Django’s Audience Unchained

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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.

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6 thoughts on “Django’s Audience Unchained

  1. shawnb84 says:

    I disagree. I thought the humor was for the most part witty and situational. I can see how you think it may have been excessive at times but it wouldn’t be appropriate to hold back. Overall, I thought it was a great movie.

    • oliviaacole says:

      You’re entitled to your opinion, of course, but you’re disagreeing with a statement I did not make. Although I believe the film employed some good humor and enjoyed a lot of it (some of it, not so much) I took issue with what the audience perceived to be humorous. This blog is about the audience. They were laughing at things that were not intended to be funny. They went into a Tarantino film expecting to laugh at everything, which I suppose is the problem with Tarantino making such a movie, and rather than adjust their perceptions as the movie continued, the audience continued to laugh at everything. And I mean everything.

  2. I don’t know if that had anything to do with the content of the movie itself. I remember being guffawing rambunctiously at every damn dialogue during films like The Avengers, The Hobbit, Dark Knight Rises (seriously? there were like THREE damn jokes in that script!)

    Point being, the only thing I find unsettling about the audience reaction is its lack of intelligence and ability to discern between laughable moments and moments when one should shut up and let their neighbor enjoy the movie.

    • oliviaacole says:

      Surely you’re not comparing the seriousness of the content in Django to that of The Avengers, The Hobbit, and The Dark Knight Rises?

      I agree that the audience is the main problem here, but I do question the way Tarantino chose to represent the violence of slavery in this film. All of his films are bloody and shocking, to be sure, but the cavalier attitude toward the brutality of slavery; the way its violence seems to be merely in step with the likes of Kill Bill, etc. isn’t something I’m comfortable with. I think the stupidity of the audience was partially because of Tarantino’s track record: they went in ready to laugh and be pleasantly grossed out by gushing special effects, regardless of the subject matter. Which isn’t to say Tarantino shouldn’t have made the film, but I feel that a tone of gravity should’ve been adopted more readily during some scenes. American slavery didn’t consist of “ordinary” violence; therefore I feel Tarantino shouldn’t have made one of his “ordinary” films about it.

  3. anth3410 says:

    “Hercules? More like Niggalese”

    That was hands down one of the most memorable lines from the movie. And I’m not ashamed to say I almost died of laughter when I heard it.

    I get where you’re coming from. The film was definitely an incredibly visual (and gory) representation of slavery. I’m sure the reality was much worse than any movie can convey however, and that sends shivers down my spine.

    At the same time, I believe that Django is characteristic of the witty lines and dark (and often sadistically-inclined) humour present in Taratino films in general. While the subject matter of the film is very serious indeed, its stylistic and thematic rendering creates a distance between the viewer and history. For example, a film like American History X on the other hand, presents racism through an entirely different scope and therefore is received differently as well (people usually have a highly emotional reaction).

    • oliviaacole says:

      That’s the problem, in my opinion. The violence and gore of this particular Tarantino film is on par with every other Tarantino film. And slavery (again, in my opinion), as a blight on the history and conscience of this country, should not be presented with casual, unmessaged violence. With Django, Taraninto was just doing what he always does, and he treated the brutality of slavery like any other violence. I can’t agree with that.

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