PostBourgie: The Podcast | #22: Django Unpacked.


On this week’s ep, Joel, Jamelle and G.D. are joined by Slate’s Aisha Harris and Prof. Sarah Jackson of Northeastern University to discuss Quentin Tarantino’s messy, subversive, confounding slavery revenge flick, Django Unchained.

(Do we even have to mention that there are going to be mad spoilers?)

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, or stream it on your mobile devices via Stitcher.




Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs and reports on race and ethnicity for NPR's Code Switch team.
  • Keith

    I did not enjoy the film much. I think Tarantino pandered to blacks with comic violence against slavers and rap tracks that did not fit in the setting of the film.

    I feel as if filmmakers have the moral obligation to educate people on subjects such as slavery, not gloss over them for the sake of entertainment and leave false stereotypes to fester.

    *Schultz realized that Leonardo’s character would not let them leave….that someone that cruel and petty should be killed.

    • Hmmm. Could you name a movie that you feel does a good job of what you’d like to see re: slavery?

      • Keith

        There aren’t many out….To Kill a Mockingbird and ROOTS were done well. But that accentuates my point. If not many movies are made on the subject and people follow QTs lead like Hollywood often does then we will have a glut of slavery spoofs.

        Am I the only one who was left with a bad taste when theu saw the Django action figures.

        • How do you figure that this movie will usher in a bunch of “spoofs” of slavery? Also, how is this movie a “spoof” in any way?

  • Keith

    I enjoyed this discussion very much. Keep up the good work people!

    • Thank you, homie. Glad you enjoyed the discussion.

      • Keith

        I’m an English major who is interested in blogging. When you have some time, please, email me so I can pick your brain sir.


  • Keith, what was glossed over?

    • Keith

      The big question was not why didn’t blacks kill their masters, it was why were the slave owners so cruel AMD heartless? Why did it take 400 years for them to develop a higher understanding?

      • Keith: please calm down.

  • Haven’t seen it yet, but been engaged recently with conversation about race relations. Confused on how to relate, not being a descendant of a slave owner, my family came from England around 1830. I have always had black friends, in fact all my best friends were black and have had a more multicultural experience in life. Yet, I’m still labeled as “the white man” and held in contempt because of past slave owners. Are films like this progressive for race relations?

    • What is the question you’re asking here?

  • A comment during the discussion was about shared responsibility vs. sole responsibility. For me having the misfortune of being born white everyone assumes you’re racist or sexist or like oppression of the minorities. So do films like this perpetuate that stigma? Are my hands stained just by the fact I’m white?

    • Come on.

    • Keith

      Lmao. Are you seriously in a thread which talks about slavery as a white man from Europe complaining about being unfairly stereotyped and oppressed?


      • Keith I know my personal experience does not hold a candle to the average non-white American, because I live in a White America and benefit from it unknowingly, even if I hold no prejudice (Read Tatum). Although truth is demographics are changing and the so called White America will be gone in 10-15yrs. There will be a strong rise in mixed race couples and a different demographic will dominate. We have seen this in Persian empires and Greek and Roman, times change and so does the power broker. I believe Rome is falling so to speak in this country.

        My question though, if the power broker was someone else would they take the same course of action? Is oppression a human construct? Django has a cause to save his wife and therefore can justify his actions, which I love that idea of taking courage and fighting your enemy. There is nothing wrong with a just cause when it’s called for, but is the enemy always white? When the demographic is different will the enemy still be white?

        • folks. don’t feed the trolls.

          • I’m not trying to troll man, just ask questions. I live in the inner city and someone blasted me for being there just because i was white. Which I was working at a shelter at the time, helped tutor kids, but the fact that i was white was the issue. Messed my world up a little

            • You’re trolling. And this reasoning is toweringly stupid.

              I’ll let these comments stand only so that in the unlikely event that you one day pull your head out of your ass you might look back on the thoughts expressed here in total mortification.

    • Being born white, regardless of your family’s spotless pedigree re: slave ownership (which I seriously doubt you have any real knowledge of, unless the folks who came over on the boat and their offspring just kept fucking each other for generations), confers on your a certain amount of privilege now. Today.

