Previous Joints

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Brokeback Collins

Jason Collins (some NBA player I’d never heard of until recently) declared, to much fanfare, that he was gay. In his coming out piece to Sports Illustrated he began by saying:

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

I’m feeling a little proud of myself at the moment because my reaction to this big story is me wondering why it’s a big story. I genuinely don’t care. I didn’t even know who this bloke was until his name started clogging up my Twitter timeline and appearing on news-sites.

What did catch my eye was the emphasis he put on his skin colour. I’ve seen a lot of coming-outs of celebrities in my life time, but I can’t remember them bringing their race into it. In fact, come to think of it, I can’t remember any coming out of a black celebrity at all. And when my lady and a couple of friends asked me why his race was such a big deal in this subject matter, I simply shrugged and said: “we black folks are some homophobic SOBs”.

About 7 years ago I was probably the most homophobic little runt around. I put this down to many factors. And yes, being black, or more specifically, of African descent, was one of them. I come from a very religious family. Not just religious, but African religious. If you know anything about how African countries treat gay people, you know the term homophobia just doesn’t cut it. On top of this, I am a huge hip-hop fan and that isn’t a gay friendly music.

But I can point to one event that changed my outlook on the LGBT community. To the point, one film that started to make me look at this subject matter very differently.

Brokeback Mountain.

I have very contradictory views about Brokeback – It’s a very ordinary movie, while also being an extraordinary movie.

I remember the hype surrounding this film, marketed as if it’s a shocking and revolutionary piece of cinema, when in truth it’s simply a love story. In fact, if you swap the two male leads for a heterosexual couple, it becomes an unremarkable love story like the ones in Dear John or The Notebook. But as it stands, with its gay characters, it becomes something more. That unremarkability gives you space to actually think about the subject of gay relationships and homophobia, without being distracted by controversy.

If this was a film with heterosexual leads, they would be unsympathetic adulterous characters. As it stands, it’s still a film about two people cheating on their wives, but all the way through this film I felt sorry for the poor bastards. I mean, I felt excruciating sympathy for them. Not disgust or anger at the fact that they are gay, but heartfelt sorrow for their situation.

The difference between me now and the homophobic me back in 2005 is that I didn’t understand what true desperation was. I am an extroverted person, I wear my feelings on my sleeve. I have never been in a situation where I couldn’t be… well, me. What Brokeback Mountain gets across very well is how these two characters have had to lie for most of their lives about who they are. That time up the mountain is the only time they could be themselves. It also happens to be the case that in 2005 I was at university and actually got to know gay people. They were not just a theory, the proverbial monsters – they were real people I studied with, I talked to and to my surprise (yep I was/am that big headed), they didn’t try to jump me or convert me in anyway. They were cool. Knowing this and watching Brokeback, it was difficult to see Jack and Ennis’ story unfold, brush it aside and quote the “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” line.

In truth, watching Brokeback Mountain was difficult for me. It was bad enough watching the torture of Jack and Ennis, but it was worse watching the behaviour of the farmer, Jack’s wife and ultimately his killers. Their intolerance and homophobia bothered me. It messed me up because in their hatred I saw myself and started to question why I felt that way and the truthful answer is that I didn’t know. I didn’t know why I discriminated and was openly hostile towards a group of people that I had absolutely no dealings with.

Brokeback Mountain is the first film that revealed what an ugly fucking person I was. And importantly, it showed me that I was a hypocrite.

Back then, me and my baby mama (who was just my girlfriend at the time) experienced minor events where complete strangers took umbrage at the fact that we were together (by the way, my lady happens to be white). I remember while watching Brokeback wondering how I have the balls to look down and discriminate against gay people when people were doing the same to me. If me and my woman lived in the American south not too long ago, it would have been illegal to be together. People claimed it was against nature.


And then I started to think about all the arguments against gay people and the stupidity began to unravel. Although I was from a religious family, I wasn’t even a little bit religious. And as far as I know, not a single gay person had tried to convert and break me and Lady Bear up. Now heterosexual folks on the other hand…

I’m not saying this 180 in thinking took place over one sitting of this film – that wasn’t the case. I’m saying that this film was the catalyst for that change in thinking. Having gay friends that were out and could share their story and experiences helped as well. Also, as stupid as it sounds, seeing Eminem (“Homophobic, nah, you’re just heterophobic”) perform with Elton John helped too. Thinking for myself was a huge revelation. All this helped me to get to a stage where I can shrug off this Collins story and just simply say that it’s not a big deal.

