For descendants of slaves, and all Americans, our ovens -- the slave plantations -- are tourist destinations and wedding venues, home to preservation societies and guided tours. The "good ole days," when faceless black folks with zero potential were merely quiet, collateral damage.
America's minimal comprehension of slavery combined with the kind of trivialization "Django" offers renders us ill-equipped to empathize with its victims. This is a chicken or the egg manipulation: "Do I know nothing about the complexity of slavery because it's not that big a deal, or must it not be that big a deal because I'm only vaguely informed?"
None of my criticisms would be different had the person in the director's chair been a different color (though all widely released American films heavily involving slavery in the United States have been directed by white men). My concerns are limited to the onscreen material, its advertised aims and the consequences.
We try so hard to distance ourselves from the generations that made a business out of systematically crippling a people and the public's vision of their abilities and intentions. We're so different now, aren't we? We are civilized.
By popular measure, so were they.
And we deserve better, than this lazy, oversimplified reduction of our history.
(Note: On my blog I offer a detailed breakdown of the specific scenes that I found problematic.)
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