Jan 24, 2013 - Issue 501

Zero Dark Nigger

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During the annual Golden Globe awards, film director Quentin Tarantino responded backstage to the issue of his use of the N-word in his latest controversial movie “Django Unchained:”


“If somebody is out there actually saying when it comes to the word nigger, the fact that I was using it in the movie more than it was being used in the antebellum south in Mississippi, then feel free to make that case. But no one’s actually making the case. They are saying I should lie, that I should whitewash, that I should massage, and I never do that when it comes to my characters.”


Django (the D be silent) did win in the category of writing and acting, but not director. Perhaps Tarantino would have won if they finally made a category called “Blaxploitation Film.” The key to understanding Tarantino’s Django isn’t the N-word, as many people are venting much emotion over around the country. It’s the individualism of his principle character. Jamie Foxx’s Django paid scant attention to the plight of other slaves, he didn’t organize. Many blacks really don’t understand how offensive onscreen black unity is to whites today. It goes way back. White producers throughout the ages of motion pictures and television have watched blacks in all aspects of real-life occupations and professions while traveling to and from work, whether they be in Los Angeles CA, or New York City and the Buroughs, and most overwhelmingly made up their minds they weren’t going to show the full range of blacks in their stories. Once you understand that during those early years of Hollywood, production company owners, producers, screenwriters, and directors must have seen the black doctor, black lawyer, black police officer, black newspaper publisher, black-owned trucking company, black soldier, black pilot, black fighter-pilot with their own eyes, but agreed among themselves they were only going to show the black shoeshine “boy” or black house servant, then you’ll understand that was the main part of the Liars Club they agreed to form. Otherwise, this would be a different article you’re reading and I would be reviewing Quentin Tarantino’s ‘The Resurrection of Nat Turner.’


There are times I surprise myself; watching “Django” was one of those times. I thought that even though the N-word-spraying was a valid concern, it was still a good movie and acted well by all parties involved. It’s not unusual for Hollywood to use an actor or director to keep the N-word in circulation for a fresh new batch of young viewers every 10 or 15 years for fear that white suburban kids might grow up without ever hearing it (these Jewish, Italian and white executives do a lot of over-thinking). But given the situation the plot had this former slave, recruited to be bounty-hunter, back then it would be safe to assume it would inspire a plethora of “nigger” responses and remarks, given the period.


Though parts of the movie were grisly, such as Leonardo DiCaprio’s skull scene, and the extreme misogamy toward the slave women, particularly in the case of Django’s wife the bilingual Broomhilda von Shaft (Hildy), I wonder if there was too much negativity to hide one important aspect of the “Django?” - the fact that Tarantino actually captured the essence of what has been missing in most black roles. No, all black roles in films by white as well as black directors, not just in having a black guy kill the bad white guys, but having the black hero actually get the black girl and show them both riding off together in the moonlight. Taratino actually made you feel for the sisters. In his own bizarre way he was trying to portray Hildy as a classic damsel in distress we are trained to see only white women as. In an era of extreme violence, had DiCaprio just tied her to a railroad track, most of you would have been bored to sleep. Yes she was mysogamized (new word alert), but in the end she got the last laugh.


By contrast, “Red Tails” showed brothers in rarely seen great combat footage to match their real accomplishments, but the object of the chief character’s love was a white female. The same story goes for perpetual Hollywood gadfly, Spike Lee, his latest hater-aid is accusing Tarantino for doing something he himself has done for years: use a generous spray of N-words in his movies. A few years ago Lee complained about Clint Eastwood directing war movies about the Japanese. Lee’s “Miracle at St. Anna” had WWII soldiers literally fighting over a white female in Italy. Way to go Spike, you’re really showing them what for. Who else but the “Nigger”-loving Tarantino dares to write a save-the-world-and-get the-BLACK-girl story? Am I the only one seeing this?


This type of scenario wasn’t common in motion pictures since the 1970’s era of Black exploitation movies that were popular with mostly black audiences. It bears mentioning that most of those flicks were directed by white directors. Of course, Tarantino’s idea for this epic adventure-minus-history is based on a 1966 production of the same name starring Franco Nero. Quentin even uses the same theme music. What hurt this film the most is that he couldn’t post “Based on a True Story” before the opening credits. It’s every bit as Sci-Fi as “Kill Bill” except he could have named it “Kill Billy-Bob.”


For black history we once again turn to Steven Spielberg. Sorry “Django,” “Lincoln” is the big HNIC around these parts - another epic slave movie concurrently playing in theaters about the 16th President’s struggle to pass the 13th Amendment while some blacks were actually killing some white southerners. This story was based on a real live book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, not more obscure B-movies with titles like “A Fistful of Dagos,” or “A Few Niggers More.”


Tarantino could have done a story on one of quite a few “real life Djangos” that black journalists have been mentioning. Given the hundreds of slave revolts and slave ship mutinies that history documented, finding a character wouldn’t be too difficult. There is no shortage of blacks who killed whites back then, just a shortage of exposure to them. If for instance you need a black sharpshooter to fill your bill there is black US Deputy Marshall Bass Reeves. He was born a slave, served as a Union soldier, appointed US Marshall at the age of 38 in 1875, ten years after the passing of the 13th Amendment. Reeves arrested a whopping 3,000 felons black and white, and shot 14 without getting shot himself. Hell, he was the real “Gunsmoke.” Don’t blame Tarantino; as I said before, Hollywood knew these people existed and still knows, it’s a business run by extremely sensitive racist white egos. Tarantino probably had no other choice but to mold it as a “spaghetti western.” Remember the George Lucas difficulty in getting “Red Tails” produced. Black people started acting funny because they reasoned in their infinite wisdom that it was produced by a white guy, who had the nerve to have the trailer broadcast all over television. Tarantino knows how we would be if he based this on a true black character - shot down by today’s blacks.

BlackCommentator.com Columnist, Chris Stevenson, is a syndicated columnist, his articles also appear on his blog; the Buffalo Bullet. Follow him on Twitter @pointblank009) and Facebook (pointblank009). Support his petition to permanently Abolish the Death Penalty in the US the Troy Davis Bill, HR92111. Click here to contact Mr. Stevenson.