Django Unchained: Uncomfortable for people who want to believe they’re still chained

Django Unchained AP

Spike Lee didn’t think if was “disrespectful” when he went off half-cocked and encouraged 250,000 of his followers to take the law into their own hands and go after George Zimmerman after the Trayvon Martin shooting. When it turned out that the address provided belonged to an innocent elderly couple who had nothing to do with Mr. Zimmerman, he didn’t see it as “disrespectful” that his apology happened in less than 140 characters — on Twitter. And so, it seems odd that without even seeing Django Unchained he has deemed it an affront to his ancestors.

Spike Lee doesn’t have much to say about Quentin Tarantino’s new film about a slave-turned-gunslinger. When it comes to “Django Unchained” he simply won’t watch it.

“It’d be disrespectful to my ancestors to see that film. That’s the only thing I’m going to say. I can’t disrespect my ancestors,” Lee told VibeTV in a recent interview.

But Spike Lee is not alone. Since Django Unchained has come out a number of stories have addressed whether or not the movie’s mere existence is appropriate. Some at least managed to do the sane thing and sit through the movie before critiquing it:

Barbara Chennault, another costume designer who attended the Beverly Hills screening, could do without it. Like White, she admits to being conflicted about Tarantino. “I don’t think that slavery is something you can make light of,” she said. “Overall the movie was jarring and unsettling, but the humor totally distracted from the depth.”

Tim Cogshell, an African American movie critic for KPCC-FM’s “Filmweek,” says the issue is not Tarantino riffing on slavery but the fact that blacks are still living out its painful legacy. …

The surreal liftoff that happens at some point in ‘Basterds’ doesn’t happen here, because of the weight of what’s still real,” he said. “For example, there’s a certain racial backlash to Obama that’s still going on.” …

True, the movie abounds with disturbing details of slavery — face masks, Mandingo fights, killer dogs, “hot boxes” into which runaways were thrown as punishment. But details alone do not argue anything. The most disturbing detail is the emotional violence and degradation directed at blacks that effectively keeps them at the bottom of the social order, a place they still occupy today.

The United States is a magnet for millions upon millions of immigrants of all races and religions. They flock here in numbers so large that politicians are forced to have contentious debates in Congress about how to deal with the issue. These immigrants come here — to a nation that has just overwhelmingly elected a black president to a second term — and by and large, they succeed. The children of first generation immigrants are better off than their parents. The grandchildren of first generation immigrants more often than not follow suit. And yet, we still have Los Angeles Times reporters and “African American movie critics” (How about just ‘movie critic’?) lamenting “the weight” of slavery. Apparently, that weight is so large that it keeps generations of blacks “at the bottom of the social order.” But is that true? Studies have been done that compare the social mobility of immigrants from, say, Jamaica or Africa to that of American blacks with generations of roots here in North America … and the results are eye opening. The response to Django Unchained might give us a clue as to what’s going on.

Some form of racism or tribalism exists in all countries and in all cultures. It always has. It will never be extinguished. In some sense, the urge to put on mind-forged manacles (e.g., an “us vs. them” mentality) is engrained in our DNA. Watch idiots get into a bar fight over a favorite sports team — I repeat, a sports team — to see the least pernicious example of this mindset at play. Given this reality, the real question becomes: “Does a level of racism exist in this country or this community that could prevent a determined individual from pursuing and attaining the life they’re after?” In the United States, the answer is “no.” While occasional run-ins with racists or bigots are inevitable, their power is marginalized and does not prevent honest hard-working individuals from realizing their full potential. Sadly, the Spike Lees of the world do not believe this to be the case.

An America where the issue of slavery joins the ranks of all the others that were once sacred cows — but now up for grabs for any writer, director, artist or comedian to play with as they see fit — is an America where the politics of guilt are powerless. When Jamie Foxx can show up on Saturday Night Live, joke about killing “all the white people,” and then receive a round of applause and laughter from a mostly-white audience — Q.E.D.: Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and Spike Lee have lost the ability to play the race card.

Spike Lee refuses to see Django Unchained because its very existence (its critically acclaimed and commercially successful existence) is a powerful blow to his entire worldview. Millions of white people are now coughing up cash to see a movie where the white guys are the “bad” guys and the white guys become the dead guys due to the protagonist black guy. Jamie Foxx’s Django will be hanging from the college dorm room walls of gullible white college kids, who will then dutifully nod their heads when their leftist professors tell them they’re subconsciously racist. They will then listen to JayZ while wearing an RG3 football jersey after class. It is this reality that Mr. Lee and “African American movie critics” like Tim Cogshell seek to deny, and they telegraph it through their commentary on Tarantino’s work.

My suggestion to you would be do see Django Unchained, find a way to love it, and then tweet Spike Lee its praises as you exit the theater. The sooner we can start mocking men like Mr. Lee, the sooner we can get to a world where more people are judged by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin.

Related:Django Unchained’ trailer: A Conservative response to Liberal Youtube trolling

Defending Brent Musburger: Liberal rags go for gold in 200m race-baiting

Today, Iranians still practice their shot-putting skills by hurling rocks at women. Spike Lee recently used his Twitter feed to spread the New Black Panthers’ message of vigilante justice — until it turned out he got the wrong address and nearly scared an elderly couple to death. And yet, The Nation feels the need to target Brent Musburger. Telling.

