In the same issue of T that spawned Miranda July’s Rihanna profile and this smoking hot Lagerfeld quote, Quentin Tarantino is interviewed by Bret Easton Ellis for a wild romp into his “Gonzo Vision.” As the two sip wine and opine on cinema in his Hollywood Hills abode (so gonzo!), the author sneers at “the policing of language” and posits that Tarantino is “relentlessly un-PC.” Later, Tarantino proves it by ranting about how oppressed he is—by “black critics.”
Oh, god, Quentin. Here is the exhausting, extremely predictable passage:
‘‘If you’ve made money being a critic in black culture in the last 20 years you have to deal with me,’’ he says. ‘‘You must have an opinion of me. You must deal with what I’m saying and deal with the consequences.’’ He pauses, considers. ‘‘If you sift through the criticism,’’ he says, ‘‘you’ll see it’s pretty evenly divided between pros and cons. But when the black critics came out with savage think pieces about ‘Django,’ I couldn’t have cared less. If people don’t like my movies, they don’t like my movies, and if they don’t get it, it doesn’t matter. The bad taste that was left in my mouth had to do with this: It’s been a long time since the subject of a writer’s skin was mentioned as often as mine. You wouldn’t think the color of a writer’s skin should have any effect on the words themselves. In a lot of the more ugly pieces my motives were really brought to bear in the most negative way. It’s like I’m some supervillain coming up with this stuff.’’
This is a reflection of what Quentin Tarantino’s been saying for 20 years, when critics—black and otherwise—explore the underpinnings of his obsession with the n-word, blaxploitation flicks, and sometimes problematic, highly stylized revenge narratives like Django Unchained. These are noble endeavors because questioning and exploring is what critics—good critics, anyway—do by the very definition of the job. Questioning how Quentin Tarantino’s whiteness plays into his views and portrayals of blackness—particularly slavery!—is one of if not the most valid entry points into his (often very excellent) oeuvre. Diving deep into his racial narratives is not “language policing,” nor is it oppressing Quentin Tarantino who, in case you forgot, is a very wealthy and accomplished auteur sipping wine with a nationally celebrated novelist in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills. My heart, it is gonzoically bleeding for you, Quentin, you old softie!
Anyway, the most interesting thing about him is how he navigates race and revenge, whether successfully or not, something he doesn’t seem to understand in this quote and which Bret Easton Ellis doesn’t seem to press him on. It’s spawned some great work in some incredibly prominent outlets by, oh shit, black critics like Cord Jefferson, who wrote at Gawker about “the Django Moment” when white people laughed during it (he liked the movie), or Rembert Browne, who explored Django at Grantland in a larger piece about the n-word (he liked the movie), or Jelani Cobb, who wrote at the New Yorker about Tarantino’s deployment of the n-word as “racial ventriloquism” (he liked the movie), or Wesley Morris, who wrote at the Boston Globe about the audacity and implications of a white man like Tarantino making such a film about slavery (he liked the movie).
Django Unchained was largely met with critical acclaim across the board, in fact; quotes like these, though, might be more telling about Tarantino’s motivations than even an entire film filled with the n-word can. It doesn’t make him a supervillain, but it does make him entirely boring and not transgressive at all.
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