Table of contents

Django unchained

A note on pride & slaughter

This is the story of a young black slave whose freedom is brought by a wandering German bounty hunter. Now free, Django wants one thing, to find & free his wife. Django agrees to help the bounty hunter in return for his freedom; he also agrees that the way to save his wife is to become a bounty hunter.

To begin with, Django is amazed to see the bounty hunter kill people in the name of the law, especially white Americans, starting with a sheriff. He has the legal papers, however, & is very patient & deferential about delivering them, once the killing is done. This show convinces Django to learn the craft. Applying his hard nature to the works of war, he shows that he is really fearless.

The action is set in the year 1852. The Civil War was fast becoming inevitable. That year Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published, the blockbuster novel of the nineteenth century, the story of a Christian black slave’s suffering & eventual death, presumably redeemed by his Savior, & His vicar on earth, the compassionate writer. The meek & mild virtues of the Christian are turned on their head by the young Django, who shows his ruthlessness by allowing other slaves to be killed, though he does not whip them himself.

Django loves a girl called Brunhilde & wants to save her from her master. This reminds us of the hero Siegfried, whose story was rewritten by Richard Wagner around 1852. Unlike the tragic hero, who learns fear when he learns he has fallen in love, & who is betrayed to his death by his contemptuous rejection of necessity, Django reaches a happier end. He saves fair lady, & they survive, presumably to live happy lives.

How does this happen? Extermination is not possible, though it almost seems necessary, given the terrible injustices whites committed against blacks, & the leisurely, comfortable way they enjoy the spectacle. The bloodbath has to be very concentrated. Slave rebellions would have been quelled quickly, ruthlessly. Assassination is the recommendation. That may show the need for revenge, that justice could not include cohabitation of slave & slaver. Django commits a slaughter that includes slavers, their minions, & Southern belles.

The wandering German bounty hunter travels as a doctor, an educated person, a dentist to be specific. He hides his money in the comic tooth atop his carriage advertising his profession. Is it a matter of smiling or baring teeth? Or is it just that justice is like medicine? Punitive justice seems to be what the bounty hunter dispenses. But he also sets the slave free & perhaps teaches him to live like a free man.

Quentin Tarantino’s latest comical bloodbath, in pursuit of vengeance, & punishing wrongdoing