Quentin Tarantino's latest, the bloody spaghetti Western meets blaxploitation epic Django Unchained, has not aired without controversy, as per Tarantino tradition. Some critics have railed against the film, which was shot in Louisiana, for its use of the "N" word and graphic depictions of gore and explosive violence against blacks.
Django has stacked up zillions of dollars from the box office, earned five Golden Globe nominations, and grabbed Academy Award nominations for best picture, best supporting actor, best original screenplay, and sound editing. (Read Ken Korman's review in Gambit.)
As Tarantino did for his previous violent revenge-fantasy Inglorious Basterds, The National Entertainment Collectibles Association and film studio The Weinstein Company have partnered to release eight-inch figurines of characters from the film, including Jamie Foxx's protagonist Django, Leonardo Di Caprio's slave owner Calvin Candie and Samuel L. Jackson's terrifying Stephen.
This week, Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic Hope, slammed the toymakers, calling them "a slap in the face of our ancestors," and that the they "trivialize the horrors of slavery and what African Americans experienced."
Ali says he actually liked the film. He saw it twice. But he says the action figures are over the line. However, it's unlikely these will wind up in school playgrounds at recess — kids aren't going to recreate slave-driving scenes or whippings without a hint of the historic ugliness. These are toys for film nerds, to sit, unwrapped, on shelves. Some cost upward of $300.
Still, that's not the point. The National Action Network called for a boycott of the manufacturer, but as Washington Post columnist Rahiel Tesfamariam says, "As African Americans, we have very little control over the depiction of our own history and image within the mainstream media and entertainment industries. As a result, we’re always having to boycott demeaning and inaccurate portrayals of our community. But this problem is bigger than boycotts; it’s about media reform."