Thursday, January 3, 2013
The Bag Tarantino's In
Here's my take on the lynch mob (technically pre-KKK, since it is before the Civil War) hood scene in DJANGO, Brandon:
It's not an awful scene, it is just extended to an uncomfortable degree (at least for me). Initially, the gag works and is amusing. You've got some bumbling racist KKK-types who are mocked to the point that they seem completely inept, their choice of disguise ridiculed for being so impractical and poorly designed. It's clearly out to reduce these baleful figures to caricatures and buffoons (a taunting contempt they fully deserve). But the scene keeps going to the point they start discussing whether or not to wear the hoods, deciding to wear them after all, and then vowing to come better prepared the next time they go lynching. It's a ridiculous, goofy scene straight out of Mel Brooks (which is where the BLAZING SADDLES comparison seems the strongest, even if it is a lazy one). There's nothing wrong with this initial humor, but after a few minutes the joke no longer seems funny, and the privilege of the position from which it is told seems in poor taste. It's fine to belittle these types of racist killers to a degree, but at the same time they represent a violent and terrifying legacy. They have an odious history of unimaginable blood and terror. Making jokes about them right before they go lynching (in full lynching garb) seems close to disingenuous to the memories of the copious numbers who died wantonly at their hands. It would be almost like Tarantino including a scene in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS where some bumbling Nazis try to get the valves in a gas chamber to work properly before planning an execution. Again, it's a horrible historical reality reduced for humors sake. I hate the whole idea of "crossing the line," so I won't suggest it. But to me, this scene seemed dragged out to the point of excessive goofiness, eventually making light of real pain in the process.
I'm sure for some black folks this scene is problematic because it trivializes mass murder, and I'm sure for just as many others it is cathartic to see these killers mocked relentlessly and handed their comeuppance. As a white guy (if my position even matters here), I fell somewhere in between, but mostly sided towards the former stance. I agree with you, Brandon, that DJANGO is smarter and more sensitive in its dealings with race and slavery than some give it credit for. This is one scene where I can understand some of the reverse-side anger though. Tarantino's heart is in the right place, but maybe naively so at times.