ONTD Political

Django Unchained: Selling Slaves as Action Figures

10:48 pm - 01/06/2013
Quentin Tarantino's new film about American slavery comes complete with a line of action figures. Karu F. Daniels on the controversy they've stirred.

Academy Award-winner Quentin Tarantino is laughing all the way to the bank this week. The controversial film auteur and his longtime studio chief-partner Harvey Weinstein took a gamble on transforming the atrocities of American slavery into comedic, action-packed entertainment. And the new movie, Django Unchained, which opened Christmas day, bested the glitzy Les Miserables at the box office with numbers indicating that the flick could do as well as, or maybe even better than Tarantino’s top-grossers Inglourious Basterds ($120 million) and Pulp Fiction ($107 million).

And to build on the Django momentum, there’s an entire product line to compliment the Jamie Foxx-fronted spaghetti western/slave revolt/action drama/fantasy tale.

Last fall, the National Entertainment Collectibles Association, Inc. (NECA), in tandem with the Weinstein Company, announced a full line of consumer products based on characters from the movie. First up are pose-able eight-inch action figures with tailored clothing, weaponry, and accessories in the likeness of characters played by Foxx, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Leonardo DiCaprio, James Remar and Christoph Waltz. The dolls are currently on sale via Amazon.com.

A press release announcing the deal stated that the line was similar to the retro toy lines that helped define the licensed action-figure market in the 1970s and that the collection will include a full apparel and accessories line. At the time of the announcement, NECA president Joel Weinshanker said the company was “very excited to bring the stellar cast of Django to life and honored to be working with another Tarantino masterpiece.”

Action figures for Tarantino films Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 may have been better suited for such commercial pursuits. But for some projects, anything goes.

On Facebook last week, a post from “Black Is magazine” posed the question: “Who's in the market for a Django Unchained action figure? Funny or offensive?”

"This doll shit is crazy,” talent manager, filmmaker, and fashion industry doyenne Bethann Hardison told The Daily Beast. “But Quentin Tarantino believes in what he's got and it seems he is not believing anything less.

After repeated attempts to get someone to go on record about the collection, NECA spokesperson Leonardo Saraceni declined to make anyone available, would not comment and referred all queries to the Weinstein Company. No one at the Weinstein Company was available for comment by deadline and no one responded to questions posed.

Admitting that at first glance he thought the dolls to be just a piece of memorabilia, noted black film critic Tim Gordon, also citing Jamie Foxx unveiling the trailer of the movie during the recent Soul Train Awards telecast, noticed “there were a lot of things that were done for Django that would’ve never been done for Inglourious Basterds … but people don’t speak up. People have gotten so -- I don’t know if the word is comfortable or naïve. We just want to go along to get along and it’s very frustrating.”

The audacious release of the dolls could be perceived as adding insult to injury, especially considering Tarantino's lack of regard for the legacy of Alex Haley’s epic 1977 mini-series Roots, which is American pop culture’s most prized depiction of slavery.

"When you look at Roots, nothing about it rings true in the storytelling, and none of the performances ring true for me either,” Tarantino told The Daily Beast’s Allison Samuels. “I didn’t see it when it first came on, but when I did I couldn’t get over how oversimplified they made everything about that time. It didn’t move me because it claimed to be something it wasn’t.”

"Talented as he is, being a fool has never escaped him,” Hardison shared. “He often says the wrong thing out of his mouth, needing a filter and crosses the line… but it’s freedom of expression. I don’t want to be censored so why should he be?”

Academy Award-winning actor Louis Gossett, Jr., who starred in Roots, dismissed Tarantino’s critique, saying the Reservoir Dogs director was just “stirring stuff up” and making a “mockery” out of racism.

Gossett revealed that after seeing Django Unchained at a Malibu movie theater last weekend, he walked out within the first 20 minutes.

"Django is a very small speck on the horizon to what we should be giving energy to,” he said, adding how proud he was of American democracy and the re-election of President Obama. “I think we need to rely on how powerful of a people we are.”


