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Keli Goff: Django Unchained Violence May Be Racist

By Keli Goff

Just before Christmas I spent some time doing what a number of African American filmgoers have done over the last few weeks: debating the use of the “N-word” in Quentin Tarantino’s latest film Django Unchained. In my case, I was not just debating the issue with friends for the sake of doing so. The subject was one of the topics of discussion during a roundtable on the BET program Don’t Sleep. During the segment, my friend, HuffPost Live host, Marc Lamont Hill, and I disagreed on the “I’m black so I get to use the N-word whenever” pass that some members in our community believe we are entitled to, while simultaneously expressing outrage when a white person attempts to assert the same pass in certain circumstances, like when writing dialogue for a film such as Django Unchained.

One thing we seemed to agree on though is that Tarantino is talented, so wherever you came down on the “N-Word” argument, the film itself would, cinematically speaking, be a work of art. As a longtime Tarantino fan, I will admit I was a bit nervous though. I was hopeful that despite Spike Lee, and others’, previous high profile critique of the filmmaker’s use of the “N-word” as gratuitous and racially insensitive, that I would, at the end of the day, simply be able to enjoy a well-done film.

But in the end I couldn’t. Not because the use of the N-word was gratuitous, but because the explicit, ongoing violence directed at African-Americans — and only African-Americans — was. To be clear, there are plenty of white people who face violence in this film. After all in a Tarantino film violence is a given. So is revenge. But there is not a single scene of violence experienced by a white guy — good or bad — in this film that is remotely on par with the extended scenes of violence in which black men are on the receiving end. One scene in particular (spoiler alert) involving a slave and dogs is so graphic and disturbing I found myself covering my eyes for the first time in a theater, although it was not the last time before the film’s conclusion. And I’m someone who considers the artistry demonstrated in the fight scenes in Kill Bill on par with watching ballet.

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7 Responses to Keli Goff: Django Unchained Violence May Be Racist

  1. Kenneth Madison Reply

    January 4, 2013 at 11:32 am

    Why are you even writing about this? From the tone of your writing (I’m a little girl that had to cover her eyes at a movie) you are too sensitive to even write about this movie. Stick to Disney movies about Cinderella or something along that theme. History is about people (slaves) being whipped, beaten and killed in like manner. And I am sure the white slave masters used the word NIGGER alot. By the way, I am an african American so I can use the word Nigger. Sorry if that word also offends you but you live a real world not some candy coated one (that you want to live in).
    Please understand this is NOT a flame to you but words written from my heart, just as you have done in your blog.

  2. MzIndie Reply

    January 4, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    She is the epitomy of the description of a ‘slave minded” black person who takes up for Massa and how if Massa is sick WE’ZE all sick.. Stockholm Syndrome much, it is rather sad and ofcourse Huffington Post printed it to help ease white folks feelings.

  3. SevenThunders Reply

    January 6, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    Your problem was that the black deaths were more ‘violent’? Seriously? Getting shot in the nuts is less violent than getting chewed up by dogs?

    Does it comfort you that the white body count in this movie is probably 10 times as high as the black body count?

    Really let’s stick to a real critique and discuss the glaring flaws in this movie, outside of pure racial issues. It was a great movie with fascinating characters right up until it became a cartoon in the last 15 minutes.

    The cartoon started in the library scene where one of the most facinating characters in the movie, the German bounty hunter, decides to go completely out of character.

    After that it became a Clint Eastwood movie done poorly with senseless violence for violence sake. Even Tarantino himself sucks as a slave trading Aussie.

    For me the last part ruined the whole film and I simply couldn’t take it seriously. The violence was gratuitous, the ending predictable and I guarantee you it did nothing to help race relations.

    I really expected better of Tarantino.

  4. magerfoot Reply

    January 7, 2013 at 9:41 am

    It is a movie people,it is entertainment take it or leave it.Don’t expected this movie to do anything for race relationship,it is deeper than this movie.
    The year is 1858 these people call black people Niggers, even the black people thought that’s what they were and call each other same.

  5. Reginald Thurman Reply

    January 7, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Haven’t seen the movie yet but looking forward to it. I have to agree with everybody else that is blogging about it. This is about slavery. All movies about slavery is not going to be like roots. I can see that this is really how slavery was back then. I don’t have a problem with the word Nigger being used in a movie like this cause let’s face it what other words was they calling us back then? They called grown black men boys and called black women nigger bitches. So this to me is nothing. Now far as you Keli Goff you need to find something else to watch cause this is real. Hell even Jamie Fox and Keri Washington and Samuel L. Jackson said that this movie might piss some people off or make you a little bit uncomfterble. So you should have taken he’d to their warnings. That’s your fault.

  6. Montest Eaves Reply

    January 7, 2013 at 11:17 am

    I knew this piece was in trouble when I read the title: “….MAY be racist” Way to pick a position. Seriously, it sends the message that you want to pick a fight..between OTHER people but you’d like to keep some deniability. In case you find yourself at a party with Jamie Fox one day. That’s kinda lame. As is your premise that the movie is racist (excuse me, MAY be racist), because there is more violence to black characters than white. The movie takes place two years before the civil war, in the Deep South. During slavery. Hint, hint. If there were not significant and significantly ugly violence against Black people it would be guilty of “whitewashing” slavery, and that WOULD be racist. Actually your argument is that the violence was more intense against Black people and you support that with one single incident that disturbed you. I believe a previous post draws your attention to the white guy being shot in a place that made every man in theater wince. But really, your argument is COMPLETELY, subjective. And, come to think of it, could be applied to Roots and pretty much any movie depicting slavery with anything approaching realism. As a Black man, I’m a little offended by people like Spike Lee( never thought I’d say that) and yourself trying to grab headlines by raising the question of a racism that doesn’t exist here. It cheapens the struggle.

  7. penny Reply

    July 28, 2013 at 8:23 am

    I have not seen the movie, but you should not ever watch the Passion of Christ where a white Jesus gets whipped bloodied a lot ,It was at this black Church and Blacks were laughing. Sounds racist, as if they liked it. Can’t change people over night. And riots, killing for revenge, an innocent person, will never have Gods grace.

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