Friday, December 28, 2012

Mental Notes: Django Unchained

Quotes from Toni Morrison’s Beloved, New York: Vintage Books, 1987

Django Unchained reminded me that Toni Morrison’s theory of rememory works both ways.  Sethe, a former slave, lived with a great fear that her daughter Denver would return to the plantation from which she escaped, Sweet Home, and experience a tortuous life of slavery.  Consequently, Sethe lived with vivid pictures, rememories, of what Schoolteacher, the overseer, had done to her. 

“It’s when you bump into a rememory that belongs to someone else.  Where I was before I came here, that place was real.  Even if the whole farm – every tree and grass blade dies.  The picture is still there and what’s more, if you go there—you who never was there—if you go there and stand in the place where it was, it will happen again; it will be there waiting for you, waiting for you” (43-44).

However, what Sethe experienced as torture Schoolteacher saw as an experiment on an object of no consequence.  In Schoolteacher’s mind, what would rememory look like?  The very thought makes me shudder, but I think I came close to those rememories in the theater as I watched Django Unchained.  With Candie’s  sadistic, phrenological tirades, he was the shadowy mirror image of Schoolteacher in Toni Morrison’s Beloved (the coincidental Candieland and Sweet Home).   

Mr. Tarantino wanted to make a movie about slavery because Hollywood ignores the subject, which is noble, some might say.  But his efforts were a spectacle on and off the screen, as viewers laughed at the most abject scenes of inhumanity inspired by this country’s most shameful histories of slavery.  I was enthralled by the spectacle—knowing that anything at any moment could happen in this movie.

I bumped into rememories that belonged to someone else…


  1. Great post. I felt like sort of a hypocrite watching because I didn't like all the scenes but overall didn't mind the movie. It made me think of Dave Chapelle and his slavery/racial epithet skits that I thought were hilarious but may have been offensive to many.

    1. You are definitely NOT a hypocrite. I watch Chapelle & Boondocks and think they're hilarious too, with very sensitive moments. It's context and awareness of the cultural production's social ramifications that matters. I don't think enough thought went into Django's effects.


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