Jesse Williams, best known for playing Dr. Jackson Avery on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and this week, he sounded off in a scathing critique of Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar-nominated American western, Django Unchained.
Jesse not only penned a CNN op-ed criticizing the flick for its portrayal of slaves, but he also took to his personal Tumblr page to share a few more heated comments.
In case you didn’t know, Jesse is a former public high school teacher, the founder of farWord Inc. Production Company, and he recently executive produced “Question Bridge: Black Males,” a “transmedia art project that seeks to represent and redefine Black male identity in America.” Needless to say, this is a subject matter the Grey’s Anatomy star is extremely passionate about.
Without commentary, here are the 10 most heated comments from Jesse’s critiques. (Warning: There are lots of movie spoilers):
1. On Tarantino’s claim that Django is an attempt to start a discussion in America that talks about slavery in a new way:
“If, like Tarantino, you show up with a megaphone and claim to be creating a real solution to a specific problem, I only ask that you not instead, construct something unnecessarily fake and then act like you've done us a favor.”
2. Jesse sums up his opinion of Django as a historical film:
“We deserve better, than this lazy, oversimplified reduction of our history.”
3. On the difference between intent and effect in propaganda:
“Not ‘feeling offended’ does not mean the material itself was not offensive. The most effective propaganda goes unnoticed. That’s kind of how it works. Neither damage nor ignorance require intent.”
4. Jesse counters the ‘trendy suggestion’ that Django’s subject matter is enough to start a well-informed discussion about slavery:
“The trendy suggestion that Django Unchained’s mere existence is stimulating ‘a conversation about slavery’ is bizarrely vague and incomplete. To suggest that something’s mere presence grants it merit, applies a false metric.Do we now credit kidnappers for stimulating the national discourse on child safety? Of course not and by recognizing that, we recognize that a line does exist. Why are we reflexively handing out praise just for showing up?”
5. On Tarantino’s representation of black males in the film:
“Black males on screen are consistently represented as dumb, incurious and/or prone to violence. If we want true progress, we have to stop sharing the same lack of curiosity displayed by Tarantino and his fictional slaves.”
6. On the plantation setting of the film:
“This is a most bizarre slave plantation for a director who ‘wanted to explore slavery’ and said ‘I am responsible for people talking about slavery in America in a way they haven’t in 30 yrs.’ On his custom built slave plantation, a fleet of slave women stroll the grounds giggling, in floor-to-shoulder gowns, like they’re in Versailles. Seriously, slaves, without a care in the world, swinging on swings and cracking jokes all day. Oh, and there’s a white guy with a rifle propped up and ready, like a prison guard in the yard. What are you doing sir — making sure they stroll casually enough?”
7. On the facelessness of the slaves in the film:
“This marks the only time in the entire film where we see clean images of slaves laboring in the field. There’s only four of them and again, they’re not worthy of proper framing, never mind a close up. Which is odd because back in town, where Dr. King commandeered that saloon, we had plenty of time for a barrage of elaborate and irrelevant close ups of King’s hands pouring draft beers and wiping away the foam, etc. Why is that? Why must the field slaves remain faceless and out of frame for the entirety of this nearly three hour film but we have exhaustive closeups of pouring the perfect draft beer?”
8. On a scene in which white bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), arms his slaves:
“He’s got every generation and every complexion alongside him like it’s a plantation Bennetton ad. Black men are banned from riding horses, which could actually be useful to the functionality of your property (and happened in real life) but you give black men guns to point at other white men?! THIS SCENARIO WOULD NEVER HAPPEN. If they made PUNK’D, but for excitable historians instead of celebrities, this would be in it.”
9. On the lack of conversations between black people in the film:
“But in this entire nearly three hour film, that marketed itself with leads played by Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington, exactly how many relaxed, human, comically relatable conversations* do we witness between black people? Any black people at all?...Zero. None. It never happens. How could that be? Why, could that be?”
10. On Dr. King’s sacrifice:
“Is this not the classic liberal white savior role, trotted out like all the rest? What is so unique about the white guy, moved by conscience, sacrificing his lovely life for the black victim? You might say that Dr. King is Tarantino, blessing us with his Black liberation film with no awareness of the damage being done by marketing tattered slave toys and black brainlessness to a planet already swimming in black commodification and danger. You might say that.”
So...it appears that Jesse is not a fan of the film. Wherever you agree with Jesse’s Django critique or not, it’s nice to see the actor so passionate about the representation of race in popular culture. Who knew Mercy West was populated with such great thinkers?
Catch the next new episode of Grey’s Anatomy on Thursday, February 21, 2013, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.