Uh. Thoughts?
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sandstorm 7th-Jan-2013 04:04 am (UTC)
I think it's a little strange. I'm not against adults collecting dolls (Hey, I do), but this does seem like the movie to have action figures with - Id like to know the mindset that makes someone buy the doll of an ignorant slave owner.
electric_mole_x 7th-Jan-2013 05:15 am (UTC)
There are some completionist collectors out there, where even if they don't like the character of a series, will buy it for completeness' sake. I don't see why one would want to buy these at all though.
wrestlingdog 7th-Jan-2013 04:24 am (UTC)

I cannot for the life of me believe no one thought this might not be a good idea.
ntensity 7th-Jan-2013 04:26 am (UTC)
I have to say, Louis Gossett, Jr.'s remarks were quite on point.

(edited to fix spelling/grammar)

Edited at 2013-01-07 04:26 am (UTC)
zinnia_rose 7th-Jan-2013 04:29 am (UTC)
OP, you've got a bit of borked bolding in the paragraph under the embedded video.

As for the article itself...yeah, no. Bad idea on so many levels.
chaya 7th-Jan-2013 04:20 pm (UTC)
astridmyrna 7th-Jan-2013 04:30 am (UTC)

That said, this doesn't surprise me in the least.
mercystars 7th-Jan-2013 05:47 am (UTC)
i love this movie
blackjedii 7th-Jan-2013 04:37 am (UTC)
I kind of want a line of Congress Dolls.

Their tagline can be "They Don't Do Shit."

And they just sit on your shelf. And after time they get bigger and bigger and more dumb-looking.
darth_eldritch 7th-Jan-2013 04:46 am (UTC)
And vote themselves raises
othellia 7th-Jan-2013 04:40 am (UTC)
"When you look at Roots, nothing about it rings true in the storytelling, and none of the performances ring true for me either,” Tarantino told The Daily Beast’s Allison Samuels. “I didn’t see it when it first came on, but when I did I couldn’t get over how oversimplified they made everything about that time. It didn’t move me because it claimed to be something it wasn’t.”

tsu_ 7th-Jan-2013 05:19 am (UTC)
does he not recognise the irony considering what django unchained is?
nesmith 7th-Jan-2013 04:44 am (UTC)
It didn’t move me because it claimed to be something it wasn’t.

What, like a true story of the horrors of slavery that didn't portray slaves as stereotyped Mammy characters or Steppin Fetchit pastiches? That dared to show slaves as thinking, breathing human beings with hopes and dreams and desires and lives?

I think it's sad that he could watch it and not be moved.
lantean_breeze 7th-Jan-2013 05:23 am (UTC)
zeonchar 7th-Jan-2013 04:54 am (UTC)
...he said, adding how proud he was of American democracy and the re-election of President Obama. “I think we need to rely on how powerful of a people we are.”

lantean_breeze 7th-Jan-2013 05:20 am (UTC)
Needless to say that I am disgusted by this. I'm disgusted by the people who think this is okay. I notice he didn't come out with any holocaust dolls after Inglorious Bastards, but then Hollywood is run by Jews and he'd never work again... This is disturbing and sad. None of them deserve to make a dime off of this.
squeeful 7th-Jan-2013 05:26 am (UTC)
Can we not?
bib_specialist 7th-Jan-2013 05:25 am (UTC)
I want a Django Reinhardt action figure.
lantean_breeze 7th-Jan-2013 05:29 am (UTC)
electric_mole_x 7th-Jan-2013 05:28 am (UTC)
I think Tarantino is just drawn to controversy is all, so of course he would release a doll line for this (instead of say, Kill Bill, which would've been more appropriate as the article states), and of course he would write-off Roots as lesser than.

I think any worthwhile message the film could have had will be lost on the audience (which mainly seemed to be young white teens when I went) especially with this doll line. Most people that go to see it will attribute the violence in it to being typical, over the top Tarantino, tbh.
lantean_breeze 7th-Jan-2013 05:32 am (UTC)
Yeah, Kill Bill would have made sense. But I know what I need to know now. Roots is a masterpiece that looks at the REAL horrors of slavery, and Tarantino is a money-grubbing hack that will use that monstrously real horror for "fun" and profit!
weirdolove 7th-Jan-2013 05:57 am (UTC)
I watched Django Unchained against my better judgement, and it was as bad as I presumed that I would be. And to be completely honest, it reminded me of this Boondocks episode.

sfrlz 7th-Jan-2013 06:15 am (UTC)
omg wat is this??? wtf
darth_eldritch 7th-Jan-2013 06:22 am (UTC)
This is just disgusting.

