This past week I saw both a movie (Django Unchained) and a TV show (MTV’s new series Buckwild) that I really enjoyed. I enjoyed them in spite of all the negative reviews and opinions regarding them. Here’s my take on each one:
Before seeing this film, I was aware of all of the murmurs and disapproval being expressed; specifically in regards to the gratuitous use of the word “nigger” throughout the film. But after seeing the movie, I firmly believe that all these naysayers completely missed the point. Quentin Tarentino is not an enlightened post-racialist. He is a brilliant film maker who knows how to combine his own personal vision and appeals with what people like to see. Mr. Tarentino is no doubt a personal fan of old kung fu flicks, spaghetti westerns, and blaxploitation films. Django Unchained was his own rendition of combining the two latter genres; and is not meant to be any more historically accurate or politically correct than Boss Nigger was back in 1975.
But getting back to the movie itself, it goes without saying that the idea of a newly-freed slave going out and becoming a ruthless bounty hunter in pre-Civil War Texas is pretty darn improbable/unbelievable. Therefore, you just need to get past all that and enjoy the film. And this film was brilliant in terms of dialogue, entertaining characters, and the realization of a fantastical idea (a slave kicking White people’s bootys in the Wild West). You really shouldn’t ask for a movie [of this type] to offer you more than that.
Now this one is a surprise. I actually had no desire to really see this show…being that it’s an MTV creation and all (I have no affinity whatsoever for their other shows; although I was a fan of The Real World back in the 90s). What happened is that I friend tagged me in a post that they made about it (since they knew I went to West Virginia University), and then I saw that some other people were talking about it as well. So I decided to check out the episodes that were posted on MTV.com. I must admit, the fact that the first episode started out with one of the cast members packing up from WVU caught my interest. The school and/or Morgantown was featured again in later episodes. What WVU alum wouldn’t be curious?
Before seeing the show, I had heard that WV senator Joe Manchin voiced his disapproval of the show; and so have some local business people. Well, they have that right. However, let’s get real here. In spite of tons of hard-working, polite, educated West Virginians occupying the state; no one is going to come in and offer to feature them or their lifestyle on prime-time television. And in spite of the fact that Pennsylvania, Ohio and tons of other states (all of them?) have residents that act the exact same way as those featured in Buckwild, few of those states have the marketing recognition and cultural association that West Virginia does…with that type of behavior. It is not flattering and it is not fair. But that is exactly how 85% of Black Americans feel about the media highlighting the more unsavory characteristics of our culture. 2, 4 or 50 wrongs don’t make a right. But we Black people have learned a thing or two about knowing when and where to pick your battles. Asking the media to portray us accurately and in the best light possible is just not a crucial one. Or at least it is not one that we are going to win anytime soon.
What is being overlooked here (in my opinion) is that the state of West Virginia stands to gain a whole lot more than New Jersey could have with that Jersey Shore show. WV is to the United States what that old exercise equipment up in the attic is to your house. You know it’s there; but you’ve forgotten about it and you aren’t quite sure where it is or what to use it for (although you know you should). If I were the head off marketing for WV (if there is such a thing), I would publicly embrace the state’s rustic, hillbilly, untamed culture. Why try so hard to be like everyone and everything else? Be what you are…both the good and the bad included.
Oh, and the fact that the cast members on Buckwild are not so artificial and made-up looking on a physical perspective is a big plus for me. I personally cannot stand how everyone on a reality television show needs to have picture-perfect celebrity looks — it’s a huge oxymoron to me. The folks on Buckwild look like the people I could have gone to school with. Just for that alone, this show gets major brownie points with me. So congratulations MTV; you’ve won my approval for the first time in like 15 years!
“Where I grew up, there was a roadhouse. It boasted live music. That meant a drum, a bass and a player piano with nobody at it. I parked cars. Fancy people would go there. They’d get loud. They’d get drunk. But they wouldn’t let me use the toilet. So when nature called, I’d open up a trunk and relieve myself. I was 15. There’s probably some kid out there doing it to us right now.”
“Where do you come from?”
“Pennsylvania, by way of Illinois. We lost our farm and ended up in coal country.”