Movie Review: Django Unchained

djangoI’ve always mistrusted the American devotion to redemption through retributive violence.

I don’t believe that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun take him out in slow mo.

Then I see the ultimate example of the salvific effects of bloodshed. Two hundred years of torture and rape eradicated by one badass black gunfighter.

Django Unchained pits a man who has always been a slave and his only friend, an immigrant outsider, against the institution, slavery, that gave Thomas Jefferson the leisure to write “All men are created equal…” Slavery made “Liberty” possible. Django doesn’t just shoot down his wife’s tormenters, he blows up the American Enlightenment.

Slavery and the violence against non-whites that it required are so essential to the character of our country that their residue can still be smelled whenever Birther fulminations against a “Kenyan President” are heard. I grew up at a time when white people believed they had the right to beat blacks with clubs if they tried to vote. In our time, when a recent poll shows that a majority of my white fellow Americans hold racist views of blacks, I know that this is good as it has ever been for African Americans. Black kids grow up assured that even if they grow up to be president, half of all whites will still not consider them part of the “Real America.”

Django, the slave freed by a German Liberal, is the Siegfried, or Freeman, of the Götterdämmerung of slavery’s gods in this movie. His rescue of his wife, Brünnhilde, is incidental to his role as the man who brings down the old white gods who had the power to order the destruction of the bodies of their black slaves. The twilight of these idols comes with the splatter and explosions you’d expect from a Tarantino film, but throws the post-Civil War radical’s quandary into sharp relief. Without the inhumane slaughter of those whose violence kept blacks in chains, freedom would always be jealously assailed by whites dispossessed of their fortunes in human flesh. Django and his wife can only escape to freedom if those who enslaved them cannot follow them from the grave.


About Patrick Young

Program Director of the Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) and Supervising Attorney for the Westchester Hispanic Coalition. Blogs for Long Island Wins and New York State Immigrant Action Fund
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