by Brogan Morris
Some use Twitter to share points of interest. Some want to chat with friends. Others, however, just want to spout ill-researched mind-guffs and goad Quentin Tarantino, and, last week, Spike Lee had this to say via his account: "American slavery was not a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It was a holocaust. My ancestors are slaves. Stolen from Africa. I will honor them."
The aforementioned tweet is, of course, Lee writing in reference to Tarantino's latest, Django Unchained, his uber-violent Western tale of an ex-slave that's starting to divide opinion amongst those who've seen it. The argument at the moment stands two-fold: does Tarantino's comedic, action-orientated approach to a touchy subject dishonour America's former enslaved? Or does it justifiably render the topic of slavery more palatable, therefore bringing it into wider discussion?
Unfortunately, I've yet to see Django Unchained, so I can't make a judgement either way, rendering this entire article almost meaningless. What's interesting, though, is how Spike Lee didn't bother to see the film either; more interesting still is that he doesn't even plan to. In all fairness, Lee started off honourably, telling Vibe TV "I can't speak on [Django Unchained] 'cause I'm not gonna see it". He then immediately changed his mind and literally spoke on it, adding that Django Unchained is "disrespectful to my ancestors". I assume watching the two-minute trailer swung it for him.
Spike Lee is no stranger to getting all up in Quentin Tarantino's business. He's berated Tarantino before for his use of the word 'nigger' in Jackie Brown, asking the question "What does he want to be made - an honorary black man?" as though skin colour is some kind of gentleman's club. When Jackie Brown star Samuel L. Jackson defended Tarantino, Lee called Jackson "a house Negro", Negro being an insulting word you can't say, but one which Spike Lee can, presumably because he's Spike Lee and you aren't. With Tarantino returning with a slavery-themed homage to blaxploitation movies, it was only a matter of time before Lee emerged from his lair to pitch in with an opinion no-one asked for. Tarantino has already offered a perceptive, fair statement in response, but who cares, hardly anyone's talking about that.
Spike Lee's accusations of racism have often come with mind-blowing double standards. He's always been a staunch defender of black rights, both through his movies and his mouth, while at the same time making conspiratorial, unnervingly-offensive references to a "white media" and a Hollywood 'run by Jews'. A couple of goodies aside (25th Hour and Inside Man, for instance), Lee's movies have also been known to carry worryingly racist undertones. It might be idealistic and naive to think that, some day, everyone will simply be referred to as 'human beings', but continually marking a distinction between 'black' and 'white' - as Lee likes to do - only serves to keep racism alive and deepen any existing racial divides. In fact, Lee is so reductive in his views on race and so detrimental to black culture that, if there really was a Fellowship for the Honorary Black Man, Lee's proposed candidacy would probably never be accepted. Tragically, Tarantino would likely be ahead of him in eligibility.
Like Spike Lee, I've yet to watch Django Unchained, but if he can comment on a movie without even seeing it, then so can I. For example, I haven't seen any of Lee's work from the past seven years, but going on his previous, I'll assume it's all been awful. Quentin Tarantino, on the other hand, is currently receiving arguably his warmest critical praise since Pulp Fiction in 1994. What's more, where Quentin Tarantino continues to provide intelligent, level-headed discourse on film, Spike Lee just keeps the candle for racial segregation burning, broadcasting woefully biased and stereotypical views to an audience of millions. Racism is (obviously) a terrible thing, but a man abusing a significant position within the film industry to promote division is even worse, and it won't be a terrible day when Spike Lee disappears from the movie world altogether.