So, Tarantino says that the Drug Wars and Justice system are modern-day slavery. | THE FILMS OF CINEMA | Forum
While he's obviously correct that they are filled with monstrous injustice, it makes me kind of question whether or not he actually knows what slavery was. Comparing any other social injustice to slavery seems so hyperbolic as to be irresponsible. I certainly never thought DJANGO was actually going to have any thoughtful point to make about slavery, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it anyway. But it does feel weird to have a film which uses slavery as kind of an emotional catalyst without having any real comment to make about it. Or maybe not, I don't know. It does make it a little hard to not feel like the folks accusing Tarantino of being exploitative are not entirely out of line. I suppose we can't judge until we see the movie, but I thought it was worth mulling over. Here's the link to the article:
I've not seen "Django" yet so obviously I can't comment on that. But it seems to me that you guys have a system where you lock your black men away in huge numbers - far, far out of proportion to other races - and then force them to work, unpaid, in prisons for twelve hours a day, producing products that are then sold for profit. If that isn't slavery, what the heck is?
Paul -- it's monstrously unjust and the cause for much misery and many problematic social issues. But it's a little different than systematically enslaving a race of people, kidnapping them, breaking up their families, raping them, whipping them, and denying their <i>fundamental humanity</i>. Our current justice system has echos of the kind of horror that slavery produced because it's a distant echo of that system. But arguing the two are identical is just asinine. If Tarantino thinks they're the same, I can only think that he simply doesn't understand the true soul-killing horror of slavery. It's like comparing being brutally raped to being bullied in the 2nd grade. They're both unfair, they're both bad, but one is CLEARLY in another league of awfulness.
Also, it's a little annoying to call ANYTHING "Modern Slavery" while so much <i>actual</i> modern slavery still exists, but I guess he can't be expected to know much about that. My original point still stands, though. Tarantino's always been a hyperbolic douchebag and I don't expect it will negatively affect his film (it never has in the past, anyway) but I'll be interested to see exactly how he handles this particularly sensitive issue (for Americans).
Mr Subtlety raises someting that is interesting; the accusation of Tarantino being exploitative. His movies are basically more artistic exploitation-movies. But since DJANGO UNCHAINED brings up a more sensitive issue than his previous movies ( well, except that one time Hitler was shot to hell completely historically incorrect) it makes sense and I can understand it. But hell, its exploitation-movies,right?
Shoot -- I'd agree that all Tarantino film are basically exploitation movies, and I don't even know that I'd call them more artistic (just better). Is it wrong to make an exploitation movie about slavery? I didn't think so originally, but I had to admit that seeing the film with a big audience who thought it was absolutely fucking hi-larious did end up bugging me more than I thought (see my post in that film's comment section). Ultimately, I don't think Tarantino is mired by thoughts of good taste or social responsibility, but I can sort of understand why a lot of people were uneasy with the idea. To Americans, slavery is still an insanely touchy issue, and even though the institution of slavery is gone it's effects are still deeply felt and hence hard to put behind us. I don't know how to describe it to someone who lives outside the US. Tarantino already made a WWII exploitation movie, but maybe people would have felt differently about it if it was actually ABOUT the holocaust. Say, the "Basterds" spent the first half of the movie watching people get gassed to death (in a series of darkly funny quip-fests) before they get their revenge. Would that seem to be in unacceptably poor taste, or would we just laugh and say, "well, what do you expect, it's an exploitation movie, it's not supposed to be in good taste or be an actual exploration of the issue?"
That question is entirely rhetorical, by the way, because I honestly don't know. I think I would never tell someone that they shouldn't make a work of art they feel motivated to make, but that doesn't mean we're not tasked with asking ourselves what it means, and what it means to us.
I think that there's this whole notion that if something is "just" a movie then you shouldn't make it about something sensitive, because movies themselves aren't that serious and so you're automatically making light of the subject. Or if you are going to make a film about something sensitive, it has to be produced and marketed with an aura of traditional Oscar-bait-ness.
Do you really think DJANGO is more exploitative than, say, HOTEL RWANDA? I would argue the exact opposite. HOTEL RWANDA is still an exploitation film; people go see it to have their emotions stroked, their adrenaline amped, their tears jerked, etc. They get to pat themselves on the back and put it on top-10's and give it awards because it was a Serious Film, but in my opinion you could substitute the genocide in that film for any other catastrophe, and it's just like any disaster movie. A good disaster movie, and one that exploits a real-life tragedy to amp up its perceived artistic value. The difference with DJANGO and BASTERDS is that these films actually demonstrate some awareness of the exploitative properties of art and are interested in generating discussion about them.
I mean, to Tarantino, it's not "just" a movie. To Tarantino, movies are God. Look at how much content there was in BASTERDS about the power of film as a sociological weapon, and even as an actual physical weapon (it can be used to blow up nazis). I gotta say I disagree with Mr. Subtlety's hesitation to call this stuff artistic. Aren't we supposed to be FANS of film here? Of course it's art, right? At any rate the extent to which Tarantino is like the world's biggest film fan has been well documented so I think that's where you gotta frame the discussion, as if he (Tarantino) is genuinely reverent towards the medium.
