While this year marks the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation which freed millions of slaves, slavery continues to be at the forefront of the American imagination. Now a controversial new film by Director Quentin Tarantino called “Django Unchained” set in the antebellum South tells the story of a former slave played by Jamie Foxx who rescues his enslaved wife from a plantation with the help of a white bounty hunter.
The film has so far grossed close to 80 million dollars at the box office and most mainstream critics have given the film glowing reviews. The NAACP has even nominated the film for four Image Awards including Best Picture. But some in the African American community have voiced concerns about a film which is filled with stereotypical characters, one-dimensional female roles, and has over a 100 uses of the N-word. Film maker Spike Lee called for a complete boycott of the film which he says is “. . . disrespectful to my ancestors.” According to Lee, “American slavery was not a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It was a Holocaust.” Yet, exit polls have found that about 30% of the film’s audience has been African American.
Tarantino, who is well known for his incredibly violent portrayals from “Reservoir Dogs” to “Inglorious Bastards” has said, “Even for the movie’s biggest black detractors, I think their children will grow up and love this movie. I think it could become a rite of passage for young black males.” But many critics have questioned the intentions of a filmmaker who celebrates male domination and violence in a community which suffers from its ill effects to this day.
GUEST: Erin Aubry Kaplan a writer and journalist, contributing writer to LA Times Opinion, and author of Black Talk, Blue Thoughts, and walking the Color Line: Dispatches from a Black Journalista
Watch Uprising’s exclusive interview with Erin Aubry Kaplan from October 2011, discussing her book, Black Talk, Blue Thoughts: