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Django Unchained


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Nick Olson said:

:I was actually really grooving with the first half of the film

Me also. They could have cut Candieland and the rescue short and the film would have worked fine, but also without much of the more troubling content while still retaining the anti-slavery theme.

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Attica, I think that may be the case... but Tarantino is now the food truck that I pass up every day because I have eaten everything off the menu, and it is never quite worth the money.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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A few thoughts here regarding some of the issues Attica brought up. I caught up with four December releases over the New Year's weekend, including Django Unchained. Surprisingly, the extreme, graphic gun violence in Django did not bring up thoughts of the Connecticut school shooting, whereas the bloodless PG-13 shootings that opened up Jack Reacher (which I saw right before Django) did, and left me feeling quite cold.

Part of this may be to do with the genre of film, part to the historical presence of guns as a daily way of life. We've all grown up watching westerns, and if there is anything that viewing a lot of westerns ingrains upon us is the notion that most confrontations are going end up being taken care of with the use of guns. Going a little further, the majority of westerns can be summed up like this - bad guys cause problems with guns, while good guys solve problems with guns. Rarely does anything get solved with a fistfight, and never does anything get solved with a conversation. And usually it is a life or death situation that forces the good guy to ultimately draw his weapon. Otherwise, guns in westerns are just one of many tools for getting through life under rugged circumstances, where your next meal is dependent on how well your father taught you to hunt and shoot. Django Unchained may not completely fit the "good guys vs. bad guys" mold of most westerns, but it does draw some pretty clear lines of where each character stands, save Django himself (I'll come back to that).

Jack Reacher, on the other hand, shows a different kind of mind set when it comes to guns. We see "bad guys" using guns to dispatch of people in their way, but even the "good guy" isn't above pulling the trigger under very questionable circumstances, and then just chalk it up as the moral thing to do. For the most part, this film was more akin to Dirty Harry or Death Wish by way of Law and Order: Criminal Intent. But there was one moment where an interesting observation is made, which may have as much to do with how current gun culture is viewed vs. the past gun culture of the westerns. There's a brief exchange of dialogue where Jack Reacher defines what he calls the four type of people drawn to the military... 1] Those who do it out of a sense of patriotism. 2] Those who need a job. 3] fuzzy on this one, but I think the jist was... Those who want to see if they can meet the challenge, or push themselves to the ultimate endurance. 4] Those who want a legally justifed way to take a life or, to borrow a phrase from another Tom Cruise film (MI:2), people who feel "the need to get their gun off." I gotta say, I know some guys who fit the last type Reacher describes. Guys who own guns, and think they could "do some good" if they could only get a permit to carry.

The gun as a tool aspect of westerns is not evident here. Closer to a mind set that my friend Louis posted about on Facebook just after the Connecticut shooting...

Why do we have guns? Because we think that they are cool. I got mine 50 years ago

because I thought it would be cool to own one. There is something so empowering about

shooting a gun, about hitting something 100 yards away. It's cool, it's like being one of those guys

in the movies. So can we stop the, "I bought my gun to protect myself." jargon. Out of all the gun

owners I have know all in my life and I've known a lot having belonged to a gun club growing up,

I can count on one hand how many bought one to protect themselves because they felt

threatened. The BEST home protection weapon is a shot gun, you don't have to point it

accurately, just the sound will scare someone off. Unless you have been TRAINED to kill

another person, you will more than likely freeze and wet yourself when faced with an armed

aggressor. So all of you, "I'll shoot first!", won't. My guns are disassembled, wrapped in oily rags,

and put away. I refuse to live in fear that in some 15 million to one chance someone might break

into my home while I am asleep and hurt my daughter and I. How's this for a thought, trade in

your 13 round semi auto for a beautiful well balanced 6 round double action revolver and learn

how and WHEN to use it. It only takes 1 bullet to stop someone, the rest is for show. You can

still be cool.

Sure, there are westerns that show young men, boys even, receiving their first gun, and the pride that goes with it, which may be a historical form of "cool." But the pride/cool aspect is usually short lived, and the tool aspect becomes the primary concern. As my friend opines, the cool aspect is more prevalent today, and reflected in many films. Jack Reacher may not be a case in point, but the change in gun attitudes is certainly evident in the film.