But I know that Collins could inspire some homophobic black kid somewhere to rethink his stupid views until one day we can reach a point where all this hatred isn’t necessary and everyone can just live their lives -minding their own business.


Friday, 26 April 2013

Dissent: The Hurt Locker

I've had a few people talk to me about my Hurt Locker post. Opinions were 50/50 to be honest with you. No one felt the film was as bad as I claimed it was, but not necessary as good as the praise it got when it came out. 

One of my Twitter friends (and yes, I'm one of those people who consider some followers friends), Ben Amponsah, took offense to the post:
"What tosh! As an ex Army man I can comprehensively demolish your theory that it doesn't capture the feel. I was a Demolition, and Officer too and I can honestly say that it does capture a lot of the tensions and mental chicanery necessary for the job! "I do like some of what you post but you are on very dangerous territory when you trash a war film for being inauthentic when you yourself have no military experience whatsoever."

I totally take Ben's point here. I readily say that I am a coward - a coward that respects the sacrifices military personnel make. Ben isn't the first person with combat experience that has told me that the film hits too close to home - members of my own family, that are still serving, have told me similar things about the film.

But, my critique of The Hurt Locker being inauthentic isn't original. Where I was just basing this view on gut instinct, this view has also been expressed by war veterans here, here and here. But, again, this doesn't detract from Ben's wider point. 

He's lived it. He's walked the walk. And I haven't.

Another Disney Classic: Princess and The Frog

wouldn't be the first person to say that the past 10 years or so has been indifferent for Disney. They went from a company that made classic movies to a company that bought companies that made classic movies. I’m as big of a fan of Pixar as the next bloke, but Pixar doesn't hold the same place in my heart that Disney does. This is the same company that made Aladdin, The Lion King and Bambi – three of my favourite films of all time. I mean, we’re talking about my childhood here.

They've recently made Enchanted (another one of my favourites), Bolt and Tangled, three very good films which show that Disney, as a studio, still know what they are doing; but one film showed that Disney still have that one killer ingredient left in them – magic.

The Princess and the Frog is a film that has grown on me with every sitting. At first glance it feels like a re-thread of previous Disney classics – the back to basics drawn animation, the music and the Princess – but repeated screenings reveals the film for what it truly is, another Disney Classic.

The animation feels as familiar as my mother’s cooking. It’s delicious and nobody can replicate it, no matter how hard they try.

Every character feels rounded and complex, even the bad guy. The Shadow Man had to live up to a long tradition of scary as hell villains and he, as well as his friends, don’t disappoint. I think he’s up there with the Evil Queen, Scar and Ursula. Frightening.

But it’s Tiana that warms my heart. I’ve recently had a little baby girl and if she grows up to have anything close to Tiana’s attitude, I’ll be delighted. I’ve never rooted for a Disney princess more and her independence and determination is the reason why I think she'll go on to be an icon.

The music in this film is incredible. The soundtrack is as good as any Disney film. Every song is strong and wonderful – every single one. I’ve already started singing 'Almost There' to my frightened and confused little girl, but I absolutely love the message of that song.
Also, a quick word on the song 'My Belle Evangeline': the first time I heard that song, I had goosebumps. It’s just beautiful.   


I don’t know if the film made enough money to warrant Disney to consider these types of movies worth it. But based on the product itself, they should be extremely proud to have it in their portfolio.

I can't wait to sit down and watch this film with my own little princess.


Thursday, 25 April 2013

Painful Watch: The Hurt Locker

I often buy films that I never got to see in the cinema based on their hype alone. As I’ve said in recent posts, I used to rely on Rotten Tomatoes and the reviews listed on the site to help me chose my movies. However, as much as the site overlooks some gems, Rotten Tomatoes also over-praise some films.

The Hurt Locker is such a film

The Hurt Locker feels like it was made by that SOB in school that thought he was the smartest person in the building – but he wasn’t, he was just a git (in this case, he is a she). Hurt Locker feels overdone, it feels over complicated and it’s a missed opportunity to tell a story about a conflict that has influenced the lives of my generation, whether they like it or not.

