Next month marks the 35th anniversary of Roots, the 1977 miniseries that brought the subject of slavery to the water cooler for Black and White discussion in a major way during the post-Civil Rights era. Starting Friday night, BET will air all six episodes of Roots over the entire weekend. Two days after Roots: Part 6 fades to black, director Quentin Tarantinoâ€™s hotly anticipated slavery-era action flick Django Unchainedopens nationwide Christmas Day. As these two competing slave narratives vie for attention (a White filmmakerâ€™s romanticized version vs. an iconic Black writerâ€™s ancestral history), now might be a good time to separate the wheat from the chaff.
First of all, Django Unchained couldâ€™ve gone horribly wrong. However brilliant a director, Quentin Tarantino is famous amongst people of color for fetishizing African-American culture, and his liberal use of the N-word in Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown still rankles folks 15 years after the fact. Tarantino injecting a Blaxploitation-style baadassss freed slave into his vision of the antebellum South couldâ€™ve been disastrous. Any crass, gratuitous depiction of Whites raping actress Kerry Washington in a popcorn movie, and Django Unchained wouldâ€™ve been a wrap.