The most insightful scene about sports and race in an American film is found in something that’s not technically a sports movie.
Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained is a film about slavery disguised as a spaghetti western. When we come across the scene in question, Django is a former slave in the Antebellum South looking for his wife. It’s a little over half way through the film. Jamie Foxx’s Django is playing the role of an expert in Mandingo fighting to gain the trust of the man who has his wife — Calvin Candy played by Leonardo DiCaprio. When we meet Candy, he is leisurely enjoying a fight while smoking a cigar. At the end of the fight, the loser is killed, and the winner is sent off with a beer in his hands. He shuffles away with a smile on his face because he pleased his master and has been, in his eyes, properly compensated for risking his life.
This is without question the most insightful scene in an American film about the role of black men in sports. Indeed exploitation is not exclusive to black athletes (white and brown athletes are often financially exploited — especially when coming from an impoverished background), butDjango Unchained brilliantly comments upon the marginalization black male athletes have suffered in America.
Still don’t see it? Let me break it down.