For mid-twenty somethings, the Iraq war is a big deal. We saw the birth of the war on terror. I still remember 9/11 like it was yesterday. Although I was and I am too much of a coward to sign up for the UK Army, I still take great interest in how this conflict is portrayed on film - and The Hurt Locker doesn’t ring true. None of it.

Jeremy Renner’s Sergeant James feels like a 2D character with no complexity to him. He comes across as an idiot, not someone who is emotionally compromised because of his time in Iraq or Afghanistan. Just a reckless git.

The rest of his team come off as whingers who I forget about as soon as the credits roll.

Ultimately, I come out of watching The Hurt Locker thinking, what is it actually trying to say? If it’s not trying to say anything, what is it actually trying to do? Because I just don’t know.

I’m placing a lot of the blame for the shortcomings of this film on the director’s shoulder, Kathryn Bigelow. I don’t think there is a story here. I don’t even think that she makes any attempt to tell one, which is ok, to a point.

The much lauded actions scenes are not tense, they’re boring. They feel empty and distant.

I am amazed that this is the same woman that made the brilliant Zero Dark Thirty which addresses all of my problems with this film - and then some.

War films should give the audience a feel, even if it’s the slightest hint, of what it’s like to be a soldier in that conflict. This film fails this litmus test.

I got sold on this film being part of a long and illustrious tradition of American War films, such as Platoon, Full Metal Jacket and The Deer Hunter. The makers of those three films should be very offended.


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Dissent: That KKK Scene

Never say that I don't like hearing the views of those that differ to my own. Here is a comment on one of the Django piece i did from a fella who used to attend KKK meetings:

"The KKK really is vastly different than it’s portrayed in the media. I attended the Indianapolis chapter a few times in the early 90s and to be honest, the meetings were boring as hell. We would talk over coffee, then there was a reading, then we watched a movie. That was it. There were some old robes in the coat room, but we never even put them on. No pillowcases either, lol."

Fair enough. I personally don't have an issue with how boring the Knights are, it's the other activities I have an issue with.

A Monster of a movie, a Monster of a performance.

My lady did an inventory of all our DVDs and Blu Rays and it turns out that I have a lot. I felt a stupid sense of pride, which followed a haunting realisation about how much those damn things have cost me over the years. The wife reckons we have between £2,000 to £3,000 worth of discs. I fear it’s more. In fact, I know it’s more because she didn’t take into account the films I have on Itunes.

But that doesn’t bother me; what actually bugged me was her accusation that the majority of films I own are depressing. And to illustrate her point she pointed to the film Monster.

Now, I'm not here to argue that Monster isn't depressing, but I’m pretty sure that my lady hasn’t ever seen the film - this erked me more. The fact that she blindly used the film as an example of my emo-ness does great discredit to Patty Jenkins’ classic. And I’m not one to use the word classic carelessly – Monster is an incredible film.

Monster is a film based on the life of Aileen Wuornos, the famous female serial killer. There is a documentary out there about this woman, I forget what it's called, but that is also an incredible (and creepy) watch.

The problem with films based on real life people is that they can feel like a Stars in their Eyes performance (I don't know if my friends outside the UK will get this reference - Youtube it); the make-over can be incredible but the film itself can fall flat (I’m looking at you, The Iron Lady). This is far from being the case here and Charlize Theron is beyond incredible in this film. In fact, everyone is great in this film, but it would be a disservice to Theron’s performance to talk about anyone else.

I’ve seen real life footage and documentaries of Wuornos and I am convinced that Theron underwent some Juju to capture her soul during this film. It’s frightening.

It would have been easy to play Wuornos as an absolute nutcase and make the audience feel better, but Theron makes the character far more complicated. There is a gut wrenching desperation to Theron’s Wuornos. Here is a woman that has been used (literally) by everyone that was supposed to care for her and her murders are not an explosion of anger built up inside her, but a desperate way for her not to be used any more. What I'm saying is that by the end of this film, I'm feeling sorry for Wuornos and that is totally down to Theron.

It’s horrible because every time I see this film I think of the homeless people I automatically ignore on the streets, and how I don’t even give a second thought to how difficult their lives must be. How they ended up in the cold, begging for pennies. I find it as natural as breathing, ignoring the very poor and this film makes me ashamed because you realise that hardly anyone was kind to Wuornos. She was ignored and used, mostly for sexual purposes. Barely a hint of kindness came her way and when it did (the John that wanted to reform her) it was too late – she was already a Monster. 