Back to Django Unchained. Any one feel that perhaps King Schultz's education of Django makes Django a less ethical person as the film progresses, even if Schultz thinks of himself as an ethical person? A couple of posts have pointed out the scene where Django shoots a wanted man in front of his son. Django is at first reluctant, until Schultz has him read the wanted poster aloud, saying that there is "something to be learned here." For a brief second, I thought the lesson was going to be that the man was Wanted Dead or Alive, and that the two of them might take the man into custody and return him for trial, sparing the son from seeing his father shot from out of the blue. Then, of course, Shultz ends up pointing out what a horrid past this man has lived, and that this gives them license to go about their business in the easiest way possible, ugly as that may be. Django seems to take to this course of action more completely than some other courses of action Schultz has laid out. I'm thinking of the earlier scene when Schultz first encounters Django, and liberates him from his captors. Schultz makes a point of telling the rest of the chained up slaves what their new options are. In the scene near the end of the film, which pretty much mirrors the earlier scene, Django has the opportunity to do the same with the three slaves chained in the cart, but instead rides off without a word of advice.

Overall, I liked this film quite a bit, perhaps my favorite film of 2012 (although I just saw The Impossible, and am still in awe of what that film manged to present).

Edited by John Drew

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
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John Drew said:

:Surprisingly, the extreme, graphic gun violence in Django did not bring up thoughts of the Connecticut school shooting, whereas the bloodless PG-13 shootings that opened up Jack Reacher (which I saw right before Django) did, and left me feeling quite cold.

I'd think that extreme graphic gun violence could possibly have a good message if done right, although I don't think this film did that. Bringin up thoughts on the shooting isn't necessarily a bad thing, inspiring us to solve problems through gun violence is (and I understand the argument that sometimes there are no other solutions.)

:Any one feel that perhaps King Schultz's education of Django makes Django a less ethical person as the film progresses,

I think so. I wonder if this is what made him hardened enough that he played the "black slave trader" part so well, especially during the wild dogs scene.

:Schultz makes a point of telling the rest of the chained up slaves what their new options are. In the scene near the end of the film, which pretty much mirrors the earlier scene, Django has the opportunity to do the same with the three slaves chained in the cart, but instead rides off without a word of advice.

Interesting. I had read that scene as the slaves coming to see what Django was up to. That it was all an act in order to save his wife and that he was now going back for her.

John Drew's friend said:

: It's cool, it's like being one of those guys in the movies. So can we stop the, "I bought my gun to protect myself." jargon.

FWIW. The guns I had grew up around were never considered to be cool. They just were. We had guns around the farm that were simply there for a reason, either game hunting or getting rid of some varmint that was killing cattle. My dad won two high end rifles from a couple of Ducks Unlimited events and quietly put them underneath the couch without ever loading or firing them. They just sit there quietly where most people don't even know they exist.

Pretty much everybody I've met has a similar viewpoint on guns, which I strongly suspect is an example of a difference (generally) between the U.S. cultural view and the Canadian one on such things. From what I can see Canadians aren't as likely to view them as cool, and hold gun events and have gun clubs (although those things are here to a certain degree.) Canadians are more inclined towards simply seeing guns as a tool with a purpose, what with the large amount of hunting that goes on here (in a huge portion of the country's landscape the main industry is outdoors based including fishing and hunting.)

This might seem like a bit of a sidetrack, but it actually isn't because its getting to my point, being that Canadians are watching these Hollywood movies at pretty much the same frequency as U.S. citizens, but yet we still have a different viewpoint.

So what is happening around this is an interesting question. Maybe the films are feeding something that is already in U.S. culture. When a Canadian is watching a Western or something like Django Unchained he/she is more or less watching a film about the U.S. wild west, not the Canadian one. We're basically observing another country's history, because, with the possible exceptions that Peter touched on, we never really had a wild west, at least certainly not to the same degree. So possibly this is why guns aren't as cool to us, any coolness related to or coming out of the Wild West culture would be your cool, not ours, and therefore wouldn't make us as cool or seem cool to us, if that makes sense without coming across as insulting. As a poor example, it would be like an U.S. citizen think he was cool by dressing up like a mountie. ;)

But that's what I was touching on, the differing attitude towards guns is coming from a country that had the heroes and villians of the wild west as a prominent aspect of its development, also including the use of weapons to win its freedom etc. I'd think that one of the reasons there is such a debate over the weapons. It's touched on a cultural nerve, connected to some people's very sense of identity.

So where this all relates to the statistical fact that guns killings are much more likely per percentage of population in the States than many other countries, including Canada, where I'd note there is pretty much the same percentage of people that own guns (as compared to, say, European countries that own very much less guns than North Americans) is a question worth asking. Not that I have any solid answers.

