Slavery remains American’s original sin, written into the original U.S. Constitution and responsible for the country’s ever-evolving, ever-complicated attitudes about race. So when a director like Quentin Tarantino decides to use slavery as the backdrop for his spaghetti Western revenge fantasia Django Unchained, it should not be exactly surprising that the film has come under a great deal of scrutiny.
What should be surprising — what should be at the center of any conversation about slavery and the movies — is how infrequently the words “slavery and the movies” are spoken in the same sentence.
Last month, Spike Lee declared he would not see Django Unchained, tweeting “American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It Was A Holocaust” — a not so subtle implication that American slavery is too fraught to serve as a venue for Tarantino’s unique blend of genre-smashing, blood-splattering filmmaking. Training Day director Antoine Fuqua later admonished Lee for not airing his beef with Tarantino in private, declaring “I don’t think Quentin Tarantino has a racist bone in his body.” (When reached by EW, a rep for The Weinstein Company and Tarantino had no comment regarding either statement.) But Spike Lee is far from alone in expressing concerns about Tarantino’s tale of the titular freed slave (Jamie Foxx) who teams up with a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) to rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from a nefarious slaveholder (Leonardo DiCaprio). The public handwringing over the film has included its profligate use of the N-word (sparking a most fascinating exchange between Samuel L. Jackson and a white journalist over speaking the word aloud); its impact among African-American cultural tastemakers and audiences; and its appropriateness for teenage audiences (as penned by EW’s Abby West).
None of the controversies have exactly harmed the film’s box office; quite the opposite, it just zoomed past $100 million this weekend, en route to becoming Tarantino’s biggest hit to date. READ FULL STORY