Why I Couldn't Handle the Violence in "Django Unchained"

Why I Couldn't Handle the Violence in "Django Unchained"

I saw Django Unchained on Christmas Day, because isn't that how the song goes? It's not "I heard the bells on Christmas Day," but "I saw Django on Christmas Day?" Anyway.

I'm not prissy when it comes to violence in movies, and I have loved many of Quentin Tarantino's movies in the past. In fact, I even loved this one. But I felt icky at the end.

A few of my friends mentioned on Twitter that they thought their discomfort with the violence in this movie vs. the violence in Inglorious Basterds has to do with being able to "hold another country's history at arm's length, but our own is in our face." But I also felt icky at the end of Inglorious Basterds. And that's on account of the acts of REVENGE at the end of each movie.

Both of these movies (SPOILER ALERTS) end with a bunch of bad people getting getting killed in a grand fashion. In Basterds, the Nazis were blown up inside a movie theater. In Django, the slavers were shot up and then blown up inside the Candieland plantation. In theory, I guess this sounds fine. Nazis getting exploded? Sure, why not? Slave owners dying at the hand of a former slave? Totally.

Except.

They performed all of these executions with such glee, such certainty, and such utter distaste for the other side as a whole. Django fought violence with a whole lot of violence, even killing a woman in cold blood who was, yes, complicit in perpetuating slavery on her family's plantation, but who herself was also a victim of the system. Both Django and Christoph Waltz's characters seemed to have little to no respect for white people in the south. Period. They put everyone in the same box, and stopped seeing the people for the group, which is simply not that much different than how the slavers saw the slaves. The whole thing just bummed me out. It reminded me of Abu Nazir's speech in Homeland this season about why the Arabs hate Americans so much. Granted, Django had a whole slew of reasons to hate the people who enslaved him and his wife, but...ugh...

I hate to play the Newtown, CT card here, but I will. There has been so much talk recently about guns and gun owners' rights and desensitization to violence, that I had trouble separating everything that has come up over these past few weeks from this movie. And the sheer joy and fist pumping that accompanied Django's gun-assisted massacre of a house full of people, freaked me out. Yes, these people were assholes who deserved some kind of comeuppance, but do we really want to cheer and laugh when a character (who was not even remotely the worst person in the house) keeps getting shot over and over and over again and not dying? (I will say this, though, considering that everyone in the house had guns on his person and still neglected to take down one little Django, this movie does nothing to help the NRA's assertion that more guns equals massacres don't happen.)

All of that said, no, I cannot think of a single person in Django Unchained who Django killed who was not a complete or near-complete wang. I just wished he would've shown someone some mercy to at least one slaver on the plantation so he or she could pay it forward and so that the Django character might have been able to hold on to some semblance of his humanity.

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