      Nobody assumes you’re racist or sexist or like oppression of “the minorities” if you’re white; rather, they assume you’re privileged in certain ways, because if you’re white, *you are.*

      Now, if the primary concern you voice about a representation of slavery in America is how bad it might make you, a white person, look or feel, you give yourself away as–*at best*–somebody who hasn’t taken much time to examine his own complicity in exercising and perpetuating that privilege.

      Also, the next time you’re tempted to establish your bona fides as an ally by mentioning “your black friends”? Just…don’t.

      • I’m sorry if that makes you upset, i’m not trying to “race drop”, but that’s my life experience, I’m not some dude who’s never seen or talked to a black person before ( WHICH BTW LOW BLOW TALKING ABOUT MY FAMILY). Which I feel if I hadn’t done that you would attack me for being a ignorant white man, which you’re still doing. Assuming personal information about someone because of their race is counted as racism. I’m saying that because you don’t know me personally, haven’t observed me and yet I’m still held accountable for doing ABC…

        Growing up white in the South you always learn about how your race effects others. You make a choice to continue traditional ideas or stomp them out. With a changing world old bigots are going to be forced to change and some daily experiences are going to be different. This new generation emerging has a chance to create new ways of doings and I wonder how that would look. Were everyone is on equal ground to stand on and we just see each other as people.

        I’m asking if in this new world is there going to be this bitterness that motivates people to harm others even though they have experience the same and their mantra will be ” an eye for an eye”. Will people seek peace or revenge?

        Side note too. Slavery isn’t over.

  • Great listen. I disagree that theres not enough history in the movie. theres more in Django than in many comparable films. Just not a history we collectively acknowledge and subscribe to. It’s not an *alternate history* and viewing it that way would be problematic. I picked up, whether intentional or not, so much Faulkner, so much from slave narratives.

    I loved that Djangos character did not free the other slaves. Why should he be benevolent? Why should he be better than the oppression he exists in? His actions are profoundly resistant simply by his violence. I bristle at the call “why didn’t he help the others,” it reeks of paternal idealism.

    • Keith

      You loved that Django didn’t free the other slaves? Why? He freed the slaves at the mansion.

      The reason he did not free the slaves is because his mission was not over. He could not risk them being like Sam Jack’s character.

      Morally, I don’t see how one could like a hero like that.

      When they whipped the girl on the tree he saved her….after that he was in character and had a mission.

    • Keith

      “Why should he be benevolent?”

      Because violence and bloodshed OS wrong. Although Django was justified in his actions, it is still humane and honorable to also help those in need when you are doing well.

      Harriet Tubman.

  • to better explain I’m reading “Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria”- Tatum. Learning racism= systematic advantage.

  • Also, to me, the film was so delicious that I completely ignored the mixed audience’s reactions.

    • Sarah’s question during the podcast has made me wonder if I would have felt the same way about the film had I seen it in a different context.

  • During the scene when DiCaprio fingers the dead slave’s skull and describes phrenology someone in the audience said “Oh, Shit.” he said it in the “Wow, i didn’t know that” kind of way and i joked to my friend, “great, now he’s gonna go and tell his friends all about racial disparities in skull size like it’s actual current science.” i don’t find it to be the filmmaker’s job to *teach* in that way i.e. should there have been a pause in that scene with Tarantino explaining “hey guys, phrenology was actually…”? No. The ignorance of audience members about race and American history, in particular, is not the artist’s problem. What *is* the filmmaker’s responsibility is not to *perpetuate* the same crap that *reinforces* bigotry, racism, et cetera; moreso, it’s his responsibility to create new and inventive ways of exploring the same…which, IMO, “Django” achieves brilliantly.

    p.s. i just have to add in response to the podcast, how exactly should a woman (such as the New Orleans enslaved mistresses) held under systemic sexual oppression act? See, also, “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” where, at one point, Harriet Jacobs plays both of her white lovers/oppressors against the other in order to achieve her freedom. See, also, (for how could there be slaves on swings) Kara Walker’s “My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love” for more on how beauty and the grotesque could, and did, exist in slavery.