Don't get it twisted, Theron's Wuornos, I'm sure like the former living one, is nuts. But the hint of humanity and vulnerability that Theron laces her with makes this movie truly great.

Incredible performance by Theron.

A lot of credit has to go to Jenkins. Her direction is ruthless in this film. There is no room for sentiment; no lingering too long during scenes. She keeps the film unrelentingly dark and I applaud her for it.

At the heart of this film is a tragic love story between Wuornos and Christina Ricci’s Selby Wall.

This is the pre-Brokeback Mountain gay film – just less romantic. 

Aileen is desperately in love with Wall and will do anything to keep her. I mean who hasn't felt such intense emotions? Wall isn’t as innocent as she first appears in the movie – in fact, she is the true villain of the piece. And the emotional shit she puts Wuornos through in this film is heartbreaking.

Like I said earlier, Aileen is a character that has been used by everyone in her life and when she thinks she has found her soul-mate, she turns out to be just like every other vulture. To this day, I find it hard watching the scene where Walls betrays Aileen. 

Again, you buy into this relationship, not because of Ricci (who is good in her role), but because Theron is outstanding. It’s like watching a friend in a horrible relationship – you tell them that their partner is no good, but they don’t want to listen because they are hopelessly in love.

Outstanding acting by Theron. 


Monster is a magical film that shouldn’t be disregarded by people that haven’t seen it. What Theron does is extraordinary – she just doesn’t play Wuornos, she becomes her. I really can’t praise her enough.

Credit is also due to Jenkins who keeps her film jet black. The film wears its emo heart on its sleeve and it doesn’t shirk from it.

So, I don’t like depressing films (I can’t stand Precious), I love extraordinary films. And Monster is exactly that.


Friday, 19 April 2013

Django: That KKK Scene

I remember coming out of the cinema after just watching Django Unchained spoiling for a fight; so naturally I logged onto Twitter and quickly found one. To be fair the following debate was heated but respectful. He had one point that I found difficult to accept and it’s a point that I’ve heard repeatedly elsewhere.

As a black man, I should be offended/ disrespected by Django.

As you’ve probably guessed already from reading my posts, I find nothing about Django Unchained offensive or disrespectful. Well, almost nothing.

There is one scene.

After Django and his good Doctor pay a visit to Don Johnson’s (Big Daddy) plantation to assassinate a pair of fugitives, Big Daddy rounds up all of his white friends to teach Django and his “nigger loving" companion a lesson.

What follows is probably the funniest scene of the whole movie and possibly one of the funniest scenes of any Tarantino movie.

One of Big Daddy’s fellow racists was in charge of brining pillow cases with holes cut out in them so the soon to be murders could see where they are going, but his wife didn’t do it properly. Big Daddy’s group of racists argue over these pillow cases to the point of absurdity.

Like I said, the scene is ridiculously funny. I was laughing my head off until I realised that the room full of mostly white faces were laughing along with me – and then I stopped laughing.

Essentially what Tarantino was doing in the scene was re-writing history and showing his version of how the Klu Klux Klang was created. In his mind, the KKK were a bunch of racist idiots, who couldn’t get anything simple done - like cutting holes in a pillow case. Except, in the real world they could.

This scene proves that Tarantino is a hell of a talent. I personally think he’s a better writer than director. But with this scene, I did feel a whiff of disrespect.

I’m not accusing Tarantino or those who helplessly laughed at this scene of racism – but I am saying that maybe there wasn’t a real appreciation of history. The bumbling idiots depicted in that scene where part of an institution that killed thousands as they cowardly hid their identity in those pillow cases.

Most of all, I respect QT’s giant balls for even writing the scene. But maybe, even for me, his toe may have crossed a line.


Thursday, 18 April 2013

Django and Bullshit

I’m a huge fan of Spike Lee. In fact, fan is an understatement - I consider him a hero. To top it off, he’s an Arsenal fan. I say this to make it clear that I get no pleasure out of saying anything negative about the man. But his criticism of Django is straight up bullshit:

 “I can’t speak on it ’cause I’m not gonna see it. The only thing I can say is,it’s disrespectful to my ancestors, to see that film.” – Spike Lee
How? The fact that a white man has directed a film which uses the word ‘nigger’ liberally? I know that Spike has had a long time beef with QT, but this particular nit he chose pick is a bug too far. The greatest television show of my time, The Wire, also uses the word ‘nigger’ like it’s the word ‘a’ or ‘and’. In The Wire, not only is the word used by black characters, but like most of QT’s films, it’s used by white people as well. Not only white people, but white “Poh-Leece” - just to add insult to injury. Now as far as I or my Google searches know, Spike has no beef whatsoever with The Wire, the way it uses racial profanity or, for that matter, its two snow white creators. In fact,he’s a fan of this great piece of television work.

