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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Django Unchained: How Historically Accurate is Tarantino's Latest Historical Action Flick?

The A to Z blogfest continues, and today is the letter J, so I'll be talking about the movie everyone's been talking about--Django Unchanged! Hey, the D is silent.

Many people have asked me how historically accurate this film is. Then short answer is not at all. The long answer follows.

Django's opening title states that the year is "1858, two years before the Civil War." The war, of course, started in 1861, which was 3 years later. From then on there's a host of factual errors. The characters use repeating rifles that didn't exist at the time, they use metal cartridges that didn't exist at the time, they even visit cities that didn't exist at the time, etc., etc. The Internet Movie Database has a long list of historical errors in Django Unchained so I won't go into them all here.

I live in Spain, and many Spaniards I know were shocked with how slaves were treated in the film. The common reaction was, "I knew slavery was bad, but I didn't know it was that bad!" Here Tarantino is on firmer ground. Slaves really were beaten and mutilated for trying to escape. Sometimes they really were torn apart by dogs. Slave women really were used as sexual playthings. Tarantino, being Tarantino, amps this up a bit but all of it is true.

The only place where he really exaggerated is with the "Mandingo fighting". He portrays a group of wealthy slave owners training slaves to fight to the death. According to slavery historians interviewed by Slate, this never happened. Slaves were trained to fight as bare knuckle boxers, but they were too valuable as property to be used in death matches.

Hopefully the fans of this film will be inspired to read about the era and learn the reality behind the fiction. One can only hope. I did enjoy the film as a kickass action Western with some fine acting. I just didn't see much history.


  1. I'm so surprised that detail escaped the editors. Someone wasn't paying attention!! Happy A to Z!


  2. I wasn't watching it for accuracy, just enjoyment. Sad that the treatment of slaves was accurate though.

  3. I haven't seen this yet. I like adventure movies, but I find Tarantino kind of hit or miss, and this movie seems to be more of a miss to me. I sure appreciated your review though! :-)


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