Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Django Unchained: A Follow-up Post

Update 1/25/13: Find the original post here

Spike Lee also says that Django Unchained is "disrespectful" to his ancestors, with the implication that any white man trying to communicate something artistically about the black experience is a fool (not to mention probably a racist), and automatically disqualified from any serious consideration by right thinking people.

The idea that no person of a different race, gender, creed, etc. etc. etc. has any place writing about the experiences of a different race, gender, etc. etc. etc. is abhorrent. I'm pretty sure I don't even have to say this, and I feel like most people who might conceivably read this (a vanishingly small number, to be sure) are on board with this, but I'm gonna say it, just in case.

A given author/artist may have the paucity of imagination and empathy that makes their attempt to portray the experience of the "other" (whomever that might be for them) lie there like a corpse on the page, but that is their failure, and not necessarily a failure to be imputed to all authors of a given race etc. etc. etc. Jesus. Look at the way I have to torture these sentences to even talk about this shit. That should give you an idea of how twisted the logic behind it is. 

Regardless, if Michael Chabon wants to write from the point of view of a black person, if Quentin Tarantino wants to have a black, or Jewish, or female, or Basque, or Muslim, or whatever-the-fuck main character, and they can pull it off, then more power to them. God knows, I don't have the stones for it, but I'm no Michael Chabon, so there's that.

Update: Please note that, in many cases, these failures of imagination and empathy are functions of systemic, and often unacknowledged, racism. This does not absolve artists of the obligation to attempt to confront and root out these unacknowledged biases and write as honestly, creatively, thoughtfully, and above all, engagingly about any facets of human experience with which they choose to wrestle. The question as to whether they have done so successfully is entirely other to whether or not they should do so at all.

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