Now, I maybe simplifying Spike Lee’s and others who have a race based argument against Django Unchained, but I have a real problem with hypocrisy, especially when it comes from my own (black) camp. How can you wild-out against something you haven’t experienced? How do you know that it is disrespectful to your ancestors?


This is the point where I stop concentrating on Spike Lee as I already feel uneasy. Instead I’m going to concentrate my erk at a man I have no problem disliking – Tavis Smiley.

Every time I’ve heard Tavis Smiley speak, I’ve wanted to smack something. He’s the type of public figure that begs to be taken seriously, not only by the American black public, but by black people full stop - but every time he has said anything black related, I’ve wanted to disagree with him, even if he I agreed with his general point. I’m sure everyone has one – but he’s that one quasi-famous person that I just can’t stand.


Tavis Smiley gave one of the most maddening interviews I have ever read, period, for The Daily Beast about Django Unchained. In this interview, he pretty much echo’s Lee saying he hasn’t seen Tarantino’s film, but goes on to savage it as if he has. It’s pretty shameful.

There is a rotten insincerity that infects his words and I’m not sure he even knows it:

 "I’m troubled that Hollywood won’t get serious about making an authentic film about the holocaust of slavery but they will greenlight a spoof about slavery, and it’s as if this spoof about slavery somehow makes slavery a bit easier to swallow. The suffering of black people is not reducible to revenge and retribution. The black tradition has taught the nation what it means to love. Put it another way: black people have learned to love America in spite of, not because of, so if the justification for the film in the end is, as Jamie Foxx’s Django says, “What, kill white people and get paid for it? What’s wrong with that?”­ well again, black suffering is not reducible to revenge and retribution. "Tarantino even went on the record saying Roots was inauthentic. First of all, Tarantino is not a historian. When people see his film who don’t have any understanding of history, they take it as history, because Tarantino passes himself off as a historian by declaring Roots inauthentic, and then goes on to make the “authentic” story about slavery. It doesn’t tell the truth about what the black contribution to this country has been. Tarantino has the right to make whatever films he wants to make. What he’s not entitled to is his own set of facts and to lecture black people about the inauthenticity of an iconic, game-changing series like Roots. I don’t take kindly to white folk like Tarantino lecturing black folk about their history. That’s just unacceptable. Tarantino is absolutely exhausting." - Tavis Smiley

There is a hint of a reasonable point in there somewhere. African American’s have a wonderful history of forgiving but not forgetting one of the worst injustice known in human history, slavery – but he’s assuming that the majority of black people are not aware that Django Unchained IS NOT REAL. I’m pretty certain that I and most other black cinema goers are aware that Django is, indeed, fiction and does not set out to be a dramatisation of history. No matter how much Tavis would like us to believe that Tarantino believes his films are a historical lesson, he doesn’t and importantly, WE (black folks) DON’T.

And here is the thing. I don’t understand what is so controversial about the Django line about “killing white folk”. Every time I've heard this line used to criticise the movie, it’s used to suggest that somehow the general public will believe that all black people secretly feel this way (we really don't by the way. You're safe). What pisses me off most is the suggestion Tavis and other critics make that it was beyond the realm of possibility that, way back when, a slave in Django’s position would have said and felt the same way. Almost as if a free slave thinking that way was a disgrace.

But it’s the Roots analysis that turns me off totally to Tavis' argument. Here’s the thing, I read what Quentin and Reginald Hudlin (the black producer of Django) actually said about Roots – a TV series I have watched god knows how many times – and they have a point. QT goes on to qualify his inauthentic claims by highlighting the Roots finale's closing scene where the freed slave, Chicken George, has the opportunity to put a whooping on his former rapist of a owner, in front of his newly freed family. Instead of opening a can of hurt, he chooses to be the “bigger man” and walk away.  That scene and the lack of authentic anger in other instances in Roots is QT’s main beef:

“Bulls--t, no way he becomes the bigger man at that moment. The powers that be during the ’70s didn’t want to send the message of revenge to African-Americans. They didn’t want to give black people any ideas. But anyone knows that would never happen in that situation. And in Django ­Unchained we make that clear.” - Quentin Tarantino

That's a very difficult point to argue against. And although I absolutely adore Roots, there is a Disney-like, Kumbaya feel to the series which has resulted in the series still being respected but not ageing well.


