BIPOC Voices, Entertainment

‘The Harder They Fall’ is a proper Black Western

Further proof that ‘Django Unchained’ was racist.

words by: Alee Kwong
Aug 16, 2022

Netflix‘s The Harder They Fall, an outstanding representation of Black cowboys in the Old West, has proven that the criticism of Django Unchained was beyond correct. Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained (2012) follows formerly enslaved bounty hunter Django (played by Jamie Foxx) and Dr. King Shultz (played by Christoph Waltz) as they capture wanted white slavers, while simultaneously on a journey to buy the freedom of Django’s wife. Tarantino’s film reinterprets the usual white character-led Western genre by placing a Black cowboy at the forefront, all the while putting Black trauma (fueled by the horrors of slavery) next to it.

 

 

Apart from the glaring exploitation of Black trauma, why does The Harder They Fall work and Django Unchained not work? Well, first off, the cast of the former alone is reason enough. An obviously stellar cast such as Idris Elba, Regina King, Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, LaKeith Stanfield, and Zazie Beetz gives the movie and script so much to work with. Each of these actors brings so much talent to their respective character and are given time and respect in the movie to showcase their acting chops.

 

the harder they fall

 

In 2012, when Django Unchained was released, criticism stemmed from Tarantino’s excessive use of the n-word. Although Tarantino is known for going overboard with curse words in his films, writing the n-word 110 times in his script was confirmed disrespectful and completely unnecessary.

 

He supported his use of the derogatory word by claiming it reflected historical accuracy, but many cited that his use of the racial slur was a mere accessory rather than historical accuracy. The Harder They Fall proves a Western film centering Black cowboys doesn’t need the n-word to achieve historical accuracy.

 

The film is based on true stories and real people, showing through example that Black characters don’t need to exclusively be defined by the darkest parts of their experience. That all being said, it by no means implies that we should shy away from the truth. The Harder They Fall makes it a point to mention slavery and racism a few times throughout the film. However, it is not the focus.

 

Bottom line, you can create stories centering around Black people throughout different points in time without limiting them to the forced identity of marginalization, trauma, and pain. And you sure as hell can tell a story with Black people as main characters without using the n-word 110 times.

 

In related news, you can watch The Sandman on Netflix now, peep the trailer here.

 

Photos via Netflix