Another thought. Movies like Jack Reacher and Django unchained are coming out of Hollywood studios. From what I can tell European films often reflect differing cultural viewpoints. I've read somewhere that Europeans have much more problems with violence in films than sexuality and North American's are the opposite. I find that my own views on film align with this.

Edited by Attica
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Nick Olson wrote:

: Though, I thought DiCaprio and SLJ were excellent in their respective roles.

SLJ, absolutely. DiCaprio... meh.

John Drew wrote:

: There's a brief exchange of dialogue where Jack Reacher defines what he calls the four type of people drawn to the military... 1] Those who do it out of a sense of patriotism. 2] Those who need a job. 3] fuzzy on this one, but I think the jist was... Those who want to see if they can meet the challenge, or push themselves to the ultimate endurance. 4] Those who want a legally justifed way to take a life or, to borrow a phrase from another Tom Cruise film (MI:2), people who feel "the need to get their gun off."

Actually, I believe #1 was people who do it because it's family tradition (which sort-of seems to be where Reacher himself is coming from), then #2 was patriotism and #3 was people who need a job.

: Any one feel that perhaps King Schultz's education of Django makes Django a less ethical person as the film progresses, even if Schultz thinks of himself as an ethical person?

Yep, though I suspect many of the film's fans will miss this point (and that may or may not include Tarantino himself).

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Attica wrote:

: From what I can see Canadians aren't as likely to view them as cool, and hold gun events and have gun clubs (although those things are here to a certain degree.

Yeah, I was peripherally involved with a group called the Historical Arms Collector Society about 20 years ago. I went shooting with a couple friends on a few occasions. (And I once got a visit from the police after the attempted assassination of Dr Romalis, because the owner at one gun store (where I had bought the bullets for our outing) had learned that I was pro-life. This greatly amused the two friends with whom I had gone shooting, both of whom I knew from church. But anyhoo.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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John Drew wrote:

: There's a brief exchange of dialogue where Jack Reacher defines what he calls the four type of people drawn to the military... 1] Those who do it out of a sense of patriotism. 2] Those who need a job. 3] fuzzy on this one, but I think the jist was... Those who want to see if they can meet the challenge, or push themselves to the ultimate endurance. 4] Those who want a legally justifed way to take a life or, to borrow a phrase from another Tom Cruise film (MI:2), people who feel "the need to get their gun off."

Actually, I believe #1 was people who do it because it's family tradition (which sort-of seems to be where Reacher himself is coming from), then #2 was patriotism and #3 was people who need a job.

You're absolutely right, Peter, I couldn't think of "tradition". Thinking back on it, last week I was discussing with a friend of his time in the service, and it was he who had joined basically to see if he could meet the difficult physical challenges.

Edited by John Drew

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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And then he becomes a "white man" by the end of the film. Total destruction. The problem with Tarantino is that he could never make a film about MLK or Bonhoeffer. Neither compute in his universe.

Yes, I agree that DiCaprio was awfully good in this role.

Leary, it's as if you are living in my head.

One of the books I bought my nine year-old for Christmas is Bad News for Outlaws, a picture book based on the life of Bass Reeves, a black deputy marshall who brought in myriads of wanted outlaws, while famously shooting almost none of them. The competing counter-narrative of a freed slave who brought in outlaws for pay really framed my viewing of the bounty-hunting portions of DJANGO UNCHAINED.

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: Any one feel that perhaps King Schultz's education of Django makes Django a less ethical person as the film progresses, even if Schultz thinks of himself as an ethical person?

Nowhere in the film is this more apparent than in the argument on the hill where Django doesn't want to shoot the man who is plowing his field with his son. Schulz's ethics are a lot like Javert's if you really think about it. He has no room for mercy, and he can't understand anyone else who does either. But he's a lot funnier and more dapper than Javert which makes him all the more fun to watch.

"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

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SPOILERS

... at least two characters (Bridget Fonda and Robert DeNiro) die on camera in Jackie Brown. I think that because this is Quentin's most restrained film when it comes to showing violence on screen, these two deaths may fly under the radar.

I went and checked. I guess they sort of occur on camera. Unlike Django Unchained, you still don't really see everything.

2) Does a film like this have an impact on people and culture, specifically in this case, gun culture? After all this is a film where things are set right and problems are solved through guns. What I saw was a film that exposed the evils of slavery and prejudice, but actually exploited the use of guns, this with a certain mystique surrounding the weapons.

Is this film depicting an historical attitute towards guns, or influencing a future attitude, or both? My wife and I have been observing some of the fallout from those recent shootings and the discussions around gun culture in the States. The other day we watched a news article showing how some teachers were being trained with guns for potential use in schools, whereby someone in authority was saying "The only way to stop bad people with guns is to have good people with guns". Which we thought was completely nuts.