If there was a gold medal to be had for the 200 meter race-baiting competition this year, it would be a photo finish between The Nation and Deadspin, both digging in to kick up Brent Musburger quotes from decades ago — the perfect liberal guilt trip of a beloved sportscaster just before the summer Olympics. The Nation was first out of the gates, demanding he “apologize” for comments he made 44 years ago about John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s clench-fisted medal stand protest at the 1968 Games. Too lazy to do their own research, Deadspin drafted the lead runner, piggy-backed off his liberal tripe and then lunged for the tape with a tired cliché (i.e., Musburger belongs to an “old boys club”).

Instead of covering Iranian men who practice their shot-putting skills by stoning women, Dave Zirin spends his time sifting through the sands of time to smear Brent Musburger. Here’s some of what he found:

Smith and Carlos looked like a couple of black-skinned storm troopers, holding aloft their black-gloved hands during the playing of the National Anthem. They sprinkled their symbolism with black track shoes and black scarfs and black power medals. It’s destined to go down as the most unsubtle demonstration in the history of protest.

But you’ve got to give Smith and Carlos credit for one thing. They knew how to deliver whatever it was they were trying to deliver on international television, thus insuring maximum embarrassment for the country that is picking up the tab for their room and board here in Mexico City. One gets a little tired of having the United States run down by athletes who are enjoying themselves at the expense of their country.

The 60’s were a tumultuous time in American history. There was race and war and cultural upheaval, drugs and sex and all sorts of other madness, sprayed with high-powered fire hoses and washed away with hallucinogenic drugs. You had the dueling visions of Martin Luther King (recently assassinated) and Malcolm X fighting for the hearts and minds of black America, itself an extension of the disagreements between Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois.

In one corner you have men who sought to work within the system to gain acceptance and respect, and in the other you had (in many ways) a rejection of the system and a predilection for in-your-face confrontation. A large percentage of black culture was decided upon during the 60’s, and the pivot was much more Malcolm X/Du Bois and a lot less Booker T. Washington/Martin Luther King — a conversation The Nation and Deadspin would rather not have because it’s one where they can’t avoid intellectual body blows. It’s much easier to insinuate racism and demand apologies than to have honest, frank discussions on race.

Let’s talk about W.E.B DuBois and Booker T. Washington. Let’s talk about Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Or, if we’re The Nation and Deadspin … let’s not. It’s so much easier to play race-baiting games and demand apologies.

The point is, one could make the argument that Musburger erred in referencing Nazi shock troops to describe John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s form of protest, but he should never apologize for believing:

  • An awards ceremony at the Olympic Games is generally the wrong forum to take up a political fight.
  •  A philosophy of in-your-face defiance might actually fan the flames of racial animus instead of extinguishing them.

Perhaps this Olympic Games, two male swimmers will make out on the medal stand in support of gay marriage. Perhaps an Olympic sympathizer with “the 99 percent” will take a massive dump off the high dive. Perhaps a critic of President Obama’s relentless drone attacks on Pakistani tribal areas (that put Bush’s to shame) will crawl into a giant body bag during the national anthem. Who knows. And years from now Tom Cruise will narrate an ESPN awards show moment just for them, and we’ll clap and laugh and pretend it’s all so much more clear cut than it really is.

Or perhaps not, because if every Olympian who had a cause that was near and dear to their heart held a creative protest, things would get really weird, really fast.

Instead of looking exclusively to the past, let us return to 2012 and ask the question: What has become of the philosophical offspring of Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party? One could make the case that they exist as … The New Black Panthers — guys who resort to vigilantism and 10k bounties on the head of a man going through the justice system (i.e., George Zimmerman). They have friends like Spike Lee, who uses his Twitter account to foment lawlessness, only to have to apologize soon afterward because he mistakenly encourages violent dopes to harass innocent elderly couples.

To liberals, it’s always 1868, or 1968 or any racial flashpoint that allows them to act as if the United States is static, stuck in a level of bygone bigotry like it was Han Solo in carbonite. And when their racist-baiting puzzle pieces don’t fit, they smash them together like a little kid, hoping to will it so.

There is something sad about a society that goes around demanding apologies from people with the fervency of a meth head looking to score, and there’s something even more depressing about publications that spend their limited time and resources trying to destroy a good man with a sterling career — all for the sake of racial politics.

Think all of this isn’t relevant to today? Perhaps. But then again, our own President was “constantly reading” Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man back in college (indeed, a classic and a thought-provoking book). But I digress…

This isn’t a time for Brent Musburger to issue an apology. However he handles it, I’m sure it will be done with class.

Spike Lee ‘deeply’ apologizes…in 140 characters

Spike Lee wore one too many toasty hats and his brain melted. Or maybe that’s just what hate and anger does, because people who re-tweet another person’s home address for the sake of vigilante justice usually have goo floating around inside their noggin. As it turns out, Spike encouraged  his Twitter followers to take out their anger on…an elderly couple completely unconnected with George Zimmerman. Way to set the stage for things to completely spin out of control, Spike. Moron.

