I saw Django Unchained today. There’s a lot to be said about this film, but most of my observations won’t fit within the 300 word boundary I outlined for myself when I created this blog. One will, however, and I’ll say it here.
What disturbed me the most about my experience seeing the most recent work of Tarantino wasn’t the woman being whipped; the man torn apart by dogs; the two slaves forced to fight to the death. All of those things were horrific—casually horrific, I might specify, by Tarantino’s direction—but what had me grinding my teeth wasn’t the flippant violence on screen but the reception by the audience that sat around me.
About 75% white; mostly male from what I could tell by the sound of the laughter. And the laughter is what really got me. Because it was constant. And eager. Lame jokes earned peals of guffaws. Lines that were only slightly clever resulted in eruptions of mirth. The line where Samuel L. Jackson says “Hercules? More like Niggalese” had the audience in stitches. I was dumbfounded.
Many people will interpret this in many different ways. And that’s their right. But I was put off by the laughter. Tarantino is known for his dark humor, and it was certainly present here. I definitely chuckled once or twice, especially when the fledgling KKK was fiddling around with their hoods on the hill. But often the audience laughed at things that weren’t even funny; giggling at nothing. If you could be in the theater I was in…the eagerness was unsettling. The delight of a largely white audience, eager to find humor in slavery? Bleck. I need to take a shower.