Ge­orge El­liott Clarke un­chains # Os­carsSoWhite

Tarantino’s 2012 Django Un­chained is a rar­ity for Hol­ly­wood – a con­sum­mate con­junc­tion of spaghetti western and blax­poi­ta­tion gen­res that ar­gues for a ro­bust re­sponse to white racism By GE­ORGE EL­LIOTT CLARKE

NOW Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - news@ now­toronto. com @ now­toronto

Al­though the 44th pres­i­dent of the United States has 44 or so weeks left in his term be­fore he leaves of­fice, and may still work mir­a­cles, it is time to won­der how this present and fu­ture sub­ject of Black His­tory Month will be re­mem­bered.

One early barom­e­ter is Hol­ly­wood, which meets to hand out the Os­cars this week­end. Many black ac­tors have pledged to boy­cott this year’s event over the fact that no nom­i­nees of colour are up for ma­jor act­ing awards. # Os­carsSoWhite be­cause # Hol­ly­woodSoWhite, ac­cord­ing to a new study re­leased by re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia’s An­nen­berg School for Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Jour­nal­ism.

But the film in­dus­try has his­tor­i­cally tried to take the mea­sure of sit­ting pres­i­dents, and Obama is no ex­cep­tion. As the first African- Amer­i­can pres­i­dent, Obama has al­ready been the im­plicit sub­ject of sev­eral Hol­ly­wood films. I’ll call Django Un­chained Quentin Tarantino’s wish­ful vi­sion of the com­man­der- in- chief as # 1 ass- kicker of red­neck crack­ers.

It won two Academy Awards ( for orig­i­nal screen­play and best sup­port­ing ac­tor) as well as a num­ber of awards from Black En­ter­tain­ment Tele­vi­sion and the NAACP.

Django Un­chained seems to be en­dors­ing a black ma­cho stereo­type. It ap­pears to ar­gue for a ro­bust re­sponse to white racism, which is seen as bru­tal and bar­baric. You could also see in it Tarantino’s im­plicit en­dorse­ment of Obama’s gun­ning down of Osama bin Laden and au­tho­riza­tion of the as­sas­si­na­tions of other “ter­ror­ists.”

You can imag­ine Jamie Foxx’s Django thrust­ing his foot deep into the tight and pre­sum­ably filthy asses of Klans­men, Repub­li­cans and Tea Party types, do­ing what Obama and his pro­gres­sive back­ers have seemed in­ca­pable of: in­flict­ing pain and con­fu­sion on their sworn anti- black, NRA- lov­ing en­e­mies.

Yet, to make his point, Tarantino harks back to a piv­otal mo­ment in Ja­maican­born Perry Hen­zell’s 1972 clas­sic film The Harder They Come, in which the pro­tag­o­nist, Ivan ( played by reg­gae star Jimmy Cliff), an un­couth and naive lad from the coun­try­side now re­moved to Kingston, Ja­maica, ends up dead.

In Hen­zell’s film, Ivan goes to the Rialto on his first night in the cap­i­tal. The film he sees, seated in a row of rapt black faces, is Django, the 1966 spaghetti western di­rected by Ser­gio Cor­bucci. In Hen­zell’s movie, the black au­di­ence is shown ex­ult­ing in star Franco Nero as he coolly re­veals a Gatling- type ma­chine gun to mow down a men­ac­ing army of killers, all wear­ing Ku Klux Klan- style hoods with cut- out eye­holes, and cow­boy hats to boot.

Hen­zell re­turns to the scene at the film’s con­clu­sion, when Ivan en­acts in his mind a scene sim­i­lar to the one in Cor­bucci’s film. The dif­fer­ence is that he squeezes off only a few shots be­fore he’s cut down.

The ironies of a Ja­maican di­rec­tor pay­ing homage to an Ital­ian di­rec­tor’s reimag­in­ing of Amer­i­can his­tory are mul­ti­ple.

In Django Un­chained, Tarantino, an Ital­ian Amer­i­can, refers to the orig­i­nal Django in a scene where Foxx and his bounty hunter men­tor, Dr. King Schultz ( played by Christoph Waltz), dy­na­mite to smithereens a horde of Ku Klux Klan- style nightrid­ers whose masks re­sem­ble those worn by the would- be killers in the Cor­bucci film.

His film is a con­sum­mate con­junc­tion of the spaghetti western and blax­ploita­tion gen­res, a fact re­in­forced by the ap­pear­ance of Django star Nero in one scene – and ref­er­ences to other blax­ploita­tion clas­sics such as Shaft and Mandingo.

Tarantino urges us to re­gard his white Dr. King as heroic, even if he’s noth­ing like the real- life ( and, of course, black) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Tarantino’s Dr. King is a Ger­man-cum-Amer­i­can bounty hunter, once a den­tist, whose pres­ence in the film also re­calls the pop­u­lar­ity of the West in Ger­man pop cul­ture ( see the nov­els of Karl May). Tarantino’s isn’t the only film to riff in­di­rectly on the Obama pres­i­dency.

Steven Spiel­berg’s Lin­coln is an­other, nudg­ing its au­di­ence to com­pare Abra­ham Lin­coln’s fi­ness­ing of the Con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment abol­ish­ing slav­ery with Obama’s health care re­form.

From this per­spec­tive, Obama rep­re­sents the “un­chain­ing” of ( African) Amer­i­cans.

How­ever, Obama isn’t im­mune to era­sure. In Zero Dark Thirty, about the hunt for Amer­ica’s fore­most pub­lic en­emy, Osama bin Laden, the pres­i­dent hardly fig­ures, even as a por­trait on the wall. 3 Ge­orge El­liott Clarke is the sev­enth par­lia­men­tary poet lau­re­ate ( 2016- 17). His new books in­clude his novel The Mo­tor­cy­clist ( HaperCollins Canada) and his po­etry col­lec­tion Ex­tra Il­licit Son­nets ( Ex­ile Edi­tions).

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.