Django Unchained Controversy: Action Figures Spark Outrage For Trivializing Slavery

Some activists are calling action figures based on Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained inappropriate, saying that the toys trivialize racism.

The eight-inch figurines depict the main characters in the movie, including main character and rebel slave Django, “house slave” Stephen, and the slave owner Calvin Candie. Produced by the National Entertainment Collectibles Association in collaboration with the film’s producers, the toy-makers have come under intense criticism from a variety of camps.

Najee Ali, director of the Los Angeles civil rights organization Project Islamic Hope, has seen the film twice and is not opposed to Django’s liberal utilization of the backdrop of slavery nor its repeated use of racial epithets. However, he still called for the toys removal from sale and said they were a “slap in the face of our ancestors,” and that he was "outraged … we feel it trivializes the horrors of slavery and what African Americans experienced.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network similarly called for a boycott saying, “selling this doll is highly offensive to our ancestor and the African-American community … the movie is for adults, but these are action figures that appeal to children. We don’t want other individuals to utilize them for their entertainment … ”

Django has reportedly won over black audiences in the U.S., with black people constituting 42% of the initial audience, falling to around 30% since the initial release. The film has remained popular with black audiences despite featuring gratuitous violence and more than 100 uses of the n-word.

Tarantino himself recently said to audiences that he understands the violence depicted in Django pales in comparison to the historical reality of slavery. “We all intellectually ‘know’ the brutality and inhumanity of slavery … however bad things get in the movie, a lot worse stuff actually happened.”