“The movie’s lines between fantasy and the actual myopic perspectives on history were so hazy that the audience wasn’t asked to suspend disbelief, they were asked to suspend conscience,” writes Jelani Cobb, in a recent article. Cobb was describing Question Tarantino’s film Inglorious Bastards, but he makes a similar point about the director’s new release, Django Unchained.
Django Unclained is about an ex-slave “who takes the bloody business of emancipation into his own hands,” Cobb explains. The movie has created a black hero who shoots white slave owners, in a rarely depicted type of heroism. But by creating a solo black actor acting against a hatefully racist society reaffirms “the extant mythology of black subservience.”
Cobb says many of his black college students don’t want to take courses on slavery because they’re ashamed that slaves didn’t fight against their oppressors. But in fact, they did. “The slaveholding class existed in a state of constant paranoia about slave rebellions, escapes, and a litany of more subtle attempts to undermine the institution,” Cobb writes. “Nearly two hundred thousand black men, most of them former slaves, enlisted in the Union Army in order to accomplish en masse precisely what Django attempts to do alone: risk death in order to free those whom they loved. Tarantino’s attempt to craft a hero who stands apart from the other men—black and white—of his time is not a riff on history, it’s a riff on the mythology we’ve mistaken for history.”