Tarantino historically missed the point

Two blockbusters about the American Civil War are currently playing at Pathé in Groningen. Dr Maarten Zwiers, lecturer in Contemporary History at the RUG who specializes in America’s Deep South, could choose between Lincoln and Django Unchained. He'd already seen Lincoln, so Django Unchained it was.

‘The movie was very entertaining. However, when it comes down to historical accuracy, director Quentin Tarantino completely missed the point’, was the verdict. Yet, with Django, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. ‘I don’t think the aim was to be historical, but rather to avenge the slavery period in a spaghetti-western setting.’

to the movies - Pepijnkl

Maarten Zwiers // Photo Pepijn van den Broeke

In the film Django is a slave, portrayed by Jamie Foxx. In a strange turn of events, Django meets King Schultz, a former dentist who started work as a bounty hunter. While Schultz is searching for Django’s former owners, Django himself wants to track down his wife. Schultz buys Django and together they decide to fight crime, injustice and, eventually, slavery.


The film was criticized for its heavy use of words like ‘nigger’, which was used110 times in total. Spike Lee refused to watch the movie because he considered it disrespectful towards his ancestors. Zwiers understands his feelings. ‘The movie even shows so-called Mandingo fights, in which slaves fought each other for their owner’s entertainment. I can see how that could be considered offensive, even though Mandingo fights never actually occurred. Also, Django is a “free man”, taking revenge on the plantation system. Some might see this as making light of the repressive regime of that time.’

Tarantino didn’t intend to make a historical film. ‘If you don’t know anything about slavery, Django can be quite misleading. So if you’re looking to learn more about American slavery, I’d probably recommend Lincoln’, says Zwiers. ‘During the slavery period you would never have seen a black man on a horse or at the dinner table surrounded by white people. That was considered unhygienic. Also, slaves were seen as economic property. Making them compete in Mandingo fights, in which one slave dies, wouldn’t be profitable.’

Inglorious Bastards

Another Tarantino classic not playing it by the history books is the 2009 movie Inglourious Basterds. Here, a Jewish batallion tries to kill Hitler. Zwiers says: ‘Just like Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained sets out to give a voice to the repressed.’

Apparently, the two movies are part of a trilogy, so what will the last one be in this series? Enraged farmers making the Communist Soviet Union implode quite literally? We shall see, but we know it will probably be as twisted and gruesomely entertaining as the first two.