The Story

I mostly wanted to see this movie because it was so talked about and a number of friends had really enjoyed the film. A female friend of mine called me one day and asked if I had seen the film and I told her that I hadn’t and wasn’t planning to and she went off on this rant about how she really wanted me to see it so that we could dialogue about it and that she wanted “to be loved like that.” I knew I would have to eventually see it if for no other reason than for the two of us to have an intelligent discussion about it. I also was extremely curious about this Black love story.

Where’s The Love Story

I kept waiting for the love story and never found it. I saw a Black man looking for his wife and, for me,


that was not at all mind-blowing. I’m not sure if that is because I am a Black male or if that is because I have grown up with images and models of Black men who loved women and were dedicated to the women they married.

I don’t know.

My friend and I discussed this the other night. After a few minutes of us ping ponging points because she stated that this was the best depiction of a Black romance in the last decade and I argued that I thought even Tyler Perry movies displayed more romantic and loving Black relationships than this movie did. But then she said something that I think went to the heart of what she saw in Django and Broohilda’s story. She said that there was a desperation in his desire to get to her that caused him to day dream about her and do whatever he had to do to get to her. I listened and I said that I understood her point but who aspires for desperation? For me, there wasn’t enough expression of tenderness in his desire for her to make me believe it was absolutely about love.

Intention is Important

She was not the only person to say that they were impacted by all Django went through to get his wife back and the fact that she was in his thoughts constantly. However, I do not believe that this is always about love. People are complex and contradictory. Simply because we each have our own opinions and perspective that shape our reality. Therefore, what a person may appear to do for one reason may mean something entirely to them internally. Why is the most important question and it is a question only that person can answer.

People can have a number of motivations for the things that they do which may contradict the actions that they do. For example a person may feel that stealing is wrong, but there may come a time that they will steal (to feed their children or for their own survival). In the movie Django becomes something of a slave hero because he takes down some cruel slave owners. However, the question is: why does he do that? It’s obvious he isn’t doing because slavery is wrong and he is trying to take down any and all slave masters. He is doing because these people get in the way of his quest to find Broomhilda and/or because they enslaved or tried to enslave him. Therefore, I question whether or not his quest for Broomhilda is because he loves her or if it is because it is his wife and no one had the right to separate them. I think this nuance makes a difference.


The Representation of Black Love

Representation is an important thing for Black people in America. We have to be very critical of the images that are portrayed in regards to us in any context. These images impact not just non-Black people’s perceptions, but our own as well.

For example, the archetype of the Black Mammy: the full figured, big breasted, fat cheeked Black woman who is an expert at domestic duties and motherwit was developed during the antebellum era despite the fact that historical data show that most of the Black women who worked in these roles were young, under-developed Black girls. However, because this archetype persisted in film and television, by the 1900’s reality had followed suit.

The representation of Black love and marriage presented in Django is problematic on an intellectual level. While it is always wonderful to see a Black woman and Black man in a positive loving context, it is still deserving of some critical analysis. That said, Django and Broomhilda’s relationship has an extremely patriarchal undertone.

Django is the angry, arrogant, emotionally distant, reckless, and violent tough guy out to take back what belongs to him: his wife. He is too determined to give up and he is too strong to show any mercy or kindness.

The majority of Broomhilda’s appearances on screen are silent and submissive. She is the silent fantasy that drives Django on his journey. She is the fragile feminine creature who is held hostage as a ransom against Django’s fury. She is the prize that awaits him on horseback as he kills the last of the bad guys inside the house.

Broomhilda is the docile damsel in distress who (aside from the mentioned run away attempt that she makes from Candie Land before she realizes that Django is alive and is there) waits for the man to come and rescue her.

It is understood that this movie is not about slavery but simply a nostalgic western tale set in the antebellum era. So, ofcourse, some of this guy saves girl thing is to be expected. I am not knocking the fantasy of such a relationship, I am speaking more to that fact that so many Black people were smitten with the depiction and made real life connections with what is clearly a very fictional and somewhat stereotypical relationship.

The Point

Django and Broomhilda’s love story is entertaining at best. It wasn’t unconventional or interesting. It was a standard western romance with brown faces. I would rather have seen a brown faced version of Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

That was an interesting and insightful love story. Both the husband and wife are strong, independent, capable characters who, judging from their fight scenes, are equals in terms of skill and intelligence. At the end they join forces and stand back to back shooting down the people that opposed their marriage because they’d rather die fighting together than for one of them to escape while the other sacrifices themselves as a distraction. Nice.