Spike Lee is a professional complainer, and most people know that by now. Even before the Trayvon Martin tragedy he was forwarding the weirdly racist notion that only black people are qualified to criticize black people. Many people still don’t know, however, that upon Trayvon’s death Spike took the leap we all knew he was destined for and became a full-fledged dangerous lunatic, erroneously re-tweeting what he thought to be George Zimmerman’s home address. It turns out that the only thing a lust for vigilante justice got him was a bunch of fellow nuts who like to harass retired, elderly couples:

9:00 PM EST 3/27/12- The Smoking Gun is reporting that an elderly couple lives at the Edgewater Circle address. It is the residence of David McClain, 72, and his wife Elaine, 70. “The McClains, both of whom work for the Seminole County school system, have lived in the 1310-square-foot lakefront home for about a decade, records show.”

According to TSG, the couple is living in fear since their address was linked to the Trayvon Martin shooting:

In an interview tonight, Elaine McClain told TSG that she and her husband were “afraid” due to the online linking of her address to Zimmerman. “We’re keeping everything locked,” she said. McClain added that the couple was particularly unnerved by a letter mailed to them at their home. On the envelope, she said, were printed the words “Taste The Rainbow,” the slogan for Skittles. Martin was carrying a pack of Skittles and a can of ice tea when he was gunned down by Zimmerman.

It took awhile, but at 9:30 p.m. on the 28th of March Spike “apologized” (in less than 140 characters) for his actions: “I Deeply Apologize To The McClain Family For Retweeting Their Address.It Was A Mistake.Please Leave The McClain’s In Peace.Justice In Court.”

Spike Lee goes off half-cocked and encourages 250,000 of his followers to take the law into their own hands, and when it turns out he only put the fear of God into an elderly couple he thinks it will just disappear with a robotic apology? It doesn’t work that way, Spike. Not when your Black Panther pals are putting $10,000 bounties on the head of the guy you were trying to funnel your followers to.

Want to know the real reason Spike apologized like he did (besides the threat of legal action)? It’s because deep down he knows he’s a fool. He lost his cool and turned into the very kind of monster he always complains about. What would have happened if a drunk black guy, inspired by Lee’s re-tweet, broke into the house of the old, white McClain’s and killed them in their sleep? Just wondering.

Here’s the bottom line: nobody in the media knows the specifics of this case enough to say what happened. That’s where the rule of law comes in for sane people (i.e., not Spike Lee). Worse, we have media that calls Mr. Zimmerman “white-hispanic” when he self-identifies as Hispanic. (When have you ever heard that designation before? You haven’t.) The most prevalent picture of Mr. Zimmerman has been one that makes him look like an escaped convict, while 90% of the time Trayvon is seen as a 10-12 year old kid. Mr. Zimmerman’s own mother is Peruvian, and one of his close friends is black, but we’re supposed to believe he has a seething hatred for anyone with brown skin? It doesn’t add up, which is why the rhetoric of man-boys like Spike Lee, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpon is so dangerous.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I some tweeting to catch up on that doesn’t involve recklessly endangering the lives of old people.

Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer: White Critics Need Not Apply

At some point Spike Lee stopped making films and started making cathartic releases. Sad.

Remember when Spike Lee was budding with creative energy that you could almost see resonating from his body? That was a long time ago. Somewhere along the line Spike decided he was going to become a professional complainer, which is a shame because everyone knows he’d be a better professional filmmaker. At a screening of his latest film, Red Hook Summer, the complainer informed his audience that Hollywood executives know nothing about black people:

“We never went to the studios with this film, Chris [Rock] … I told you, we’re gonna do this motherfucking film ourselves! … I didn’t want to hear no motherfucking notes from the studio telling me about what a young 13-year-old boy and girl would do in Red Hook. Fuck no. They know nothing about black people. Nothing!”

Studio executives don’t know a lot about a lot things, and if this was a one-off rant I’d sympathize with Spike. But throughout his career he has forwarded the weird (racist?) notion that only black people can understand black people. Correction: Only black people who agree with Spike Lee can understand black people. It’s a mindset that I covered when “Madea” fans explicitly stated that white critics shouldn’t review the films.

What would be the reaction if white movie critics threw it out there that perhaps the new Wes Anderson movie, Moonrise Kingdom, should be off limits to black critics because of Anderson’s “white” sensibilities?

“Edward Norton. Jason Schwartzman. Bill Murray. Bruce Willis. Wire Fox Terriers! Nope, Spike, this film just might be too white for you to understand.”

Somehow, I don’t think Mr. Spike Lee would be happy. And rightfully so. Just as it would be weird (and racist) for me to insinuate my cultural background had an impenetrable wall of awesome whiteness around it, it’s equally backwards for Spike Lee to insinuate that only liberal, angry black guys can accurately critique a movie made by liberal, angry black guys.

Call me when you start making movies instead of cathartic releases, Spike. Oh, wait, I forgot—you’re old. You’re probably not going to change.  Sad.