    • asc

      I agree with Linda that it’s not filmmaker’s job to “*teach* in a that way, but I do think that the ignorance of the audience is a problem for the artists. This for me is the problem with the pre-movie focus on Tarantino. It’s not that I don’t care about his narrative; I do actually. The problem is that what makes the film is not an isolated Tarantino (thank goodness), but rather what makes the movie is the way in which, as Linda says, it responds to a tradition and does something different (and not so crappy) with previous themes, tropes, etc. I am a fan of the movie precisely because I am a fan of the list of references and citations, the “see also” texts, that have come out of the podcast conversations, and this thread. It seems to me that’s the *teaching* part of the film is that it brings together in a dialogue so many different texts, that if you do just the least bit of inquiring about (even if you just ask “did they really do that?”) you begin to unpack a fecund and complex history.

      To add to the citations list, I think we me might think about the film as Tarantino’s version of -Uncle Tom’s Cabin-. Particularly at the end of the podcast when the conversation considered that this film might be about Tarantino’s reckoning with race, thinking about Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was smart, radical, immensely popular and influential, laced with progressive ideas about other groups (i.e. women, children), but also problematic, reductive, controversial, and of course the jumpboard for so many, so many less complicated and purely racist adaptations.

      • Keith

        I agree that it is not his job to teach, but we do rely on art to teach us and entertain us.

        QT chose to write the n word hundreds of times when he could have used the word less gratuitously and included more meaningful dialogue. That was a CHOICE.

        I dont understand why some people look down on rappers for saying the word with impunity but they give QT a pass.

        What is the difference?

        • umm, i will only respond that i prefer *some* historical accuracy rather than whitewashing (pardon the pun) when it comes to eras such as the antebellum South. Meaning I’m going to assume the n-word was used probably more than the number of times it’s said in QT’s flick…a flick set in the antebellum South. i don’t see how hip hop has anything to do with anything here.

        • “I dont understand why some people look down on rappers for saying the word with impunity but they give QT a pass.”

          Seriously, Keith: what are you talking about? Can you name names please? Barring that, kindly cut this strawman shit out.

  • Keith

    In what ways did Django, “create new and inventive ways of exploring bigotry and racism” in your view ma’am?

  • Keith

    I’m calm sir. The caps was autocorrect from when I was fixing a PC.

  • hopefully i won’t be the only one to answer, and there are numerous articles covering this very aspect of the film (including one by G.D.):
    -Violence: towards white slavers, directly and indirectly
    -the white male lead and black male sidekick paradigm is both used then flipped on its head (the white guy dies, and by his own indirect hand)
    -the portrayal of slave plantations as sites of horror committed by slavers
    -slaves having physical and verbal agency, including the Uncle Tom figure (just not a *likeable* agency)
    -slavers as actively complicit in the oppression of blacks versus unwitting
    -from G.D., “Django is deeply invested in portraying the unrelenting ugliness of slavery.” — there is a racist detail to the way in which we mythologize our history of slavery and i think this film attempts to attack that.

    if i may, i think you, Keith, are asking for a more sentimental (?) depiction. and that’s fair but I also think that sentimentalism is what this film dismisses. and to many, myself included, that can be very refreshing.

    • Keith

      Ehh, I don’t desire sentimental depiction. I wanted more in depth dialogue and less scenes that invoke humor and exaggeration. I respect your mind and the right to like what you wish, so please don’t mistake my (sometimes) strong verbage for a hostile attitude.

      I WANT to see your POV.

      However, with what you listed, besides the black lead living at the end, I didn’t see anything new and inventive at all.

      • Keith: what are you talking about?

  • I really enjoyed your podcast. I took my 17 year old to see this movie and I’m trying to squeeze everything I can out of it to bond and teach him, including this podcast, so thanks. There is one little thing that I think that you missed about the Dr. King Schultz’s reaction to Lara Lee Candie-Fitzwilly’s playing Beethoven; he was reliving the slave’s being torn apart by the dogs while she was playing and clearly didn’t want to associate that with Beethoven. I believe that it is a nod to “A Clockwork Orange” when Alex was being brainwashed; the soundtrack to one of the aversion films that he is forced to watch is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony; Alex begs them to turn it off, because the therapy would destroy the music for him. Anyways, you guys are on my iTunes feed now, I look forward to another discussion. Thanks again.