Does 'Django' Use the N-Word Too Much?
The racial slur is used liberally in Quentin Tarantino's film, but he's an equal-opportunity offender.
(Weinstein Co./Dimension Films)
But here's the thing: Tarantino is an equal-opportunity disser. One of the funniest scenes in the movie is when the Ku Klux Klan is in pursuit of Django and Schultz. The Klan members have their little hoods on and are ready to roll, but the woman who made the costumes jacked up the eyeholes, and none of the men can see! It's not often that white men come off as the bumbling idiots -- unless it's a Will Ferrell or Seth Rogen buddy comedy.
Yet given the number of horrifically violent scenes in the film -- particularly the ones between the Mandingo fighters, and a nauseatingly gruesome one with a dog ripping off the limbs of a runaway slave -- hearing the black characters call each other n--ger was akin to not having to stand in the long lines at Disneyland.
It was a welcome relief.
And even when the word was uttered by plantation owner Big Daddy (Don Johnson) or Candie (DiCaprio), it beat having to see yet another stomach-churning bloodbath. In this case it was definitely the lesser of two evils.
But how much is too much?
You could argue that the word's excessive use in Django is reflective of the times. The film is set in the South just a few years before the Civil War. That said, do we give Tarantino a pass? Does it matter if he used it 50 times or 150? Not really. Once is usually more than enough. But had he not used it all, some nitpicking film buff would have called him out for making a historically inaccurate Disney flick.
After a while the word just loses its sting, and that's by design. Essentially, Tarantino has found a way to defuse one of the most explosive words on the planet with some creative storytelling.
The bottom line is that Django is a very entertaining movie. And with all of the advance buzz -- some of which has been tempered by the recent tragedy in Newtown, Conn. (the Los Angeles premiere was canceled) -- Tarantino and crew could fare well during awards season.
Pass or no pass.
So if you have the constitution to endure two hours and 45 minutes of offensive language and hard-core gore, go ahead and pluck down your $12 to see one of the few big-budget films made this year with black folks in the lead roles. Take your calculator, too. Only you can be the judge of whether Tarantino went too far this time.
Miki Turner is an award-winning photojournalist in Los Angeles.