Director Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" grossed $14 million on Tuesday, breaking a box office record for the highest grossing R-rated movie with a Christmas Day opening. Given this feat and the multiple Golden Globe and NAACP nods the film has received, one would think that "Django Unchained" is a movie without controversy. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. Everyone from conservative whites to liberal blacks have slammed the slave-revenge film in which Jamie Foxx plays a slave-turned-bounty hunter who kills whites as he tries to reunite with his wife (Kerry Washington), a slave sold to an especially unscrupulous plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Director Spike Lee is arguably the most prominent critic to come out against the film, commenting before its release that he would not see it because "it's disrespectful to my ancestors." Others took issue with the film because of its excessive use of the N-word and its occasional comedic turns. Costume designer Barbara Chennault told the Los Angeles Times that she had mixed feelings about the film. "I don't think that slavery is something you can make light of," she said. "Overall the movie was jarring and unsettling, but the humor totally distracted from the depth."
The gossip website Gawker even featured a piece called "The Django Moment; or, When Should White People Laugh in Django Unchained?" In the article, writer Cord Jefferson explains the discomfort he felt during a "Django" showing when a white man in the audience laughed as a slave owner played by Tarantino threw dynamite into a cage filled with blacks. "Throughout the film, I'd laughed along with everyone in the theater as a lynch mob of bumbling rednecks planned to slaughter ...Django...But for whatever reason, the dynamite in the slave cage was a bridge too far for me," Jefferson explained. "What the f--k is he laughing at? I thought, and just like that, the theater went from a place of communal revelry to a battleground."
The odd thing about the backlash against "Django Unchained" is that Gina McCauley of the blog What About Our Daughters predicted in October that the film would generate outcry from blacks. "You and your outrage are anticipated as a tool to market the movie," she wrote then. "While black women and black people for that matter are not the target audience for 'Django Unchained,' you and your outrage are needed as part of Tarantino's marketing plan."
Do you agree with McCauley? Have you seen "Django Unchained?" Does the film make a mockery of slavery or is its message meaningful and thought provoking?