Home Home Language in Django Unchained: Is It Racism or Historical Accuracy?

Language in Django Unchained: Is It Racism or Historical Accuracy?

2 1988

Quentin Tarantino and controversy.  The two terms go hand-in-hand.  And with the release of Tarantino’s latest film Django UnchainedSpike Lee leads the controversy surrounding Tarantino’s excessive use of the N-word.  Is Spike Lee correct in protesting a racist film or is the entire situation being blown out of proportion?

For those not keeping up with Lee’s qualms about the film, Django Unchained uses the N-word over 100 times, something that Spike Lee feels is disrespectful to his ancestors.

django response

I have three issues with Spike Lee’s protestations.  The first: why is no one else up in arms?  If race was seriously the issue at the heart of this debate, wouldn’t other African-American actors be joining Lee?  Jamie Foxx stars in the movie and has no issue with the use of the word.  Samuel L. Jackson even refused to let an interviewer continue questioning him about the use of the word until the interviewer himself had said it.

And this isn’t the first time Spike Lee has criticized Tarantino for his supposedly racist films. Much like with Django, his protests against Pulp Fiction did nothing to stop its success in the box office and in awards.

My second, and probably largest, issue with Spike Lee’s argument is that Django Unchained is set in pre-Civil War America.  How can you have a movie set in this time period and not hold true to the language of the time.  While it at first seems like Tarantino may be pulling a stunt that’s guaranteed to garner attention, it may be more than that.  Kerry Washington stated in an interview that she had at first thought the horrible things that occurred in the film were a product of Tarantino’s twisted imagination.  It wasn’t until she saw the photographs and books did she realize that they were taken straight from history.  Tarantino’s use of the N-word is no different in my opinion.  Slavery and the Civil War are very much a part of American history.  Why try to gloss over the atrocities in our past because one person feels that it is disrespectful?  Is it not more disrespectful to sugarcoat the horrors and crimes committed against your ancestors?

Finally, before seeing Django Unchained or criticizing his use of language, it’s important to remember that this is a Quentin Tarantino film.  Tarantino has never shied away from violence or obscenities.  It’s part of his unique charm as a filmmaker.  Tarantino has his style and he’ll continue making movies how he wishes, whether or not it offends someone.  Perhaps Spike Lee should see the film and what Tarantino is trying to accomplish with it before he so readily protests.

Mackenzie is an Alabama native attending NYU and studying Journalism and Dramatic Literature. She hopes to one day live in London and write for the BBC.
  • Pingback: Django Unchained | Cinematic Public Enemy()

  • give it a rest

    i really did not think the movie was meant to disrespect slavery like Mr. Lee and Rev. Sharpton keep protesting. Some of the Spike Lee movies in his earliest career where border line bafoonery. Franco Nero was nothing like the cowboys of the old west it was a movie.