Commentary: Kudos to the Debates Around “Django”

Not everyone likes Quentin Tarantino’s new slave revenge film, but it’s nice to see a movie that’s got people thinking — and talking — about race so much.

Posted: 01/04/2013 04:27 PM EST

Famed Black film director Spike Lee recently said that he refuses to see Quentin Tarantino’s slave revenge film Django Unchained because he assumes the movie will be “disrespectful.”

“All I’m going to say is that it’s disrespectful to my ancestors,” said Lee. “That’s just me … I’m not speaking on behalf of anybody else.” Luckily for Tarantino — and American thought — it looks like very few Blacks, if any, heeded Lee’s warnings.

According to research, Django, which has already earned nearly $80 million after its Christmas Day release, is doing very well with Black audiences. The Hollywood Reporter’s Pamela McClintock breaks it down:

Opening on Christmas Day, 42 percent of Django's initial audience was Black, according to exit polling data. TWC estimates that the percentage now is holding steady at about 30 percent, while a look at the top-performing theaters for Django further confirms that it has crossed over, playing to both white and black moviegoers.

"Django is playing well to African-Americans and to audiences across the board. You can't have these kind of numbers otherwise. It's getting everybody," TWC president of distribution Erik Lomis said.

All those Black audience members despite the nay-saying from people like Spike Lee and the fact that Django very frequently uses the much-dreaded “n-word.” Is this a win for the Black community or, as Lee says, is this a case of Black people lining up to be shown disrespect? Could you believe it’s probably a little bit of both?

Of the thousands and thousands of Blacks who have gone to see Django, some have almost certainly left displeased and feeling offended. Perhaps some even — as Lee said — felt a sense of disrespect upon exiting the movie theater.

Nevertheless, I don’t think this means that the movie has been a loss for Blacks at large. One quick Google search for articles about Django written by authors of all races will turn up literally hundreds of articles, from pieces in the New Yorker to posts on personal blogs. I have to think that any piece of art that gets people talking about issues related to race this passionately is a net win for society.

Whether or not you hate Django, you have to appreciate the conversation surrounding the film. It’s not often America takes time out to debate the importance — or unimportance — of a movie in which the lead is a Black man who slaughters nearly every white character. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts.

The views here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: The Weinstein Company)

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