I still have difficulty understanding what even the idea of "gun culture" means. I suppose it's possible to be fetishistic about guns. Jackie Brown, come to think of it, mocks this with a girls & guns commercial that Ordell's character enjoys. But it would be difficult to argue that this is how a majority of Americans think. Django Unchained strikes me as much more about violence and revenge as the solution to a problem, the fact that guns are being used is merely because it's a Western. The camera doesn't leer and focus in on the guns in this film like the camera focused on the Samurai swords in Kill Bill. As far as the idea that "the only way to stop bad people with guns is to have good people with guns" just seems like a variation upon T.H. White's Arthur's using might for right to stop might from making right, or Burke's the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing, or Sam Childer's justification (Machine Gun Preacher) for his use of violence against evil. The argument applies no matter what a society's weapon of choice happens to be.

I could agree that the film exploits violence. It revels in the blood and the suffering of human beings, even if they are the bad guys. But exploiting violence for the purposes of entertainment has been a human problem ever since ancient Greece and Rome.

I'm with ya Attica on the response to the violence in the film. This past month I've been asking myself "what is the right response to oppression?". It's not an easy answer ...

And yet, it's a question our modern culture seems to find far more anxiety producing than our ancestors did. For example, here's forty sermons or reasons to kill the king.

FWIW. The guns I had grew up around were never considered to be cool. They just were. We had guns around the farm that were simply there for a reason, either game hunting or getting rid of some varmint that was killing cattle ... Pretty much everybody I've met has a similar viewpoint on guns, which I strongly suspect is an example of a difference (generally) between the U.S. cultural view and the Canadian one on such things. From what I can see Canadians aren't as likely to view them as cool, and hold gun events and have gun clubs (although those things are here to a certain degree.) Canadians are more inclined towards simply seeing guns as a tool with a purpose, what with the large amount of hunting that goes on here (in a huge portion of the country's landscape the main industry is outdoors based including fishing and hunting.)

... But that's what I was touching on, the differing attitude towards guns is coming from a country that had the heroes and villians of the wild west as a prominent aspect of its development, also including the use of weapons to win its freedom etc. I'd think that one of the reasons there is such a debate over the weapons. It's touched on a cultural nerve, connected to some people's very sense of identity.

I'd question whether gun clubs or the NRA would even exist if gun control was not such a big issue in American politics. To a certain extent, much of it (if you remember Charlton Heston) was more a reaction against what has been perceived as big government interference than any particular fixation on the gun itself. Granted, violence is often portrayed as "cool" in films. But that's violence itself - samurai swords, bows and arrows, knives, etc. have all been portrayed as "cool" because of the violence they can inflict. But if you were to compare, oh say, Kurosawa's Seven Samurai with The Magnificent Seven, the focus is more on the individual "cool" samurai or gunfighters than it really is on the weapons they use. In fact, their weapons are more or less interchangeable in a story that is still the same. To say that an American's sense of identity is connected to his guns strikes me as ludicrous, unless you're looking at advertisements made by gun manufacturers. But you could take advertisements made for McDonalds or jewelry stores or beer or cars or Cialis and then conclude that the average consumer had as equally an obsessive one track mind.

Part of this may be to do with the genre of film, part to the historical presence of guns as a daily way of life. We've all grown up watching westerns, and if there is anything that viewing a lot of westerns ingrains upon us is the notion that most confrontations are going end up being taken care of with the use of guns. Going a little further, the majority of westerns can be summed up like this - bad guys cause problems with guns, while good guys solve problems with guns. Rarely does anything get solved with a fistfight, and never does anything get solved with a conversation. And usually it is a life or death situation that forces the good guy to ultimately draw his weapon.

Is King Arthur or Robin Hood in the Medieval Ages really any different? The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson? What about The Three Musketeers in 17th Century France? Any story about a society without law and order is going to eventually include good guys who have not been using violence who finally decide to use violence. The same thing could be said for Seth Bullock's character in Deadwood.

The gun as a tool aspect of westerns is not evident here. Closer to a mind set that my friend Louis posted about on Facebook just after the Connecticut shooting...

Why do we have guns? Because we think that they are cool. I got mine 50 years ago

because I thought it would be cool to own one. There is something so empowering about

shooting a gun, about hitting something 100 yards away. It's cool, it's like being one of those guys

in the movies. So can we stop the, "I bought my gun to protect myself." jargon ...

