I haven’t done a movie review in a long time so I thought I’d break the drought, sort of. My good friend Jeff invited me over watch the Rams game (darn you, Falcons) and we put on Django Unchained afterward.
Let me warn you that this isn’t really going to be a movie review. It’s going be about the actor Samuel L. Jackson. He played a role in the movie that showed what I thought displayed a tremendous amount of courage. It’s not a role a man lacking self-confidence can play and Jackson played it fantastically.
Jackson is, as I’m sure most of you know, a black man. The role he played was essentially a House Negro. This is a black person who worked with white owners to help keep the field, or working, blacks oppressed in exchange for a better position. In the movie there are a lot of unpalatable characters but Stephen, Jackson’s character, seems to me to be the most despicable.
The movie itself engendered a large amount of anger in the black community from Spike Lee and many others. Jackson had to know that his character would be perceived as vile, particularly among blacks. That’s why I think Jackson was both incredibly confident and quite brave to take on the role.
He didn’t just take on the role, he owned it. He gave us a look at what a house negro was. History gives us example after example of people willing to help those in power oppress their own kind. Collaborationism is one name for it and the term was used extensively during World War II to indicate someone willing to betray their country for favoritism from the new regime. It is not a new idea. In ancient Greece helping the Persians was considered Medism.
Jackson’s character in the movie is vile. Jackson read the script and accepted the role knowing what he was going to have to do and then went out and did it with incredible skill. He is absolutely convincing as Stephen the collaborator. He gives us insight into the times and into the type of person who behaves in this fashion.
I’m not really going anywhere political with this blog post. I’m just here to say that I admire Jackson tremendously for his courage in taking on this role and his acting skill in bringing it to life. He’s an actor and it’s his job, but not everyone does their job so well, particularly when doing so might have long-term repercussions. It’s not far-fetched to imagine him being “punished” by those upset with his portrayal. Future roles might be denied. Who knows?
A tip of the hat to Samuel L. Jackson, a man of courage.
As for the entire movie? Typical Quentin Tarantino, entertaining, over-the-top, ridiculous at times, plot holes galore, but stylish and made with passion. I’d recommend it.
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