January 21, 2013
Django Unchained Action Figures Being Pulled?
I was there in the movie theater when Django killed his first bounty and I felt no more closer to him as an African American than I feel to Black Dynamite. Apart from both of these movie figures being entirely fictitious, there exists a barrier of vague interest that people don’t seem to want to pass.
We all know what the barrier is. To beat around the bush, or to pretend that this is all a plea for the integrity of film is just futile. Django Unchained is an exploitation film, directed by Quentin Tarantino of all people, about a freed slave who becomes a bounty hunter. This slave has spent most of his life under shackles and only recently found freedom thanks to Dr. Schultz (Christopher Waltz), a retired dentist turned bounty hunter. The relationship between these two is based completely out of the respect that their characters so impressively exert for their time.
Because of the setting of the movie, we all must take notice of the most notable difference between the two. After all, Schultz is German (white), and Django is black. Why are they getting along so well? I would like to believe that Tarantino has succeeded at what he’s done best for the past twenty years: Giving character to the characters.
But this isn’t a movie review, and I’m not here to tell you why you should see it (You should).
Weinstein Co. has come under fire, and as such, discontinued the production of action figures that pay homage to the movie. The typical reasons for it are because of offensive trivialization of slavery, among other things. I’m not one to nitpick, but these points sound a lot like people have missed the point entirely as to why the action figures were made in the first place.
It’s tradition for studios to capitalize on external products that tie into their films, and has been that way to one extent or another since the release of Disney’s Snow White. The motive behind the manufacturing of these products is that they hope to immortalize the physical aesthetic of the characters, a bit comparable to the way we immortalize nursery rhymes by singing to our children. Where the manufacturers draw the line is when the consumers are offended by the depiction of these figurines, which almost never happens.
Tarantino has had action figure replicas for Lieutenant Aldo Raine from Inglorious Basterds as well as Mr. White and the gang from Reservoir Dogs. The subject matter and themes are all typical: Blood, Violence and Character. In some places the characters are old and wrinkly, and in others they are young and sexy.
Of course, you can expect a movie rooted in the setting of 1859, just a few years before the Civil War began, to harbor obvious themes of slavery. The same way that you expect this should be expected of Tarantino, who some say has no soft spot for people’s hearts. For Tarantino, making films is all about the fun factor: The privilege of collaborating with set designers and actors to bring stories to life.
To some he’s sick, and to others he’s a visionary. Whichever side you choose, the problem isn’t with the film, the problem is with the individual.
But I digress: Django Unchained drew negative attention from civil rights groups on its trivialization of slavery. Tarantino’s intention wasn’t to anger African Americans, because if he did, then Jamie Fox probably wouldn’t have agreed to play the main character.
The hardest fact to accept about movies is that half of the time they are art, while the other half is a socioeconomic tool. They have the power of entertaining you for decades, and can also change the very fabric of your opinion. Is it difficult to accept Django Unchained as an entertainment film? Of course it is, but regardless if you do or do not, that’s what it is.
Some will say that Tarantino made a mistake with the setting that he placed this movie in, but I don’t believe that Tarantino makes mistakes. He simply sees a character, and brings him/her to life with story. Personally, Django Unchained was the first time since Fight Club that I felt such an emotional tug.
I laughed harder than I thought I would, and cringed even harder on very gruesome scenes, but above all I respected the subject.
I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments below!
Image Credit: NECA