Having a gun because it's "cool" is a stupid, and really a modern white upper/middle class juvenile, reason for having a gun. Empowering? You lose the initial novelty of it the 10th or 20th time you fire it. Hundreds or thousands of rounds later, if you're thinking about "those guys in the movies" then you're a very odd person. Most gun owners I know do not excitedly talk about how "cool" their guns are. Most veterans I know are determined to own their own guns. It just becomes a matter of experience and security. Many veterans I know are now hunters. It's a skill that may never become useful in the modern world, but it's enjoyable in a very old-fashioned sense.

The world is not a safe and happy place, and guns are the most obvious means of defense of one's family. It's very easy for someone who lives in a privileged and sheltered life to feel like the only use for a gun is to boast one's self-esteem. But to the vast majority of humanity throughout the history of mankind, law and order are fragile and unique achievements given human nature. Defense of oneself and one's family is a responsibility that is only mocked by those who lead secure lives. There is a sense in which some men think it worth owning and knowing how to use guns for the same reasons that owning tools and knowing how to fix their own cars is worth knowing.

To mock others (often war veterans) who do not believe in or care about looking cool because an American thinks the only reason to own a gun is to look cool, is an exhibition of, well, let's say, inexperience and entertainment saturation.

If you read history and political philosophy, traditionally guns are what tyrannical governments do not want the people to own. I'm not worried about a tyrannical government hurting me in my lifetime, but that doesn't mean that as a matter of philosophical principle, I don't still believe that the people ought to always be armed.

Django Unchained, however, never even brought up these questions. If there is a legitimate related question about the film, I would suggest it's about how we are often too easily entertained by violence. The fact that guns are used in the process seems merely incidental.

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FWIW, I'm a Lefty (not stating for political discussion, just stating) and I didn't think there was anything particularly problematic about the gun-aspect of Django. Nor yet of the violence, actually; it's telling that Tarantino actually cuts away from real-world violence (think: the slave being torn apart by the dogs). The stuff he lingers on is so ludicrously over-the-top that I doubt it even qualifies as violence anymore. It's more like splatter-painting. And half the enjoyment (I think) that audiences get out of it is precisely in that it's obviously not-real. So I don't even think the movie raises many questions along the lines of "why are we entertained by violence?" We aren't. We're entertained by fake violence, and that's another set of questions (to which I would suggest the answer is catharsis, but not in the sense of bloody-mindedness. More in the sense of slapstick comedy).

Storytime: I watched The Killer Inside Me the other day, and part of it involves the brutal beating of Jessica Alba. Now, precious little was shown, but the whole scene was gut-wrenching--intentionally so. It was, if you will, real violence even if it was simulated. And it wasn't entertaining (um...nothing about that movie is. I'd just as soon not watch it again). Now, I doubt the audiences cheering the blood-bath at the end of Django Unchained would cheer equally during the scene referenced above---and it's precisely because they know the difference. As far as I can see, Tarantino is aiming for a kind of "heck, yeah!" when the villains get their come-uppance, but saying that cheering when that happens is a problem seems to be a basic genre-confusion; it's like asking why a picaresque hero has to be so...so picaresque. Or why there's so much ribald humor in bawdy poems like "The Miller's Tale."

Anyway, it may be obvious, but I loved the movie in a way I've loved only one other Tarantino flick (Inglorious Basterds is the other--and the last scene of Pulp Fiction). It's tremendously entertaining.

Edited by NBooth
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J.A.A. Purves said:

:I still have difficulty understanding what even the idea of "gun culture" means.

:To say that an American's sense of identity is connected to his guns strikes me as ludicrous,

I didn't say that "an American's sense of identity is connected to his guns". Rather I said that America's history in connection with guns is connected to some peoples very sense of identity.

Different thing. It's not saying that a persons sense of identity is only connected to his guns, or that this applies to every single person. Rather it is saying that some peoples sense of identity is connected to the cultural mileu surrounding guns, which is linked to their historical use. In the case of the U.S. whereby they were used to win her freedom and were an integral part of the Wild West ect. which was an integral part of the U.S.'s cultural history, just as say the royalty was an integral part of English cultural history, or the Hudson's Bay company and fur trade was an integral part of Canadian history.

As a Canadian, especially in Manitoba, the history of the Hudson's Bay company still has influences on the culture in which I reside. People are sleeping under Hudson's Bay company blankets and wearing Hudson's Bay company jackets. There are trading post museums. ect. There are still issues (some good and some bad) between white people and aboriginal people regarding this piece of history.

