Django, Lincoln and our past.
People don’t talk about slavery; it’s not appropriate conversation. Maybe that’s the problem at hand; it’s just not tactful to talk about the subjugation of an entire race. In order to move past it, or at least try to educate ourselves about it, it needs to become part of the national discourse.
It’s a good thing then that two films have recently been released to add to the national discourse. “Django Unchained”, Tarantino’s revenge flick, and “Lincoln”, Spielberg’s historical drama, are the films invoking discussion. Both films deal with the issue of slavery in different ways, but they are both successful films that tackle an issue most of us would rather ignore.
Let’s focus on “Lincoln” first, as that film takes a look at the last days of a man who’s only desire was to end slavery. Whether or not historians actually agree with this portrayal of Lincoln, that’s how it was shown on screen. It looks at the final days of slavery as Lincoln struggles to pass the 13th Amendment.
It shows us a man on fire, willing to do anything to see the end of slavery. He works with enemies, he reaches across the aisle to end this thing that he hated. It shows the politics behind the end of slavery, and the man whose name is synonymous with the end of slavery.
While “Lincoln” focuses on ending slavery, the other film, “Django Unchained” really focuses on the meat of the issues, the slaves themselves.
The film, the usual Tarantino fare, focusing on the efforts of a freed slave Django to rescue his wife Broomhilda from the clutches of the despicable Calvin Candie, is a violent, fictionalized look at slavery in the south.
Whereas “Lincoln” focuses mostly on the struggle to pass the 13th amendment, and not really the horror of slavery, Django focuses on the complete opposite. It focuses on the way slaves lived on plantations and the way slaves and freed African-Americans were treated in the South.
Like “Lincoln,” Django takes some liberties with its portrayal of history. The scenes can sometimes get a little too violent, and some of them are violent enough to evoke an emotional response from the audience.
Django feels like the movie about slavery that this country needs, almost. Though it is purely fiction, it still tries to be honest in its portrayal of the brutality of slavery and the way many people talked and thought about slaves.
Both films are great works and should be honored as such, but they both try to do something more for the people of our country. They provide a socially acceptable way for us to talk about something that has evaded conversation for far too long. We now have the excuse, a reason, to talk and really think about it critically.
Since both of the films have done well in the box office, we can assume that America may finally be ready to take on and approach the topic of slavery. Even if it takes a few more years and a few more movies to make us really think about what happened, one day soon we’ll be ready to talk about what we can’t forgive ourselves for.