This weekend for theGrio, The Snob tackles the cautious excitement (and pre-emptive annoyance) over Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained and that most rare of revenge flicks -- the slave revenge film. Why is it so rare? I'm sure it has to do with the difference of the fantasy violence of revenge films like "Taken" versus the reality of slave revolts, like the one in Haiti that liberated the colony in a round of vicious bloodshed. Revenge is fun if you don't think it's going to be directed at you. And by "you," I mean your average white American movie-lover. Maybe Tarantino will pull it off by virtue of being Tarantino, but I doubt Spike Lee could have got this film greenlit.
Here's a snippet:
Americans are obsessed with the revenge fantasy, and I’ll admit it’s a favorite genre of mine. The Dark Knight Rises, a film based on one of America’s most famous (and profitable) revenge-obsessed characters, Batman, opened at midnight on July 19 to pull in more than $30 million. The popularity of Batman, as well as Westerns such as The Searchers, True Grit, the entire career of Clint Eastwood, every Rambo film and Liam Neeson’s “kill everything that moves character” in Taken all reflect the tireless variety of the revenge film genre no one ever seems to tire of.
This drive for ruthless — yet “justifiable” — destruction is rooted in America’s Puritan, Calvinist roots, which leads viewers to subconsciously see bad movie characters as “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God.” We don’t draw from all those Deist, Age of Enlightenment-influenced Founding Fathers with their hippy dippy talk of justice, fairness and rule of law when we watch Clint Eastwood mow down two-dimensional characters. We prefer the “Kill them all!!!” mentality, to weighing checks and balances.
If you believe God both loves and punishes BIG, you probably enjoy seeing God’s judgment being delivered on the big screen by virtue of Batman batmanning the crap out of everything.
But putting African-Americans in a revenge fantasy has always been “problematic” by Hollywood standards. Mostly because revenge against criminals and stock “bad” characters is “fun.” Revenge against actual injustice perpetuated by a majority that might have been culpable through complacency in giving social permission for the powerful to massively enslave others forces those in the complacent class to question themselves and the source of their privilege.
And where’s the summer blockbuster profit in that?