Hey Spike Lee (And Others), Is It Really Fair To Judge And Slam A Movie You Haven’t Seen?
So who is trying to see Django Unchained tomorrow?
With all the media hype surrounding the film, the good reviews, the Golden Globe nominations, and the talk of sold-out shows, we can assume that the answer is “a lot of people.” But someone that we now know will not be down for Django whatsoever is Spike Lee. In an interview with VIBETV, when the famed director was asked about his opinions of Django Unchained and if he planned to see the film, he was pretty emphatic in his no, saying, “I cant speak on it ’cause I’m not gonna see it. All I’m going to say is that it’s disrespectful to my ancestors. That’s just me…I’m not speaking on behalf of anybody else.”
Spike isn’t the first person to say something like this. FOR MONTHS, I’m talking, early in the year before the damn movie was midway into production, a lot of folks were crying foul, saying that Tarantino would try and make light of an extremely dark and ugly time in history that has affected so many. He had done something similar before in a positive (yet still uber-violent) way to pretty great reviews and an Academy Award win, when he released Inglourious Basterds. The movie was also a fictional revenge tale, but was centered around Jewish people from different backgrounds plotting to take out Hitler and Nazi leadership. Some of the reservations about Django I could understand. Let’s keep it real, Quentin doesn’t really keep things PG, and I know many people were and are still worried about images in the film, including a possible rape scene, being too graphic and uncomfortable for the sake of “art,” as well as use of the N-word in the dialogue. As someone who has seen all of his movies, I can understand why someone would be a bit worried. But there’s a difference between being worried about a movie, and trying to pan it when it hasn’t even come out yet. When you flat out condemn the movie, say that it’s another “Here Comes The White Man To Save The Day” type of work, or say something in the same vein as Spike’s comments, I always think to myself: How can you judge something so meticulously that you haven’t seen?
Seriously, that’s like someone saying they don’t want to meet and get to know you because people in your family have a personality that rubs them the wrong way. How can you assume something negative about someone you haven’t met? There’s something about people continuously saying the movie will be this and will be that and that equals why they won’t see it that comes off extremely close-minded. Can we all just keep it really real? If the storyline isn’t your cup of tea, then it’s totally okay to say that is why you don’t want to see it. If you’re not a fan of Quentin Tarantino movies, then you can say that is the reason you don’t want to see the movie or even be bothered with talking about it. But to discredit and make assumptions about the work, and the work of the fine actors in the film, just seems really unfair, and as a controversial director in his own right, I would have assumed that Spike Lee would understand why it’s not cool.
I’m a big fan of the movies of both of these men, and yes, they live for controversy because they like to think outside the box. This type of thinking has garnered them both a following, but also many critics. If I say there’s a new Spike Lee Joint coming out, a lot of people will roll their eyes because they don’t like Spike. They’ll assume it’s anti-white or something outrageous because they might not have understood where a classic movie like Do The Right Thing was coming from, or because they don’t like him as a person based on things they had seen or read. But to say a new movie of his, say a Red Hook Summer, is trash because of certain controversial scenes involving child abuse that you HEARD about, doesn’t make sense right? But people did it, and allowed that to overshadow the whole rest of the movie’s accomplishments. I’m sure Spike didn’t appreciate that.
As many people out there who close their minds to the great work Spike does because he makes some out-of-pocket comments from time to time, does some very different stuff in his moves and does some questionable things in everyday life, I wouldn’t think he would shut down a movie he hadn’t seen based purely on his assumptions about it. But then again, it seems he has more of a beef with Quentin than he really does his movies, as he clearly doesn’t like the director trying to tell black stories on-screen and the way he goes about doing so with the N-word (see his critiques of Tarantino’s film, Jackie Brown).
I’m not defending Tarantino, because, real talk, this movie could be a total failure and could rub a lot of people, including myself, the wrong way. And hey, it wouldn’t be the first time someone thought they were doing something epic that actually turned out to be a hot a** mess. But I would rather see the film and come to such a conclusion that it is or isn’t a mess, than to automatically assume it will be a hot a** mess and tell the whole world on camera, in a story, or in a comment section (no shade, I’m just saying). You don’t have to support mainstream directors trying their hand at stories of slavery and the struggle of black folks. (i.e., The Help, Twelve Years A Slave, The Butler, etc. Though the latter are directed by black men, clearly a lot of people don’t like that these are the stories people in Hollywood consistently want to work with) But before you question why someone gets an Academy Award nomination for such work, or pass judgment on the film, or throw shade at it for being loved by others, it would be nice if you actually had something to base your opinion on…you know, like actually having seen the movie and what not. But hey, to each their own.