Could a Black Director Have Made 'Django'?
Continued from previous page
In the case of “Django Unchained,” as evidenced by stunning ticket sales, it privileges a film from a white director that it might not similarly reward had the very same film come from a black director (assuming such a film from a black director would have even been green-lighted by a major studio). Put another way, it allows a white director to tell a filmic story that a black director might not have been permitted to tell on such a large mass-audience stage (or, at least, to market as a “mass-audience” production).
Pointing this out, mind you, isn’t to criticize Tarantino. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Tarantino, in my view, deserves credit not just for making a terrific film, but also for choosing to use his position to try to remind America of its hideous slave history and to therefore contribute to the cause of fighting racism (and I say that while also agreeing with some of the criticism of how his film addresses that cause). After all, at this point in his career, the guy is a fabulously wealthy entertainment industry mogul. That means he can select whatever kinds of projects he wants and that, hence, his choices are statements of commercial desires, creative interest and social values.
In the case of “Django Unchained” — in Tarantino choosing, as Deggans says, to make a movie about “a black man mow(ing) down one white asshole after another, taking out men too venal, stupid or entitled to admit how much of their world was built on the blood and pain of black slaves” — he proactively decided to use his White Privilege to televisually attack the ugliest roots of that privilege. That’s no small thing — especially in a country where so many others in his very same position typically decide to do the opposite by promoting, perpetuating and defending White Privilege (see the political right’s reaction, above, as an example).
In that sense, Tarantino’s willingness to expend his Hollywood capital to make such a film implicitly implores white people to try to use their relative position of privilege to fight that privilege where they can. That’s a welcome — if unstated — message. While history (for instance, the civil rights movement or the 2012 election) certainly proves people of color don’t need “white saviors” to come to their “rescue” (another bigoted and paternalistic Hollywood trope), that truism doesn’t negate white people’s moral obligation to fight White Privilege where they see it — even if that privilege is benefiting them personally.
Doing that, though, means being able to recognize White Privilege in the first place. In how “Django Unchained” reminds us of systemic double standards, it is certainly there to behold — if we are willing to look.