whitey is there to lead or inspire the Noble Savages or bring some aspect of modern technology or knowledge to their aid, something they presumably could not do before he showed up." As one can see from just the trailer for this film, that coincides with "Django Unchained".

  • Charles Judson | June 10, 2012 4:26 PM

    I think saintly is the wrong word. The most common themes of the White Savior (Or as TV Tropes calls it, Mighty Whitey) trope is enhanced enlightenment, which I think is the word that better fits it. And the character doesn't have to begin the story enlightened, in fact they rarely do. It's what makes the trope even more insulting because the character usually starts an unbeliever, or spiritually lost, and then rises to become even better spiritually as well as physically than both the people he's original a member of and the people he's assimilating into. In THE BLIND SIDE, it's immediately demonstrated that Sandra Bullock's character is more "enlightened" via the voice over that opens the film that illustrates how much she knows about football. Then, before she shows up on screen, we see how unenlightened the school, and thus the community she comes from, is when they're considering not admitting Oher. In AVATAR, Jake becomes so enlightened, and an even better Na'vi than anyone else, he asks the planet to fight the invaders when no other Na'vi thinks of it. Which is odd because they have been connected to the planet all their lives. DANCES WITH WOLVES, some episodes of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION and VOYAGER all share these "spiritually superior" moments. One of the elements that stands out to me is that it's Schultz who seems to teach Django to be a bounty hunter. In the trope, it's usually the natives teaching the main White character how to be a better [man/fighter/husband/player] and then they use those new found skills to then to save themselves and the natives. Schultz already starts out a bounty hunter. There also so far seems to be a lack of the Martyr [christ] like elements. In AVATAR, DANCES WITH WOLVES, the hero either has to suffer during the course of the story as he transitions into the role Savior, or has to make a major sacrifice. In the case of AVATAR Jake's "punishment" is to lose getting his legs back and expulsion from Human society. He then makes the ultimate sacrifice when his body is killed. In DANCES, Dunbar's horse is killed, he's put on trial for treason and the wolf Two Socks is killed. Then Dunbar becomes a Moses like figure because he is then expelled from the White world, but he can't join the Sioux tribe either. I'll be curious to see if DJANGO UNCHAINED ultimately does have the trope. But, so far, I still don't see it, or at least I don't see the traditional straight forward version of it. It does seem this trope has lost some if its original meanings to encompass a lot in the last few years. Even on a blog about THE HUNGER GAMES someone tried to call the interaction between Katniss and Rue a version of it. SPOILERS DON'T READ IF YOU WANT TO READ THE BOOKS OR SEE THE MOVIE Which really doesn't make much sense since Katniss doesn't learn anything from Rue that she didn't already learn from her father and her friend in District 12, and she's unable to save Rue, who she would have had to kill anyway making their partnership a temporary alliance. And it's actually another character who isn't Black that inspires Katniss to lay flowers around Rue as a way to protest the games. Lastly, even though they are from different districts, Rue and Katniss are citizens of the same country and suffer under the same oppressive rule of The Capital. They're both natives.

  • Fred | June 10, 2012 12:38 PM

    @CareyCarey Are you and BondGirl trying to form a desperation squad or something? Declaring "checkmate" based on what? A bad argument from Ali where he tries to split hairs where there was none to even be split? "White savior" was never specific as Ali claims it was. The whole claim that it supposedly is limited to being "so wholesome" and "saintly" is nonsense. Jake Sully in Avatar wasn't "wholesome" or "saintly" yet was quite the white savior in that movie. Also, that argument from "WOW" is literally the same that has been used before on this movie and has been used before for other white savior movies. It's the old "Oh, he/she isn't a savior... they both need each other/learn from each other" nonsense. It seems you were better off replying when you were ripping off of Curtis Mayfield's lyrics. They didn't make any sense but hey at least it reminds people of a good song or two.

  • Mark & Darla | June 10, 2012 12:06 AMReply

    This blog are full of narrow-minded narcissists who lack tolerance to another person like or dislike or their perception of art. The narcissists believe their perception of art is the "holy grille" that can't be disputed, examine, scrutinize, study, inspected or analyze. They also believe the longer their post are the more valid their argument. This blog reminds of the show "Curb Your Enthusiasm"

  • WOW | June 10, 2012 11:19 AM

    Ali, it's important to note that there is a difference between an opinion and a fact. Moreso than not, the biggest problems arise when said opinions are given as facts. Frustration occurs when the "critic"/opinion giver/pundit/commenter is challenged on their porous opinions which they've rendered as a fact, but it's not. The disturbing physical responses leading to heated and snarky retorts, are a direct result of a person's insecurity and/or learned defense system. When we hurt, we cry and vent. When we get upset, we blame and accuse. When we're up against a wall we push back. When a person can support their opinion with facts or respected reference sources, they have a tendency to remain calm in the heat of debate. It's never felt "comfortable" being wrong.

