Interpellating Django: The Functions of the Gaze in Tarantino's Django Unchained


Abstract
Responding to the polemic critiques of Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 film, Django Unchained, this essay uses Lacanian and Žižekian discussions of the gaze in order to understand what the film communicates about the racist ideology of American slavery. Tarantino’s film is at once more nuanced than most Hollywood films about the period and also more clearly problematic. Unlike other recent films about slavery in the United States, such as the recent Lincoln, in Django Unchained, every character other than a German bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz, is interpellated in the racist ideology that supports the institution of slavery; and the characters of the film, black and white alike, go to great lengths to preserve the ideology that rests on the subjugation of all black Americans. Tarantino’s rendition of this interpellation is made still more enjoyable as his main characters, Schultz, and the slave-turned-bounty-hunter, Django, embody two manifestations of the gaze, the screen and the stain or spot. However, because the Lacanian letter insists on arriving at the end of the film, the conclusion to Django Unchained also appears to suggest that the film’s villain, though physically defeated, was correct in his pronouncement that 9,999 out of 10,000 black people are biologically servile
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