A cynic might suggest that what Tarantino really likes is the slaughtering. He’s happy to make the details of who slaughters whom conform to the current prejudices, just as long as he gets to keep up the gore level. All Tarantino has had to do to critic-proof himself is identify the zeitgeist’s sacred cows (so far, women, Jews, and blacks, but not gays) and have them massacre their foes. (Someday we may be treated to a Tarantino ABC Afterschool Special about the plague of bullying in which Franco Nero and CGI versions of David Carradine and Lee Van Cleef show up at school to take out the homophobic trash.)
The premise of Tarantino’s latest film is that “young Django,” a slave played by 45-year-old Jamie Foxx, teams up with the loquacious Christoph Waltz, 56 (once again dripping with Gemütlichkeit before he suddenly guns everybody down) to kick white butt. In 2009’s Inglourious Basterds, Waltz played a Nazi bad guy, while in Django he’s a Viennese anti-slavery good guy, but he’s always the same character, Tarantino’s talkative alter ego.
Indeed, Basterds’ Jewish revenge plot was essentially a front to allow Tarantino to indulge his fascination with Nazi cinema. What would it have been like, Quentin wondered, if he had been Goebbels to Harvey Weinstein’s Hitler?
In Django, a similarly vast amount of the dialogue is turned over to Waltz. Unfortunately, Tarantino’s Teutonophilia can’t get much traction in Django. He has a vague notion that in 1858 Richard Wagner was contemplating The Ring cycle—thus Django’s wife is named Broomhilda—but has no idea what Waltz ought to do with that. (The excessively articulate Waltz would be better suited to playing Wagner, but the composer never killed anybody and lived before the invention of movies, so don’t look to Quentin for biopic ideas.)
All these distractions leave poor Foxx with little to do except shoot white people.
In 2013, is the black gun violence Tarantino espouses really such a fascinating new phenomenon? For generations now, American media have been encouraging blacks to take violent retribution. We’re coming up on close to a half-century of whites in the media egging on black badassery.
How’s Tarantino’s macho minstrel show working out for black males, anyway?
According to a 1967 government report sponsored by the Surgeon General, the black homicide rate began to rise in 1962 after a long decline. Mostly, though, whites just move out of the way and blacks kill each other. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that for the 30 years from 1976-2005, there were 276,000 African-American homicide victims, 94% of them murdered by other blacks.
But who cares about a quarter of a million murdered black people? What matters is white-on-white moral status striving. And in that eternal war, even Quentin Tarantino is a welcome recruit.
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