I would not say that the story is not about Django and Broomhilda; I think it is. I would say that it is not inteded to be a love story; I think it is. I just don’t think it was a beautiful, moving love story worth raving about. I do not think that it offered anything for anyone to pattern their desired romance after. If anything it is simply a camp western romance that can be enjoyable, but must be accepted with an understanding that it is not meant to be realistic and offers no realistic insight into the nature of relationships.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

  1. Osage Dior says:

    “I kept waiting for this love story and never found it…” lol! “Not reality!!! angry, arrogant, emotionally distant, reckless, and violent tough guy…Broomhilda is the docile damsel in distress”…I left the movie theater a damsel in distress due to the historical depiction of slavery in this Quentin Tarantino movie…I never thought about the relationship too much…I couldn’t get over Jaimie Foxx playing a slave…but now that you brought it up…you make a very good point…these very traditional roles that are displayed in the movie…the patriarchy…the woman with no agency…and I ask…What is a good depiction of a black relationship, for those of us, who may not can pull from memory…? Broomhilda and Django are one extreme…but then we have the Huxtables, who have no problems…Where do black people find their reality when it comes to healthy relationships between a man and a woman?

    • DesiBjorn says:

      When you ask about good depictions, are you asking for specific movies and/or characters that embody this?

      To answer your last question: Where do black people find their reality when it comes to healthy relationships between a man and a woman?

      I think that part of the problem is that we keep trying to find our reality when we should be creating it. It’s always good and helpful to have representations and role models; however, the art should be imitating life and not the other way around. Part of the reason that I tried to be careful not to sound as if I was vilifying the movie is because I take into account who created it. Quentin Tarantino wouldn’t know the first thing about an intimate relationship between a Black man and Black woman.

      And often the people, White and Black, who create these depictions are emulating what they have seen or what they have interpreted from what they have seen. If we created different realities we would begin to see them manifest themselves in mainstream representations. We gotta be brave and put in our work building healthy relationships. And like wit anything else we have ever learned or mastered, we will make some mistakes and will get hurt, and somewhere along the way we will figure out how to get it right. But yo, there can be no progress without struggle. We gotta stop making excuses and get in the struggle.

      • Osage Dior says:

        I do agree…we have to struggle…people are afraid of struggle…and I also agree that “art should be imitating life and not the other way around”…It’s a process…a process that people have to be ready for…But, yeah, do you feel there are specific movies or characters out now…that embody a healthy relationship between a black man and a black woman…according to you?

      • DesiBjorn says:

        Well when you say out now…if you mean currently playing movies or characters on sitcoms that are on now…that would be a lot harder to answer. But just to name some depictions of healthy relationships between a Black man and a Black woman without regards to time I will name:

        Darius and Nina- Love Jones
        Cliff and Claire Huxtable- The Cosby Show
        Justice and Lucky- Poetic Justice
        Martin and Gina- Martin
        Dwayne and Whitley- A Different World

        That’s just off the top of my head. I think there is a severe lack of Black men and Black women relationship representations because the coinphrase now is “multiculturalism” and there is this big push to try to show how “equal” and “alike” everyone is and people no longer look at the nuances of certain relationships like the ones that occur between Black men and Black women. So we see a lot of interracial couples and generalities when it comes to relationship depictions. The couples I named, I chose first because I feel like they embody healthy positive interactions that are specific to the kind of dynamics that happen between Black men and Black women. What couples would you name that you have seen depict what you think is a healthy relationship between Black men and Black women?

      • Osage Dior says:

        The Roc- The Roc and Eleanor Emerson (middle class couple)
        Living Single-Maxine Shaw and Kyle Barker (modern couple…both share their bits of arrogance), Synclaire and Overton (cheesy lovy-dovy couple)
        Amen-Thelma and Reuben (Thelma never gave up…lol, until he put a ring on it)
        I guess I am pretty old school too!!! Darius and Nina…there was definitely struggle within that relationship..I liked how they were able to reunite at the end…Justice and Lucky, an urban tale, with it’s twists and turns…Love comes in different forms…Martin and Gina…a very fun couple…worked and played together…Dwayne and Whitley…college lovers…nerd gets the babe (yes, I said it…I would have appreciated if the woman was equally yoked to him when it came to his intelligence) The Huxtables (too blissful…but nice to look at…a great role model for a black family)…What I find interesting with Darius and Lucky is the amount of dysfunction that these men had…you could put Jason Lyrics (great movie and scenes by the way…)…in this piece on images of the dysfunctional man with a “strong black woman”-what do you have to say about that-what does these movie say about love and the scale of it based on gender roles?

      • DesiBjorn says:

        For the ones I chose…I will do the run down like you did from my thoughts.

        Darius and Nina- 2 strong personalities both with their share of emotional baggage, both with their own share of reservations and cynicism, both with their own share of romantic ideals, both with their own ideas about love and romance and “how it should go.” Who at the end learn to write their own love story outside of the stereotypes and pretenses.

        Cliff and Claire- 2 loving, equally successful Black people whose issues result from trying to raise 5 very different young Black people in America (there’s more than enough challenge in that alone). What I liked is that the conflict that you doesn’t result from dysfunctions in Cliff and Claire’s relationship it resulted from the external factors (kids, jobs, etc) and so you see a Black couple working together to overcome those obstacles instead of the redundant just struggling to be together and stay in love…which to me is also a reality (it reminded me of my parents relationship growing up although my parents were not doctors and lawyers).

