Maybe you’ve seen Tarantino’s new movie, Django Unchained. If you have, you know it’s all about breaking stereotypes and de- and re-constructing history. It’s about slavery and westerns, but I’m not gonna talk about that. Here’s why: this blog is about gender.
There is a myth in the movie, the myth of Broomhilda and Siegfried: Broomhilda is being held captive (by her father) in a tower, guarded by a dragon, surrounded by fire, at the top of a tall tall mountain. Okay, so we know where Django is going- to that mountain! With the help of his accomplice, he up and offs to rescue his princess. It seems like a pretty traditional hero’s journey, wherein the male protagonist overcomes obstacles, goes through hell and back, to win the love of his fair maid. And the argument has been made that the fair maid isn’t even a person! She is only a representative of the boon, the new relationship and self-knowledge that the hero has forged with himself through his quest. So that’s depressing.
But when Django arrives to rescue his maiden, we find her locked up in a box because she continually tries to run away. or rather, we hear her. the silent woman trope is lost in this movie- Broomhilda is made to eternally suffer, and she screams bloody murder the whole time! She is powerful. She is one of two characters in the movie to speak a foreign language (a nice set up to foil Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio’s character) who pretends at French culture but doesn’t know anything about it) – so she uses her voice eloquently to speak German, she uses it to cry out the abuses that are weighed down on her, and she uses it to show us, the audience, that she is no fucking fairy tale princess waiting for a rescuer.
She saves herself, continually, by not tacitly agreeing with the system the way that every other person who lived in CandieLand did. She proves herself to be just as much of a hero as Django, so that when they find each other, they meet as equals (well, except that he’s got a lot a lot of guns and monies). So maybe he does need to save her a little bit. Okay, well he saves the shit out of her. But her power, like so many women’s power, lies in her tenaciousness. Just because she isn’t Django, running around shooting white people, doesn’t mean that she is less powerful than he is. And realistically, she is the proper hero- the person who continues to say no to a system of injustice whether or not she is rewarded for it. Django had it real easy compared to her…
Okay, so the reason I write this: this movie rewrites history by creating Django, a hero who comes out of Tarantino’s imagination. BUT. Behind Django we see in a new (and visceral) way the realities of slavery. We see the complicity, the people gaming the system, the inhumanity, the horror, and we see it plainly.
But the real villain in the story isn’t Candie-he is just a dumbass product of the system. The real villain is Samuel L Jackson’s character, Stephen, the Uncle Tom who had risen through the ranks in order to make his own life comfortable, beating up on others who are in the same position that he once was. This is a man who turns his back on his own people in order to get a little extra somethin’ for himself. He becomes Candie’s lackey, literally parroting Candie’s jokes in order that he keep his little bit of power. And that ain’t real power…
Okay, so, to the point. We can’t let people rob us of our voices. In an imperfect world, that is literally ALL that we have. The difference between speaking up for what is right and remaining silent may seem minuscule, but once you have lost your power to speak, you become complicit in the system that we are all fighting. NO MATTER WHAT. yeah. so there.