Many Black men worship and argue in defense of Django Unchained because they perceive themselves (vicariously) through this film as finally having “equal” access to patriarchal power as White men, who patriarchal Black men ultimately admire, while being able to kill White men, who patriarchal Black men ultimately despise. This emotional and sociopolitical binary of admiring the power a White man has and how he uses it, but despising White men who oppress them and keep them from this power is what fuels the energy of the defense of this film that some Black men have. This same patriarchal power structure is what many Black men personally seek to emulate (or protect, when it already exists) among Black people, and have convinced themselves that it is liberating for us as a race, despite the fact that it clearly is not. (Such power requires domination over Black women through sexism and misogynist acts, and of course, disdain for all that is perceived as “feminine,” including gay Black men. I alluded to this in #5 of my post, 7 Attacks on Feminism). When Jamie Foxx champions this exact thing (i.e. mentioning getting to kill White people, when he was on Saturday Night Live), it moves such thoughts outside of film and into life, though such championing isn’t needed since cultural production already impacts life in a multitude of ways.
Kerry Washington has alluded to the fact that “Broomhilda” is a feminist role since Black women are denied the “femininity” of being a “damsel in distress,” instead of her seeing that it is most certainly sexism that fuels such a role, off screen and on screen, and it being denied to Black women while given to White women is a product of the hierarchy that White supremacy creates, but is still a sexist construction for White women. It is not feminist. (As I’ve mentioned before, Black women have to be careful about assuming acquiring a status or something that White women have as “feminist,” especially if it is STILL sexist, and only denied to us because of White supremacy.) However, instead of processing this “damsel in distress” role (and a “damsel in distress” is still “free” [despite being subject to sexism] not a slave; slavery complicates this construction even further) as the feminist empowerment that Kerry suggested, many Black men see it as the sexist role it is…and they like it. They see no womanly empowerment here. And, they are pleased.
“Django” becomes “free” and “equal” (and even the subject of “equality” is up for debate, as many essays on this film have clearly illustrated how it’s more of a White man “civilizing” the “brute” by teaching him a “manly” trade so that they can perform patriarchal masculinity and violence together; he’s still being “saved” amidst an unequal power dynamic) to White men in this film in some Black men’s minds, is able to exert “power” in the form of violence against White men, and the Black woman is still subservient, less than, and needs to be “saved.” If this isn’t a heterosexual patriarchal Black man’s fantasy come true, nothing is. They will not see this film as degrading. It’s their dream. They feel affirmed…heroic even. Heroism itself is usually a patriarchal construction.
It doesn’t matter how dangerous this is, how toxic, how ahistorical, how ludicrous, nor how disrespectful and grandiose Tarantino acts about this. His interviews (and I favoritied some tweets by @sisterprofessor revealing the sheer disgust of one of his interviews) about the film have been one sociopolitical car crash and White supremacist affirmation session after another. It doesn’t matter to these Black men who idolize this film. They see him making the film as White approval of Black men, which is what they desire, as they battle internalized White supremacy. They see “Django’s” actions as “equalizing” within the film, which is also processed as White approval. It doesn’t matter that the real White supremacist hierarchy that exists in the film is replicated in real life, as the White men in the film are slathered with award nominations and the Black cast is not. One Black male fan of the film even suggested to me that “anyone” could play the Black roles. He…didn’t see the problem with this suggestion when juxtaposed to the honors bestowed upon the White men in the film. This film is so critically important to Black men yet the characters that are Black are disposable, could be “anyone” and don’t deserve awards? Slave masters in films deserve awards. Slaves do not. Black men don’t see the parallels to life here? The worst part though? The Black men so eager for patriarchy’s version of “equality” on screen and off, literally defended the White performances as “Oscar-calibre” and the Black ones as not worthy. They…didn’t see a problem with this. White men didn’t have to convince them of a thing for this film; internalized White supremacist thought took over. This film is so powerful and affirming to them, “Django” is a hero to them, a Black man finally had patriarchal power, “equality” with White men, to both idolize and kill them, a Black woman was finally the subservient role they dream of…yet…no one Black deserved an award? (To be clear, this work isn’t award-worthy to me; I’m just stating its interesting how it’s so “transformative” for patriarchal Black men, yet they’re content with the actors being disposable and ignored, on top of the other problems with this film that I’ve mentioned.) They see no conflict with this. And this…is why this film is destructive….the most destructive I’ve encountered in a few years.
I previously said that I was done discussing this film as I wrote a rant about it a few weeks ago after I myself was attacked by Black men for not worshipping this film AND for critically thinking about media in general. But, I really had to think about the film on a deeper level and what creates the blind worship and loyalty to it by so many Black men, as more and more have attacked me over it. I’ve encountered Black women who insult anyone who critically thinks about media, in general, and specifically this film, but overall, it’s primarily been by Black men for this film. If Black men aren’t going to critically think about race and gender, let alone White supremacy and its impact on media AND are going fight to silence media critique, they’d be easily swayed and taken in by this film. This propaganda, collection of dysfunction and patriarchal ideation portrayed as a film is a soothing balm to unsatiated patriarchal desires that Black men have, finally fully realized on screen. It’s the power, the revenge against/”equality” with White men, and domination over Black women that they desire. Is it transformative and liberating to Black people though? NO.
Critically-thinking Black women and men shouldn’t be surprised by this, after all. I no longer am. Disgusted? Sure. Tired of White supremacist capitalist patriarchy and its intersection with Hollywood? Sure. Fully aware that some Black people believe that Black people should applaud what they think is White approval and also adamantly refuse to critically think about media? Sure. Even more aware that ignorant labels will be applied to Black critical thinkers, labels such as “pseudo-intellectual” or “fake militant” or “fake conscious” for daring to critique what a White man has made? Sure. (Some Black people seem to have zero problem with White people critiquing and disliking the film though, which of course is typical.) Aware that some Black people think telling some Blacks “well don’t see the film then!” means they think this
propagandafilm won’t affect culture itself? Sure. Aware that some will use the silencing tactic of “well make your own $100 million dollar film then!” as if even if I could, and did, this film’s issues wouldn’t evaporate? Sure. Surprised though? Nope.
I now expect the deep, oh so deep ignorance from some Black people that will read like: “who cares what you think, Tarantino is laughing all the way to the bank!” Well of course he is. White men have had hearty laughs at our expense for centuries. Even Black people who now create cultural products to also reaffirm White supremacy “laugh all the way to the bank” too. Interesting that our culture, our traditions, our experiences, our history, our families, our friends, our music, our marriages, our legacies, our love, are one big White supremacist capitalist patriarchal joke and honestly, I hear Black people laughing as hard and as loud as Whites are.
Don’t mind me though…I’m not laughing. Not at all.
This propaganda, collection of dysfunction and patriarchal ideation portrayed as a film is a soothing balm to unsatiated patriarchal desires that Black men have, finally fully realized on screen. It’s the power, the revenge against/”equality” with White men, and domination over Black women that they desire. Is it transformative and liberating to Black people though? NO.
Tarantino played to those very desires deliberately. I used to think Tarantino didn’t make this film with a black audience in mind, but now I’m confident he did. Tarantino scored the final plantation house shootout to Tupac for a reason. He named Broomhilda “von Shaft”for a reason. He crafted a film that he thought would appeal to those patriarichal fantasies that he thinks are cornerstones this black culture that he is so fascinated by.
So if any of that mess resonated with you, if you didn’t find any of it unsettling…