It is therefore connected to our identity as Canadians. It might not be directly connected to everyone's sense of identity but it's part of the cultural mileu that makes us a distinct people.

So in the same regards this is what I mean by "gun culture" in the States. Even if one is radically opposed to guns they are still part of this different cultural mileu that makes them part of something distinct. In Canada there are very few people that are radically opposed to guns, it isn't part of our culture. The debate isn't here, at least certainly not to the same degree. our discussions are actually more likely to be about our southern neighbors gun policy's than our own.

So then lets look at some of the States where people are allowed to carry firearms as long as they are unconcealed, whereby some people (certainly not all) are walking around with guns on their sides. This is a direct product of the Wild West cultural influences. It is something that makes these States distinct from other areas and therefore is part of their cultural identity although surely not the only part.

For people who are wearing the guns it becomes part of their identity, even if its only in the fact that it's part of what they where out of the house. It's something that speaks of who they are just as the clothing I wear speaks of who I am.

Just to again note. I'm not writing this as a point of contention or insult, but rather observations.

:"the only way to stop bad people with guns is to have good people with guns". The argument applies no matter what a society's weapon of choice happens to be.

And the U.S.' weapon of choice is guns... thus "gun culture".

This argument might apply no matter what the weapon of choice might be, but that doesn't mean that its a good argument, at least in the case of training up school teachers to have guns in the schools. Policemen of FBI ect. with guns is a different thing.

:I could agree that the film exploits violence. It revels in the blood and the suffering of human beings, even if they are the bad guys. But exploiting violence for the purposes of entertainment has been a human problem ever since ancient Greece and Rome.

True.

:I'd question whether gun clubs or the NRA would even exist if gun control was not such a big issue in American politics. To a certain extent, much of it (if you remember Charlton Heston) was more a reaction against what has been perceived as big government interference than any particular fixation on the gun itself.

This could very well be. But it gets back to the gun culture idea. It is a big issue. I'm coming from a culture where it isn't such a big issue, and I'm on the outside looking in, observing different cultural views in several ways. Including different ways of politics and different ways of responding to this.

:The world is not a safe and happy place, and guns are the most obvious means of defense of one's family. It's very easy for someone who lives in a privileged and sheltered life to feel like the only use for a gun is to boast one's self-esteem. But to the vast majority of humanity throughout the history of mankind, law and order are fragile and unique achievements given human nature. Defense of oneself and one's family is a responsibility that is only mocked by those who lead secure lives.

If you read history and political philosophy, traditionally guns are what tyrannical governments do not want the people to own. I'm not worried about a tyrannical government hurting me in my lifetime, but that doesn't mean that as a matter of philosophical principle, I don't still believe that the people ought to always be armed.

At the risk of pissing you off. I wonder if this view isn't coming out of the influence of a "gun culture". I'm actually serious. Could it be coming from a culture that historically had to free itself from the "tyrannical" England, from the fight between the "North" and the "South".

Again. This view of guns being absolutely needed as a defense for family's and against government isn't really all that prominent in my culture. It's a culture that would be more inclined to trust our police and government to care for us. Of course this is linked to the idea in some U.S. people that we are too socialist.

But the fact remains that a great number of us aren't worried about having guns to protect our familes but trust in the system. Sure the system doesn't always work, and sure there is violence and crime here. But the violence isn't to the same degree even when many people don't have guns for protection. The system does work to a large extent. I rather suspect that it is the same way in many European countries.

So, then this brings me back to one of my earlier questions. Why does the U.S. have more violence than Canada? Could it be because of this very attitude towards guns as being needed for protection, whereby a lot of people (again not all) have guns and are ready to use them in violent ways? Could it be cyclical?

Edited by Attica
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Part of this may be to do with the genre of film, part to the historical presence of guns as a daily way of life. We've all grown up watching westerns, and if there is anything that viewing a lot of westerns ingrains upon us is the notion that most confrontations are going end up being taken care of with the use of guns. Going a little further, the majority of westerns can be summed up like this - bad guys cause problems with guns, while good guys solve problems with guns. Rarely does anything get solved with a fistfight, and never does anything get solved with a conversation. And usually it is a life or death situation that forces the good guy to ultimately draw his weapon. Otherwise, guns in westerns are just one of many tools for getting through life under rugged circumstances, where your next meal is dependent on how well your father taught you to hunt and shoot. Django Unchained may not completely fit the "good guys vs. bad guys" mold of most westerns, but it does draw some pretty clear lines of where each character stands, save Django himself (I'll come back to that).