Renfield -- first off, I'm certainly not saying Tarantino isn't artistic, I'm just saying it's "more artistic" than the exploitation movies referenced by Shoot. Not a slight against Tarantino, rather trying to say that ALL art is, you know, artistic. Tarantino makes better movies, but I think it's silly to say one is "more art" than another.
Secondly -- as you correctly discern, the difference between HOTEL RAWANDA and DJANGO: UNCHAINED (boy, when I woke up this morning I didn't think I'd type that sentence) is arguably in the way they treat their subjects. HOTEL at least purports to be attempting to educate as much as entertain; it's trying to tell real people's stories and hence wants to give them a degree of dignity, respect, and solemnity for their tragedy. We watch (we claim) to better understand, to empathize, to make the events more real to us. Whether or not you buy that, or should buy that, I don't know. But DJANGO nakedly eschews that approach, and instead approaches the subject comparatively lightly. DJANGO has no intentions (or pretensions, perhaps) of educating you or helping you better come to grips with the legacy of American chattel slavery. Instead, it's just a fun revenge movie.
Obviously, the question sort of comes down to one of respect -- approaching a topic flippantly socially demonstrates your ease with the issue. If you're easy with the issue, it obviously doesn't bother you much, so goes the logic. Tarantino's approach, and his general demeanor about films, demonstrates that he draws a very clear, stark distinction between movies and real life. I honestly think he doesn't really connect the slavery depicted in his movie with slavery that really happened in real life, just as he feels no need to connect his other historical movie with any real history, or even historical fact. To him, screen Hitler and screen slavery have no relation to real Hitler or real slavery. In fact, to Tarantino personally I suspect movies are often MORE real than "reality." But most people don't feel that way -- people tend to think of art as representational. They see a artistic depiction of slavery as symbolically representational of real slavery, and don't understand how you could possibly approach such a painful and horrifying topic so lightly. This is where the disconnect occurs. That's why I was more troubled by the audience's reaction to the movie than I was about Tarantino making it. I don't think he has the slightest interest in exploring reality, he just loves, learns, and lives movies, as you correctly point out. But most of us don't see the world quite the same way, and a result you get some of the awkward experiences people had with Django, varying based on the degree to which they were able to separate Tarantino's fictional world from the real one.
"Not a slight against Tarantino, rather trying to say that ALL art is, you know, artistic. Tarantino makes better movies, but I think it's silly to say one is "more art" than another. "
AHHH, I totally misunderstood. In that case I completely agree.
Stay tuned for my next post from tomorrow evening, in which I address the rest of your thoughts...
"DJANGO has no intentions (or pretensions, perhaps) of educating you or helping you better come to grips with the legacy of American chattel slavery. Instead, it's just a fun revenge movie. "
I guess my beef is that you're still saying it's "just" a whatever. Perhaps you're right, objectively, but I don't know that for Tarantino the film is "just" about having fun. I suppose it's the difference between: is he exploiting slavery for something he believes is whimsical, or something he believes is powerful?
I'd have to watch RWANDA, but when I saw it, it struck me as having *token* scenes that act like they're educating you. Which is more patronizing and misleading than simply not going there at all, isn't it?
Renfield -- I don't think he thinks real-life slavery is whimsical OR powerful, I don't think he knows anything about it or cares much. I think he understands that the scenario is a perfect setup for revenge which he doesn't have to explain or delve into. It's the same way he used Hitler -- as cinematic shorthand which everyone understands. Of course we're gonna root for Django to kill slavers, everyone hates slavers. Of course we're gonna root against Hitler -- he's Hitler! He doesn't have to explain these things or relate them to real life, they're just cultural icons to him. To Tarantino, they're vastly more important as elements of our artistic lexicon than they are as actual events, so he doesn't really get why people get so up in arms about him utilizing them to have some genre movie fun. It probably feels to him like how people whining about Wolverine only having 3 claws instead of 5. But there are a lot of people out there for whom these historical events are still very real and very painful, and they don't differentiate between the representations in pop culture and the real events they see them as representational of. So, to my eye the problem with Tarantino is that he just sees the issue in very different terms.
As for HOTEL RWANDA, I don't know, I haven't seen it. I do get a little annoyed at movies which get overly sanctimonious about issues they also indulge in. LORD OF WAR is a good example, which gets super butthurt about gun violence while at the same time having a bunch of exciting shootouts. So I get your point, definitely. You can't have it both ways. On the other hand, I do think it's possible to do a legit entertaining "issue" movie while not being patronizing and hypocritical.
onthewall2983 -- Yeah, HOUSE I LIVE IN really does a great job of laying out the injustices of the "war on drugs" (I'm assuming you're referring to the 2012 Documentary by Eugene Jareki). Actually it kind of makes me wonder what a Tarantino film on the subject would be like. Has the drug war/drug trade been fictionally depicted enough that Tarantino could find an in?
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