Love what Lou Gosset Junior has to say, he's always been awesome.
wikilobbying 7th-Jan-2013 06:36 am (UTC)
quentin is killing me with this shit. of all the movies to have an action figure line for, this one?? and him brushing off roots like that is such a joke since he's been so high on himself about making a movie that really~ confronts america's ugly history with slavery and django unchained is just a b-movie spaghetti western with a white savior. he can't take his head out of his own ass long enough to own up to his shortcomings, so he has to pretend to be subversive instead.
alryssa 7th-Jan-2013 08:15 am (UTC)
goddamn I hope chaya has comment notifies disabled for this post
keeperofthekeys 7th-Jan-2013 12:34 pm (UTC)

when I saw the comment count this AM I was like "what asshole came in here stanning for Tarantino and defending this shit?" and...nope. Didn't see this coming.
fishphile 7th-Jan-2013 11:37 am (UTC)
I guess what's kind of sad is that the makers of the dolls believe they have a market for them. And that doesn't even touch the idea of selling slave dolls :/

I still haven't seen Django. If I see it, I doubt it will be in a movie theater. I had an acquaintance tell me he laughed throughout the whole film and I'm not sure all of the parts he laughed at were supposed to be funny.
alryssa 7th-Jan-2013 09:23 pm (UTC)
Honestly, the way the movie trailers were aired on TV? It came over like a psuedo-fucking comedy to me. Super awkward.
angelofdeath275 7th-Jan-2013 01:33 pm (UTC)
Selling. Slave. Dolls. Fucking white people think they're sooo creative and bring something new to the table when all they're doing is perpetuating harmful stereotypes. Ugh I weep for fellow black folk who will have to deal with this

Yeeah now I really wont go see this movie
fishphile 7th-Jan-2013 03:38 pm (UTC)
I've also heard quite a few Black people state that White people were repeating some of the racist lines and laughing at inappropriate moments. I'm certainly not paying money to be vexed in this way.
kahluaandcream 7th-Jan-2013 03:05 pm (UTC)

I will guiltily admit to seeing this film with my family over Christmas break. Every interview with Tarantino I've read since has made me regret that decision.

Is there any truth to the rumors the original script was somehow even MORE exploitative and Jamie Foxx/Kerry Washington convinced him to cut some scenes?
chaya 7th-Jan-2013 04:19 pm (UTC)
fishphile 7th-Jan-2013 04:27 pm (UTC)

And over half of those are utter crap.
redstar826 7th-Jan-2013 04:43 pm (UTC)
huh. I saw all of the comments and was expecting wank about how this wasn't offensive. Sure as hell wasn't expecting this.
homasse 8th-Jan-2013 05:19 am (UTC)
This was one of those left-field wanks, it really was.
idemandjustice 7th-Jan-2013 04:45 pm (UTC)
He attacked Roots? WTF? I saw that in sixth grade so it's been a long time, but... I've never heard that particular criticism of it before. If I'm missing something, feel free to correct me, but I don't think Quentin Tarantino is the person to speak against it.
redstar826 7th-Jan-2013 05:06 pm (UTC)
I just watched it a few years ago. It's a very powerful series. I don't get his complaint at all.
apostle_of_eris 7th-Jan-2013 04:46 pm (UTC)
merch is merch.
Why would the sausage factory make your distinctions?
crossfire 7th-Jan-2013 05:06 pm (UTC)
keeni84 7th-Jan-2013 05:09 pm (UTC)
childish 7th-Jan-2013 05:18 pm (UTC)
Wait, why can't we have dolls of slaves? I had an Addy doll and she was supposed to be a runaway slave. I have a lot of problems with this film and don't wish to see it, but the idea that...slaves shouldn't be admired and have action figures is not one of them.
fishphile 7th-Jan-2013 05:45 pm (UTC)
I see your point.

I haven't seen Django, but the biggest objections I've seen is that there is a lot of White Saviourism (sp) in it and while it is violent, it also relies too much on comedy, and that the subject of slavery is not supposed to end up being a comedy.

Therefore, objections are different than they are for Addy, who I believe was treated in a way that makes the history serious (I never had Addy and don't really know her story so maybe I'm wrong.) Also, Addy seemed to be part of a historical lesson whereas Django is clearly entertainment. I think the market and reasons of people who buy these dolls are radically different.

I've seen far less objections to 12 Years A Slave and I don't think it all boils down to who is behind the camera, but how the subject is being approached.
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