So I’m going to stop beating around the bush and start cutting to the chase. A lot of this criticism from the elite black folks toward Tarantino just stinks and doesn’t add up. It stinks of an us-and-them culture that has developed within the black community.

We will celebrate and defend the achievements of our brothers and sisters that excel in typically white fields, such as Tiger Woods (before the long-ass-cue of white (mostly porn star) women came out of the... erm...woods), the Williams sisters and (Saint)President Barack Obama. And rightly so. But god forbid white folks excelling in traditionally black arena’s – that’s culture stealing, right? You won’t Elvis us again.

In a nutshell, Travis and co wouldn’t have any problems if Django Unchained was made by a black man. I truly believe that – I don’t care how much they say otherwise. There would be no talk of history jacking or of not knowing what is QT’s heart – there would be quite acceptance.

Like I’ve already said, I’ve watched Roots many times and I’ve read the book and what people fail to mention about these seminal pieces of work is that their historical authenticity have been questioned. Also, X is one of my favourite films of all time and Malcolm X’s biography is one of the first books I ever fell in love with, yet both of these work’s historical accuracy has been questioned (go and read Manning Marble’s excellent biography, Malcolm X: A Life of ReInvention). Yet in the case of all of these works, their authors were damn right ambiguous of whether they considered their books/film a piece of historical recounting or whether they should be viewed as piece of fiction. Should I, as a black man, be offended by that?

Well, I’m not.

I take the point that Tavis makes that Hollywood has thrown shade at black film makers and it’s hard for a black director to get a black film made – but I fail to see why this is the fault of Quentin Tarantino.

Bullshit is bullshit, regardless of the skin colour of the person serving out that bulldung.

If you don’t think that a white director has the right to tell a black story in the way it’s told in Django, then fine, say just that, but don’t bullshit the people you claim to be speak for.


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Django: Tarantino's Flawed but Important Masterpiece

Django Unchained isn’t one of Tarantino’s best films – it’s not even close. That’s not to say that it is a bad film – it’s a very good film.

Django suffers from the same problems Inglorious Basterds – it’s simply far too long. It’s at least 45 minutes too long. This long running time isn’t at all justified as it takes what starts off as a funny, snappy and gut-wrenching movie, into a stale and almost boring affair. This problem isn’t just a Tarantino problem, over indulgence and the lack of editing has been creeping into Hollywood lately (Dark Knight Rises, anyone?).

For my money, Django Unchained is Tarantino’s most important film. I’d go further than that, for me, it’s the most important black film since Boyz n the Hood. It has started a debate about race without the usual violence that proceeds such a debate. I have seen people start off talking about Django and the conversation divert to deeper darker questions about race and the legacy of the slave trade, which, to my mind, is a fantastic achievement.  

Both Django and Boyz speak to an anger that I personally feel about the subject of race and the slave trade that most films on the subject don’t even touch.

Although Django has the same Tarantino humour, beneath it's skin, this film is uncompromisingly angry. While I was watching it, I had to remind myself that this blisteringly angry film was written and directed by the painfully white Tarantino.

When I was in junior school, I got called a nigger in the playground by a white kid. The only reason I paid it any mind is because of the “ohhs” that followed the insult and the laughter that rose up afterwards. I remember telling my dad about it and asking him what the word, nigger, means and he simply explained that it was a “naughty word for a black person”. This story keeps haunting me the older I get because I can never remember him reporting it to the teachers afterwards. That explanation is all I had.

The next time I heard that word was on a Puff Daddy and Mase single and in a totally different context. Through hiphop I quickly realised that nigger, or nigga, didn’t always have to be “naughty”, sometimes it was cool.

So, me and my best friend started a hiphop group and I personally tried to use that word in our songs as much as I could – I didn’t care if my rhymes didn’t make any sense. Funnily enough, we preformed these songs in school and no one but our parents batted an eyelid.

