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Spike Lee right about ‘Django,’ but for the wrong reasons

Christoph Walz (left) plays Dr. King Schultz 'Django Unchained' which also features Jamie Foxx title role.  |  The

Christoph Walz (left) plays Dr. King Schultz in "Django Unchained," which also features Jamie Foxx in the title role. | The Weinstein Co. photo

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Updated: February 1, 2013 6:12AM



Spike Lee made me do it. I wasn’t planning to see “Django Unchained,” but my annoyance quotient shot sky-high after Lee trashed the new Quentin Tarantino film about a runaway-slave-turned-bounty-hunter who exacts revenge on his white oppressors.

Days before the movie opened, the iconic and influential filmmaker tweeted: “American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It Was A Holocaust. My Ancestors Are Slaves. Stolen From Africa. I Will Honor Them.”

In an interview with Vibe TV, Lee also declared the film was “disrespectful to my ancestors” and argued, “I can’t speak on it ’cause I’m not gonna see it.”

I usually avoid films by Tarantino, who some regale for peddling gratuitous violence as art. But Lee hit the trip wire on my No. 1 pet peeve. You can’t criticize something you have not seen.

So there I was last Wednesday, buttered popcorn at hand, to see for myself.

The movie was brilliantly cast, wonderfully acted, and provocative. Still, I wish Lee hadn’t made me do it.

Lee was right, but for the wrong reasons. I had no problem with the slavery storyline and its searing portrayal of America’s most brutal legacy. Slavery is an ugly remnant of America’s past, but one we should never forget.

Yet the movie also celebrated a brand of violence that still dominates our culture today. It glorified relentlessly vicious, redundant and robotic portrayals of gun violence.

“Django Unchained” is a shameless commentary on how accepting, even embracing, we have become of murderous violence that masquerades as “entertainment.”

After Newtown, Tarantino and Co. knew they had a problem. So, on Dec. 17, in a nod to the massacre of 26 women and children, the film’s studio, the Weinstein Company, canceled a planned red carpet Los Angeles premiere and party for the film, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Then, after all the dead children were buried, the movie opened, as scheduled, on Christmas Day. How ironic.

After Newtown, even after the multitudinous “enough-is-enough” calls for more gun control, “Django” shows America is still happy to entertain its obsessive fascination with gun violence.

In scene after scene, scores of people are graphically shot to death. The portrayals are so repugnant that I was forced to shield my eyes, again and again, from the grisly scenes.

As I looked away, I looked around the movie theater. Dozens of my fellow moviegoers were not flinching. They were looking straight ahead, their wide eyes riveted on the bloody horrors.

We mourn and gnash our teeth about real-life massacres, yet revel in fictional ones.

It’s just a movie, right? It’s not Newtown. Not Aurora, or Milwaukee, Tucson, Columbine, Fort Hood, Virginia Tech. Or the dozens of children shot down on the streets of Chicago.

Our passive acceptance that “it’s just a movie” confirms America’s addiction to a culture of violence. That’s a 21st century brand of slavery.



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