        Justice and Lucky- 2 young Black people living a very realistic lifestyle who are dealing with realistic reservations about love (ie the real presumptions we often make about the opposite sex because of superficial evaluations.

        Martin and Gina- a loving modern day couple commited but unmarried (until the end) working living and dealing with real relationship challenges like the temptation to cheat, unlikable family members, different upbringing and family values etc.

        Dwayne and Whitley- the unlikely pair who do not fall in love at first sight but find love through friendship. Again dealing with real relationship challenges like unlikable family members, different upbringing and family values, different life perspectives and priorities but are willing to write their own live story outside the stereotypes.

        Roc and Eleanor- for me was too cookie cutter…the show didn’t explore their loving relationship as much as it placed it in the context of their social class struggles.

        Maxine and Kyle- was a little unrealistic in that it exaggerated the exchange if stereotypical gender roles with Maxine being hyper masculine in not wanting love, being career obsessed and emotionally detached and Kyle being cultured, sensitive, and more willing to have the relationship…I haven’t really seen anything like that in real life. And it seems more creative and funny than adding any realistic model.

        Sinclair and Overton- again funny but unrealistic to me.

        Thelma and Reuben- for me Thelma was too attached to this need to have a man and be married and Reuben was all but sexless (because he had to be credible as a pastor). And her overbearing needy chase of him would run most Black men away for good.

        Now what you elude to is also something I think about…usually Black people identify ine extreme or the other: they think relationships should be easy as love at first sight happily ever after or trouble laden virtually impossible but make it happen but the reality is somewhere in the middle I think.

        There can depictions like the Cosbys which to me didn’t say Cliff and Claire didn’t have their share of issues but the point at which we view them is where they have conquered their relationship issues and are dealing with other relationship obstacles like creating a family. Or depictions like Martin and Gina where a couple is endeavoring to get to the Cliff and Claire stage and are facing those issues.

        I am opposed to the images of the dysfunctional black man with a strong black woman. I think it’s a damaging image that plagues the reality of Black men and women. Because it says that emotionally Black women are too strong to have emotional issues besides finding a good man (which us not at all realistic) and that Black men are always emotionally dysfunctional and only become good in their overcoming their issues…as if we are some wild animals that have to be takes and civilized by Black women in order to be worthy partners. And ofcourse it leaves the scapegoat for Black women to write their lack of ability to obtain and sustain a living relationship with a Black man off on the account of the Black man being so savage that if she can’t obtain and sustain a relationship with him it yacht get fault in any degree it’s because Black men are so dysfunctional emotionally (which isn’t even 75% the case most times).

        I don’t see that in Justice and Lucky because Justice was just as dysfunctional in her reclusive anti-relationship (cuz her man died which makes her respectable but unrealistic) originally detached (cause Black Jen aint shit) demeanor. Nor do I see it Jason and Lyric because Jason despite his dedicating his existence to his family was not as dysfunctional as Lyric who is an orphan living with a brother she doesn’t respect and has written off dating because all she encounters us thugs and she wants out if ghetto life.

        But in your viewing of those films I would see an unrealistic validation fur degradation if Black love based
        on the inability if Black men to love (Which is egregiously false).

  2. ahouseofpoetry says:

    “The majority of Broomhilda’s appearances on screen are silent and submissive. She is the silent fantasy that drives Django on his journey. She is the fragile feminine creature who is held hostage as a ransom against Django’s fury. She is the prize that awaits him on horseback as he kills the last of the bad guys inside the house…..Broomhilda is the docile damsel in distress who (aside from the mentioned run away attempt that she makes from Candie Land before she realizes that Django is alive and is there) waits for the man to come and rescue her.”

    I find it interesting that Submission has the same negative undertone as a kind of weakness; a form of slavery. That a woman’s quiet and reserved nature denotes a kind of lower status. I disagree. It wasn’t until the Willie Lynch letter’s insistence on the reversal of the black man and woman’s role and the Feminist Movement and its portrayal of certain images and definitions of words, that the Black man and woman started to take on the mindset that patriarchal (which just means a man is the head of his household) is a bad thing, and that a woman who submits to her man and is a helper to him, is in an abusive relationship. The Black man and Woman before these images understood the power of being on one accord and establishing order within the household. But over time, words like Obedience, and Submissive got changed into images like Slavery and Fool. The reality is however that the role of the woman is to be a helper to the man and her natural nature is to submit, therefore I see nothing wrong with the way Broomhilda was portrayed in the movie. To obey one’s husband does not mean that a woman is his slave contrary to feminist thought. It just means she is willing to follow instructions as a means of respect. Likewise, her submission does not make her a fool or a slave, and it does not paint the picture of an abusive man; but the power of a woman’s willingness to support her husband instead makes her strong.

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