“Django Unchained”: glamorizing or condemning slavery? Quentin Tarantino’s latest film was released in the winter to mixed reactions

By Chelsea Perera

Quentin Tarantino’s latest film “Django Unchained,” starring Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington, has been under scrutiny for what some say is an excessive amount of violence, particularly in regard to slavery in the antebellum south. Viewers familiar with Tarantino already know to expect the director’s signature style of offbeat violence. However, director Spike Lee said in an interview with Vice magazine that he refused to watch the film, claiming it was “disrespectful” to his ancestors. The movie, although characteristically fantastical, did not provide a tone of disrespect or flippancy in regards to slavery as many have claimed. A fair amount of condemnation in the film is towards slave owners themselves and others who implemented violence unto slaves.

Tarantino does an excellent job of relating slavery and racism with ignorance and the lack of education of most people at the time. There is a specific scene in which a white plantation owner must explain to his slaves that Django, played by Jamie Foxx, is a free black man. He struggles, rather hilariously, to explain that Django should not be treated as a slave but also not as a white man. Therein lies the beauty of “Django Unchained”: the film depicts the downright hideous nature of slavery while interjecting comedy as to not weigh down its audience.

The film’s characters also help paint a picture of life in the antebellum south. Django is portrayed as strong and quiet, with only his wife’s memory to help him persevere on his journey. Foxx coaxes sympathy from the viewer for Django. His companion, Dr. Schultz, portrays a doctor who unlike the majority of white characters in the film, sees a common thread of humanity in black people. Dr. Schultz, a whip smart and sometimes cutting figure, conveys that intelligence and compassion are somehow tied together, just as ignorance and prejudice are connected.

Although there are scenes of violence in the film that will be too much for some, particularly in the hands of DiCaprio’s wicked Calvin Candie, they are set off by the fact that the movie clearly vilifies those who profited from slavery. Django is after all, the film’s silent hero.