Sinking our teeth back into Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained is a most worthwhile exercise. The responses towards Django were mainly positive by critics, moviegoers, and the box office. Detractors, however, existed even before the film's release. A flurry of blog posts, articles, and comments on the internet accused the film of promoting patriarchal masculinity, desensitizing slavery, encouraging hatred towards whites, using the N-word gratuitously, showing violence superfluously, and historically inaccuracy. From the get-go the film was billed as a story of a black man getting revenge and freeing his wife.
We see Django’s transformation from slave to a new kind of black superhero – one that amalgamates the stoic spaghetti-western gunslinger and a slick-talking Blaxploitation hero – happen in an organic manner that requires a teacher. But to say that because that teacher is white this movie espouses the “white saviour” trope may be a little farfetched. At the Django Unchained panel at Comic Con 2012, Quentin Tarantino stated that the Schultz-Django relationship was that of the experienced fighter and the novice. This staple of Western films can even be found in the Yoda-Luke relationship in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Tarantino intended that this relationship evolves when they reached Mississippi in the thick of the antebellum South during slavery. We see in the film that Django, being familiar with the environment, is unfazed by his the cruelty of his surroundings while the European Schultz becomes flustered. Schultz is horrified at the messy torture of slaves by slave-owners. His costly uneasiness jeopardizes the plan to save Django’s wife Broomhilda. Django has grown independent of his teacher and the relationship breaks new ground for the two of them.
By the end of the film, Django gets the sweetest vengeance yet this is not simply a case of the student surpassing the teacher. The student has always possessed the ability and the bravery, since the very beginning; but he required the necessary experience and technique. The teacher, Dr. Schultz helped him grow; he did not offer him salvation or do all the heavy lifting in order for Django to gain freedom. Furthermore, the film is not simply about Django gaining his retribution but rather about his personal growth and refinement until the point of revenge; Dr. Schultz was a part of that growth but not the totality of it. The relationship with Schultz provides a compelling dynamic and makes for an interesting film; a fine addition to Quentin Tarantino’s diverse repertoire and any personal film library.