Helle Hello Essay

Submitted By ohmygoshjosh1
Words: 1132
Pages: 5

Among my favorite movies this year is Quentin Tarantino's excellent ode to Spaghetti Westerns, Django Unchained. Named for a 70s Spaghetti Western starring Franco Nero, Django Unchained tells the story of a slave named Django who is bought and befriended by a German-American bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz who teaches Django the ins and outs of bounty hunting as well as how to read and write. The two go about collecting bounties, “killing white folk,” and begin to search for and arrange the purchase of Django's wife Broom Hilda from the sinister Frankophile, Calvin Candy (played hilariously by Leonardo DiCaprio.) Like any Tarantino film, it hasn't come without its controversy – directors like Spike Lee and several black advocacy groups have argued that Django is a trivialization and exploitation of slavery and does a great injustice to those who were actually enslaved by depicting the antebellum South in the context of a Western. Many pop culture critics have rebuked these claims, but none of them have noted something interesting about Django that I feel makes it an important film – Django is progressive, not only because one of the protagonists is a freed slave seeking revenge (and the film's use of evocative symbolism definitely reinforces this theme) but because the character who enables Django to take revenge and, arguably the hero of the film, is German.
The fact that a German is cast as the hero of an American film is nothing short of amazing. German culture itself has produced some of the greatest artists, thinkers, philosophers, and poets known to man. The pool of knowledge and culture in the world would be significantly reduced if people such as Freidrich Nietzsche, Johannes von Goethe, Immanuel Kant, GWF Hegel, Fritz Lang, Werner Heisenberg, Guenter Grass, and JS Bach never lived. However, the ill legacy of World War II and the Holocaust has relegated German culture in the American experience to the role of schnitzel-eating do-gooders. Prominent villains such as Hans Grueber from the Die Hard films, the Nihilists from The Big Lebowski, and Dr. No and Goldfinger from the 007 franchise all tend to perpetuate the stereotype that Germans are scheming, amoral, revenge-seekers. Moreover, Nazis (often sporting inexplicable British accents) are often the go-to villains for many stories such as the Indiana Jones franchise, the Hellboy comics and numerous video games. Is it racist or culturally insensitive to depict Germans or other ethnicity as villains in a film? Not in and of itself; after all the villain of Django is an American slave-owner who likes to pretend he's French. While not a problem in its own right, the constant typecasting of Germans in villain roles becomes exhaustive and it tends to rob Germany of its rich history, language, and culture in the name of laziness and ethnic stereotypes. To me, Django Unchained is an excellent reversal of these stereotypes for a number of reasons:

1. Schultz is an abolitionist-sympathizer – It is established almost instantaneously that Schultz has no interest in acquiring Django as his slave because he harbors explicitly racist thoughts. Schultz wants Django because he recognizes the bounties he's after. Moreover, Schultz instructs Django on how to operate weapons, how to read and write, and allows him to pick his own clothing early in the film (which leads to an immaculate sight gag.) The film isn't called Django, but Django Unchained. The transformation of the character from a destitute slave to a cultured, genteel, and brutal bad-ass is the real focus of the film – and this would have been impossible without the tutelage and the actions of Dr. Schultz. And note, this isn't an example of “black people are useless without white people” trope like The Blind Side or The Help does. Schultz is nuanced: he is initially self-interested, but then grows more sympathetic to Django's cause of freeing his wife as the film progresses, which…