I know much has already been said here and I havent read the entire thread, so forgive me if this has already been established. Of all Tarantino's films, I find the gun violence in both Basterds and Django to be the least problematic. Both films deal with the familiar theme of unsatisfied reciprocity, as someone else has said, and the general setting(s) in which that terrible imbalance is rectified (with Basterds it's in a war against an established enemy and in Django it's pre-civil war South, where for African Americans there was no recourse to the law) makes the deadly use of guns, explosives and weapons acceptable in a way that goes beyond the Good Guy/Bad Guy conflicts of most westerns and even the hit list attacks of Kill Bill. This is not to say all the violence in the film can be neatly categorized or justified in this manner. Schultz's bounty hunting , is perhaps one such example. He could bring in his targets bound and gagged, I suppose, which is clearly more humane under the law, but simply finds it easier to lay a corpse on top of a horse and collect his cash. Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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A measured defense of Django as film criticism (Mother Jones):

The lionization of the Lost Cause and the Confederacy runs like an inedible streak of gristle through the revenge Western genre, where those who fought to protect the rights of whites to own blacks as property are humanized while those who fought to preserve the Union are recalled as monsters. Blacks, if they appear, serve merely to bolster the lie that the Civil War wasn't about slavery. The trope of the wronged former Confederate is alive and well, whether excised from its historical context (Firefly) or hilariously rationalized for new audiences (Hell on Wheels).

Django is an inversion of the genre, where the loner seeking revenge is a former slave instead of a former Confederate; where the alien savages who stole his life from him are white, as is the sidekick with the nonexistent past: Tarantino hasn't simply flipped the notion of a Western hero, he's even given him an inverted Magical Negro sidekick in the character of King Shultz, a German abolitionist bounty hunter who appears out of the ether to free Django, and dies to facilitate his revenge—much as the death of Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) sets off Clint Eastwood’s character in Unforgiven. Except in Django, deserves has everything to do with it. Django kills white people like he's trying to make up for a century of on-screen genocide in Western films where black, Latino, and Native American antagonists are treated like disposable pocket litter...

If the box office take is any indication, Tarantino has not only accomplished all of this genre-busting, but has managed to do it while making white people enjoy watching what is essentially a two-hour-plus lecture on racism in American film, an extended fuck you to DW Griffith and John Ford, John Wayne, and Clint Eastwood....

Django, like many Tarantino films, also has been criticized as cartoonishly violent, but it is only so when Django is killing slave owners and overseers. The violence against slaves is always appropriately terrifying. This, if nothing else, puts Django in the running for Tarantino's best film, the first one in which he discovers violence as horror rather than just spectacle....

Cobb asks, "Is this how Americans actually perceive slavery?" and answers sadly that, yes, the idea that most blacks quietly acquiesced to slavery is pervasive and may even be enhanced by Django, despite Brumhilda's attempts to escape on her own or the scene at the beginning of the film in which a group of slaves kill a trapped slaver. I generally agree with Cobb on this question, though he fails to identify a similar problem with Tarantino's 2009 ethnic revenge flick, Inglourious Basterds. Both films might leave the impression that that Jews and blacks could have ended their persecution if only they had been gangsta guerrilla superheroes.

Django's greatest weakness, particularly given the topic of resistance, are its women characters. The director of Kill Bill should have been able to make Brumhilda more than a damsel in distress, particularly since Shoshanna, the main female protagonist in Basterds, not only engineers Hitler's death but defies both the Nazis and her own Jewish heritage by falling in love with a non-Jew.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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At the risk of pissing you off. I wonder if this view isn't coming out of the influence of a "gun culture". I'm actually serious. Could it be coming from a culture that historically had to free itself from the "tyrannical" England, from the fight between the "North" and the "South".

Again. This view of guns being absolutely needed as a defense for family's and against government isn't really all that prominent in my culture. It's a culture that would be more inclined to trust our police and government to care for us. Of course this is linked to the idea in some U.S. people that we are too socialist.

But the fact remains that a great number of us aren't worried about having guns to protect our families but trust in the system. Sure the system doesn't always work, and sure there is violence and crime here. But the violence isn't to the same degree even when many people don't have guns for protection. The system does work to a large extent. I rather suspect that it is the same way in many European countries.

So, then this brings me back to one of my earlier questions. Why does the U.S. have more violence than Canada? Could it be because of this very attitude towards guns as being needed for protection, whereby a lot of people (again not all) have guns and are ready to use them in violent ways? Could it be cyclical?