  • Ali | June 10, 2012 10:25 AM

    Here's why a lot of these arguments don't really go anywhere. One person will come in and slap their opinion down. Then another person will try to argue the other person's opinion. Now, we all think we are right. But you can't think someone else is so wrong that you try to argue them down and then get snarky and mad when they don't back down from their opinion. Basically when someone argues your opinions you're forced to just repeat yourself or add extra shit to clarify what you said the first time. I know I've done and felt it before. But these should be conversations not arguments. Honestly, most of the time I just say "That's fine" to other people when I don't agree. Sometimes there's not much to argue in what the other person says...even though you don't agree with shit they said. LOL

  • Moonraper | June 9, 2012 10:46 PMReply

    CareyCarey is a plot to destroy black people.

  • CareyCarey | June 10, 2012 12:18 AM

    And SonOfBaldwin is the illegitimate child of Broomhilda and Massa Calvin Candie.

  • misha | June 9, 2012 9:10 PMReply

    Jug, no surprise that people are focusing on Waltz's race. If Tarantino didn't want folk to do so then have shouldn't have introduced the aforementioned trope. Or is he oblivious to the fact that in such films, race becomes much more of a factor than it would otherwise? I certainly ain't buying that!

  • misha | June 9, 2012 9:50 PM

    Ha. Jug I wasn't asking you or implying that I know what's in his head. But based on the type of director/writer Tarantino is, I'm certainly not buying it...that's what I meant.

  • Jug | June 9, 2012 9:33 PM

    LOL Misha you are INTENT on that point huh LOL I dont know whats in his head, I never met the dude LOL. I just go off of track record & make a deduction. As much knowledge as he has in film, I'd hope that Waltz being white is not an accident, but intentional. He'd better welcome all comers cuz he's gonna get it LOL

  • Curtis | June 9, 2012 5:20 PMReply

    I gotta say it's Interesting to me that folks are rushing to defend Quentin Tarantino so fiercely, yet when Spike gets criticized on this blog I don't see the same kind rush to defend Spike. Instead, it's the opposite. More love for Tarantino than Spike Lee on a black film blog.

  • Nadine | June 9, 2012 8:01 PM's just not true, Curtis.

  • Nadine | June 9, 2012 8:00 PM

    @CURTIS - That is not true... at all. Cite examples.

  • CareyCarey | June 9, 2012 6:35 PM

    Yes Neziah, I agree, Curtis spoke a little too fast. Or at the very least, he threw a blanket over the entire S&A community, which is a no-no. Fact is, I know I've vehemently defended Spike. I had to hold back from screaming during Tambay's last post on "She Hates Me" because some folks not only hated the movie, they took cheap shots at Spike. But I held my tongue. I guess one can say I am leaning towards Bondgirl's position. I mean, bowing at someone's feet is something I never do, but I have no fear of giving praise when praise is warranted. And who among us can honestly say the Spike did not jump start this thing called black cinema? He kicked down the door and blasted the glass ceiling, and therefore, we all owe him a debt of graditude. Tarantino is good, when he's good. He's a white dude, but that has never stop me. I was raised on "white" films, and even today, most of my enjoyment comes by why of products of white writers, actors and directors. I am not saying I do not receive enjoyment from "black" films, or films directed by black men, but by but shear numbers alone, those offerings are few and far between. So again, I am not "defending" Tarantino, I am like Neziah, Bondgirl, Jug, Charles Judson and many others, I am looking past the color of "Django's" director, and trying my best to ignor those who are trying their best to frame "us" as "sellout" blind lemmings. Speaking for myself, I view Django as a popcorn flick and not a bible study class, the underground railroad, nor a history lesson. As Jug has expertly expressed, Django cannot be all things for all people. So I have decided to take the good and leave the bad for those who love nothing more than bitching and moaning and wallowing in negativity.

  • bondgirl | June 9, 2012 5:59 PM

    I don't bow at the altar of Spike, nor Tarantino. I take each project on its own merit, and decide if it's worth my $12-15. I doubt anyone will defend QT for other films he has done, so it's not about his oeuvre that is being debated, it is the synopsis of Django that's causing the controversy. How can you not see that?

  • Curtis | June 9, 2012 5:40 PM

    Well good for you Neziah. Keep up the good work.

  • Neziah | June 9, 2012 5:33 PM

    By the way, I actually have defended Spike on this blog numerous times. CareyCarey can back me up on that. Some could say I defend him TOO much.

  • Neziah | June 9, 2012 5:29 PM

    I wouldn't be caught dead defending "Miracle At St Anna" or "Kobe Doin' Work". ;)

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