Quentin Tarantino Says Drug War, Justice System Are Modern-Day Slavery
Although race always has been an element in his work, Django Unchained has become the flash point for public examination of Quentin Tarantino's thoughts about African-Americans.
Tarantino's new film is set just before the Civil War and features Jamie Foxx as a freed slave who seeks to save his wife by taking down the brutal plantation owner who owns her. The revenge in the film is a symbol for greater black liberation, but as he said during a recent appearance on a talk show in Canada, Tarantino does not believe conditions have wholly improved. Instead, he asserted, the dominion has simply shifted.
"This whole thing of this 'war on drugs' and the mass incarcerations that have happened pretty much for the last 40 years has just decimated the black male population," the filmmaker said on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight. "It’s slavery, it is just, it’s just slavery through and through, and it’s just the same fear of the black male that existed back in the 1800s."
In addition, he says that the flesh-for-cash business of slavery mirrors that of the prison industrial complex.
"Especially having even directed a movie about slavery," he said, "and you know the scenes that we have in the slave town, the slave auction town, where they’re moving back and forth -- well, that looks like standing in the top tier of a prison system and watching the things go down. And between the private prisons and the public prisons, the way prisoners are traded back and forth."
Tarantino's words might spark some debate, not only from those politically on opposite sides of the great drug war debate but also from the film community. Graphic abuses of the slaves are depicted throughout Django Unchained, leading to a split between those who think his work is a painfully real look at the horrors of the time and others who believe the violence -- along with the near-constant use of the N-word -- in the movie is exploitative and not handled with respect.
As Tarantino told The Hollywood Reporter, though, no criticism he gets will impact his work.
"Not one word of social criticism that's been leveled my way has ever changed one word of any script or any story I tell," he says in THR's new "Rule Breaker" issue. "I believe in what I'm doing wholeheartedly and passionately. It's my job to ignore that."