No, you are definitely touching on something here. "Resistance to tyranny" is a principle contained within American, and in fact in Western culture. You could probably apply much of your thought to the Greek hoplite, who owned his own spear and shield, owned his own armor, and displayed his spear and shield prominently in his home. The fact that the Greek hoplites were part of the middle class and formed one of the first armies in human history that consisted of free volunteers (many of whom had participated in voting for the very war in which they would take part) was a result of their political philosophy. In the Greek city state, the citizen was proud of his arms and participation in the Greek phalanx, and he believed that his membership in the Greek phalanx was one of the greatest things ensuring his own freedom and the protection of his farm, family and property. In this sense, I suppose you could claim that the Greek city states had a "hoplite culture."

This sense of pride in an armed populace has been present, to greater and lesser extents, in almost every other great Western civilization for the rest of history. Add to this the fact that one of the stated purposes of the 2nd Amendment in the United States is that an armed populace is one of the guarantees against tyranny. Add to this that there were smaller, less internationally active, and less violent territories and tribal peoples around the Greek city-states who never much participated in war because the Greeks' protection shielded them from having to deal much with Persian or other threats. Thus, you could probably say that there were other peoples who were much less violent or warlike near the Greek city states.

Django Unchained, as a film, would never have existed without the Western idea of morally justified rebellion against tyranny. The idea that free men are justified in the use of violence against oppression is an idea that is highly valued in America - just as much as it was highly valued in the Greek polis. Thus, American audiences can cheer when they are given a story of a slave who obtains his freedom and fights back against his former captors. I don't think "guns" are really the focus of this, but yes, they are currently the modern means to such an end.

On another note, the idea of the political necessity of an armed and free populace does not historically always have to coincide with an obsession with violence in entertainment. The "gun culture" of the United States, if there was one, was quite different before mass media than during it. I can't help but be reminded again of David Griffith's A Good War is Hard to Find: The Art of Violence in America, which discusses how violence has become so large a part of mass entertainment. If you haven't read it, I strongly recommend it. While he never alludes to them, Griffith's objections to violence as entertainment reminds me of Cicero, Pliny and Seneca's criticisms of the Roman Colosseum.

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There needs to be a white version of Django, then alles in ordnung.

Edited by M. Leary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

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This interview with Tarantino (has it been posted yet) is really interesting. It's surprising to me how simple things are to Tarantino regarding violence in this movie. And things get really interesting at about 4:30. Is this common Tarantino behavior?

"I don't want to talk about the implications of violence. ... I am shutting your butt down. This is a commercial for my movie!"

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Is this common Tarantino behavior?

Terry Gross interviewed him on Fresh Air and all I can say is that it was awkward. Somewhat similar to this interview where Tarantino talked about how he's been talking about this for 20 years and his position hasn't changed. There was lot's of dead air and Tarantino would answer questions with really short answers. She asked him what he liked about "Spaghetti Western beatings" and then he pauses and says 'It's fun" followed by a little laughter then a long pause. Then she followed up asking about Sandy Hook and asked if there were ever times when it wasn't fun. Taratino's response: "Not for me." I don't think Gross knew how to respond to that.

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Django is on its way to becoming my winner for the annual Emperor's New Clothes Award for the most wretched movie of the year to get the most glowing reviews. The latest issue of National Review sums it up best: "The only history Tarantino knows is the history of B moves, in which he is admittedly learned. If you told him the Civil War happened in 1900, he would probably believe you. He is a clown selling tickets to slobs."

I find it mind-blowing that so many people are taking this film as a serious consideration of the reality of slavery!

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I find it mind-blowing that so many people are taking this film as a serious consideration of the reality of slavery!

I wasn't aware that people are taking it as a "serious consideration" of anything. It's a revenge flick--a particularly entertaining one--that takes one of the most stupid and cherished national myths (the genteel antebellum South) and quite properly trashes it. That sort of cultural dynamite-work is always done with a wink. It's got nothing to do with historical rigor (though I will say that Django strikes me as much closer to "the reality of slavery" than fluffy and, frankly, stupid nonsense like Gone with the Wind.)

EDIT: This sentence from NR is pretty silly, btw: "[Tarantino] is a clown selling tickets to slobs."

Silly for two reasons: first, because it supposes that being a clown is a bad thing (it isn't, as such luminaries as Hop-Frog and Bob Dylan could attest. It's the clowns that often do the important work of destroying false idols), and second, because--really?! Enjoying a Tarantino flick makes you a slob? Golly. That's a leap. Next up, they'll be saying that only low-brows watch movies at all.

Edited by NBooth
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