Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” has been hailed by many as a powerful and important movie, but has been criticized for its message. “Django Unchained” depicts an African American hero played by Jamie Foxx who tries to save his estranged wife from the clutches of slavery. The movie uses Foxx’s character as a vehicle to tell the broader story of slavery and the path to freedom. It is a strong narrative about the impact of one man, and raises many important and relevant details, but it also ignores the complexity of how larger institutional structures give rise to and support the success of individuals.
Last year, The Boston Globe ran an historic and exhaustive feature on the community that we call home. The piece, presented over five days, delved deeply into the lives of Dorchester’s Bowdoin Geneva neighborhood, and was epic in scope. Produced over a year of embedded journalism, the print story was augmented by a collection of statistics, videos, and commentary in the partner online piece.
Like “Django Unchained,” The Globe’s 68 Blocks received both high praise and some criticism. Through the individual perspectives of Father Conway, Jhana, Susan, and others it brought light to a world many don’t know, but not the story beneath.
In a neighborhood like Bowdoin Geneva, that The Globe noted is rich in diversity, the context matters. Early on in the story, the writers asked, “Why is Bowdoin Geneva still troubled with violence” and the answer is long and complex. The power and struggle of the neighborhood has to do with myriad opportunities and challenges which together weave the tapestry that is Bowdoin Geneva.
Much of the criticism of Tarrantino’s film is its glorification of Foxx’s character, Django, in lieu of the larger forces that eventually ended our “peculiar institution.” There was an institutional framework that created the means by which slaves were freed. So too is there an institutional context in Bowdoin Geneva.
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