This did bite us though. It seemed like we were getting called niggers in every class and I lost count of how many times I got told to go back to my own country. I’m not saying that I was an angel, I wasn’t, I probably started many of these fights, but when the nigger bomb dropped that was it. It was a conversation stopper. It left a mushroom cloud of “ohhs” and laughter.

I think about this stuff because I didn’t realise how angry I was about it until I watched Django. I’m angry at my dad for not properly explaining to me what nigger meant. I’m angry at my teachers for not stopping me using the word. I’m angry at myself for using the word like I did and letting other black faces use it in front of me and while addressing me. Most of all, I am angry at every single white face that called me a blacky, gollywog, nigger and told me to go back to my own country.

I still get people asking me why we (I’m guessing they mean black people) have such a chip on our shoulders. And every single black history month I get asked why the month should even exist and why there isn’t a white history month.

What hurts the most is the fact that I am certain these experiences are not exclusive to me. I know so many other black friends and family members that have gone through similar and worse.

I don’t think my generation (white or black) fully understand the history behind the word nigger – I truly don’t. I don't think a single person who called me a nigger in school is a racist, I just think they were young, dumb and didn't fully understand what they were saying. I grew up thinking the word nigger was reclaimed in some way and how it was now an exclusive luxury, only to be used by black people. But I watch the way nigger is used in Django Unchained and realise what an idiot I’ve been. That word is a potent type of venom that can never be cleaned.

I laugh that in almost every review of Django, the number of times nigger is used is a debatable matter. Can anyone actually argue that no one in those times would have used the word that often? It’s not the amount it gets used but the way nigger gets used that trips me out. It’s an everyday word used so carefree but with a hint of disgust by the white characters in the movie. And the black characters use it to remind themselves of their place. Can anyone truly argue that this didn’t happen?

People complain that Django is a cartoon that pokes fun at a serious subject. Well, the only cartoonish violence in this film is when damage is being done to white characters (and they're all racist white folks). There is nothing cartoonish about watching a woman being dragged from a hole she spent days in; There is nothing Bugs Bunny-ish about watching two black men fight until one finishes the other with a hammer, all to amuse a rich white guy. What is cartoonish about watching dogs rip a runaway slave to pieces? What cartoon have you seen where a husband humiliates himself and pleads with his owner  to save his wife from being savagely whipped? Can you actually argue that these things didn’t happen in America before the civil war?

Too much of the violence in this film felt too real to me. More real than any other Tarantino film I’ve seen. This is what happened to niggers.

And this film was made by the very white Tarantino. And people actually have the brass ones to call him racist.

Django reminded me of the reasons why I love and believe movies are so important. It’s one thing being able to read about something, it’s another seeing it with your own eyes. No matter how much I read about slavery and the horrific things that happened to Africans kidnapped from their home, none of them words had as much impact on me as watching this overly long and flawed movie.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Django Week: 17th - 19th April

I’m a huge fan of Spike Lee. In fact, fan is an understatement - I consider him a hero. To top it off, he’s an Arsenal fan. I say this to make it clear that I get no pleasure out of saying anything negative about the man.

But his criticism of Django is straight up bullshit.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Alternative: Mind Palace

Season two of my film blog starts next week but before then I wanted to let you guys know about this cool comic I get a sneak peak of.


The Mind Palace is a huge surprise. I went into reading the debut comic by Luke Halsall, one of my guest bloggers, with low expectations and came out actually inspired. Like I said, this comic is a surprise.

What is obvious from the get go is that this book is produced by talented people. The first story, Tick Tock, is a masterpiece; it introduces you to a dark and intriguing world, and before you know it, yanks you out of it. The artwork in ‘Tick Tock’ is amazing – it brings Halsall’s distorted Alice in Wonderland like world into beautiful life.

Once you’ve started to read ‘Defender’ you realise just how talented Halsall is. You can tell how steeped in comic book knowledge he really is and the joy of telling sharp and simple stories leak thorough out this piece.

And those are the real stars of this comic book, the stories. Each one is gem which sends you deep into their own unique world.

I’d recommend anyone, whether a comic book expert or novice to give this project a go. It may very well leave you in the same pleasant surprised state it left me.


You can get Mind Palace from:

Forbidden planet glasgow
Plan b bookshop glasgow
American dream comics, bath