X-mas Westerns Unchained

Pictured: *Scary* guy with gun in a hat.

Lets take another change of pace and talk about movies. This Holiday season the movie I’m most excited about is Django Unchained.  I know, I know, nothing says Christmas like a Tarantino spaghetti western involving slavery. Thanks Santa. But some of the coverage/analysis of said movie is just plain stupid.  Like this one from Ari Melber, a writer I usually like and respect, from The Atlantic.

The spectacle is more like pornographic violence than a dénouement, and even if the corpses are not total innocents, the nation’s tolerance for wanton, mass shootings is quite low right now.

The question floating around in liberal and conservative circles alike right now seems to be: Is Django too violent?  To which I respond: are you fucking with me? Compared to what?  That can’t be a serious question. If it is, I don’t think any of these commentators have ever seen a western before. Lets do a comparison on some great American Westerns. Unforgiven, an Oscar-winning film, is about assassins. Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman are literally being paid to kill some men.  Not only that but Clint’s character, Edward Muny, is a wholly unrepentant killer. If you’re straining your memory trying to remember the huge media blitz involving Unforgiven being too violent, don’t strain yourself. It never happened.

Pictured: *Heroic* guy with a gun in a hat. See the difference?

Lets check out another favorite western of mine, Tombstone. This movie is the quasi-historical account of the lawman Wyatt Earp’s life once he and his brothers moved to Arizona. Between the shootout at the OK Corral and his “Vendetta Ride” later in the movie, Wyatt and his boys gunned down about 30 people (yes I counted.)  Uproar about violence in that particular move?  Of course not.

Now, we have three westerns that all have the typical revenge-killing aspect to them.  Clint’s character takes his revenge against those who’ve killed his partner and then some.  Wyatt’s had one brother maimed and the other killed.  So he takes his vengeance posse on the road killing every cowboy with a red sash they come across.  Django goes on his killing spree for unspeakable crimes against his wife, but mostly in order to save her.  What could possible be the difference between all of these movies?  Somehow white people killing folks by the boatload in the Wild West barely registers.  But if the protagonist is brown, OMFG! 

You could make the exact same critique of the other moves I cited.  In Unforgiven the protagonist kills plenty of people who weren’t involved in his friend’s killing.  And in Tombstone, numerous people fleeing battle are shoot dead through the back, and one cowboy was killed while unarmed and ridiculously high on opium.  How high you ask?  So high that he didn’t realize the opium pipe he thought he was sucking on was Wyatt Earp’s Buntline Special Revolver.  POW!  But these sorts of critiques on what is acceptable violence never seem to be leveled at all movies.  Just certain ones.

It’s amazing the extent to which race affects even our reaction to movies.  In certain respects, who cares right?  Of course the folks at Fox, the Drudge Report, and AndrewBreitbart.com love this shit, because it lets them do their very favorite thing: stoke racial animus by taking fictional, context-appropriate actions (lots of people die in westerns) by a black character and then hitting the panic button. But once you start seeing contributors to the Atlantic and panelists on lefty-central MSNBC saying this stuff, you know the shark has been jumped.

Listen closely folks.  Westerns are violent movies.  And Tarantino films trend toward the violent as well.  Please see filmography including Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill Volumes 1&2, Death Proof, Inglorious Basterds, and now his latest opus.  Surprise at violence in movies is ridiculous.  Surprise at  violence in a Tarantino western borders on a traumatic brain injury.  They were expecting what, violence comparable to a romantic comedy like Pretty Woman?  But it’s really never been about the violence.  It’s actually about the lack of comfort our society still has when it’s a black person doing the killing — righteous or otherwise.  Max Read at Gawker chronicled this very thing:

Django Unchained, unsurprisingly, has already been the subject of a series of heated blog posts on white nationalist sites. “Django Unchained; Incitement to racially motivated murder,” goes one headline; another calls it an “anti-White racial snuff film.”

I can’t believe I have to say this, but any violence that takes place within a movie pales in comparison to actual violence that has occurred in our nation’s history.  Particularly with respect to slavery.  Also, you know it’s just a movie right? Outside of you (random white person) selling Jamie Foxx into slavery, abusing him, separating him from his wife, and then further abusing her, I’m reasonably sure he’s not coming for you. Feel free race-riot proof your house if that’s what makes you happy, but do calm down.



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  1. Western Short Stories Vol.6, No. 9 (Nov. 1949) | The Great Pulp Magazine Index

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