Django ‘the exceptional n*gger’

by Joseph Guthrie

It was the film everyone was talking about for months on end. Django Unchained had taken the world by storm and Quentin Tarantino had once again made a cultural masterpiece it seemed; another ultra-violent instant classic Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Christoph Waltz – who won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a Bafta for Best Supporting Actor –  all did exceptionally well with the roles they were given in this over-the-top antebellum era western film, keeping the film’s dialogue as engaging as the brutal shootouts. As I sat with my missus to watch the film everyone raved about, I was taken on an emotional journey that I’ll not forget about in a hurry.

I’m not here to debate the historical inaccuracies of Django. Frankly, every film set in a particular era like the antebellum one has its inaccuracies and so does Django. The Top 10 Most Historically Inaccurate Movies  I won’t debate the frequent usage of the word ‘nigger.’  Not only is this debate never-ending but in my opinion, it wasn’t the word that made the film such a challenge to watch. I’m also not here to talk about the perceived anti-white people rhetoric that this film was purported to have.  To put to you point-blankly, I feel these white men that write in to newspapers or verbalise their views live on television about how they fear black people everywhere will massacre them like the title character did his aggressors is about as over-the-top and believable as the film itself. No, none of these things in the film turned the underside of my solar plexus into a battlefield where the war between intense rage and a deep anguish fought for supremacy.

django-foxx-washingtonDjango was as emotionally challenging to watch as Roots, Queen, Rosewood, and Amistad.  Why?  Simple, really: I find it difficult to watch dramatisations of how black people were treated during these eras… and I believe no amount of bold and daring reprisals would ever truly accurately depict the treatment of blacks just like The Passion of the Christ will never really accurately depict how Christ was believed to be literally beaten to a pulp before and during his crucifixion.  It’ll always be a case of “close but no cigar” for me.
Nevertheless, the treatment of slaves and black people gets to me no matter how many times I tell myself: ‘Relax, mate. It’s a film. It’s not the genuine article.’ It was the viewing of the scars on their backs; seeing them whipped and made as an example; seeing the women raped (not in Django, mind;, seeing legions of blacks transported in ships and chains; seeing them oiled up to make them look more attractive to potential buyers; seeing them treat as something less than human; seeing the elite white males justify their bigotry and belief in white supremacy with warped logic and venom-tinged rhetoric (DiCaprio’s character called someone like Django ‘the exceptional nigger,’

1 in every 10,000); it was these things that made the film such an emotional struggle.  It’s these things that remind me of the historical events that actually did happen that so few know about.   It’s these things that remind me how far the world has come and it’s the mixed bag of reactions and comment pieces that serve as a further reminder of how much further we’ve got to go.

Don’t get me wrong: Django – from a strictly artistic standpoint – deserves the accolades it got, in my opinion.  I just won’t be in a hurry to watch it again.  Some people will never understand why but that I think is down to a lack of empathy… and empathy is something I have in abundance when I watch films set in these particular eras where dogs and horses were treat with a higher regard than black people were.  I will never not have that kind of emotional reaction and it is my belief that those who are unmoved when viewing the depictions of slavery that are the ones who truly have a problem.  Not me.

Joseph Guthrie is a UK-based IT professional, musician, and writer.  Originally from south London, most of his education was set in central Florida (United States). He’s now back in the UK. When he’s not working for a major public internet service provider, he’s the frontman for the band Colourblynd. He also contributes to music blog Sampleface. Away from music, he is an avid writer. Primarily contributing to his own blog, he writes opinion pieces typically about gaming, sports, and politics. @theauracl3

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