Earlier today, the Weinstein Co. discontinued their line of Django Unchained action figures amid a good deal of controversy. The natural question that arises: Should they have ever existed in the first place? The Weinsteins have made action figures for all of Quentin Tarantino’s movies, including Lieutenant Aldo Raine and Colonel Hans Landa toys for Inglourious Basterds. (Yep, they made a Nazi action figure.) The figures are geared toward over-17 (like the movies themselves) film memorabilia collectors. (A quick eBay search shows the Inglourious Basterds figures selling for upwards of $300.)
However, considering Django Unchained’s content, is selling action figures inappropriate? In the message included with the Change.org petition, which ended with about 19,000 supporters, Tenaya Jackson wrote: “The trivailization [sic] depicted in these dolls further is [sic] makes a mockery of our ancestors bloodshed, strife, pain and suffering.” Ultimately, there is something disconcerting about the buying and selling of slave toys, regardless of their association and their superhero-like portrayal. (Available on Amazon, the Django and Broomhilda figures are the only ones that have sold out, with the Broomhilda figure fetching upwards of $600 on eBay.)
And in that way, this debate echoes the debate surrounding the movie itself: Is it right for a white filmmaker to make, and in turn make money off of, a popcorn movie about slavery? The film is appearing to weather its storms, and it has gone on to massive critical and commercial success, winning Golden Globes and becoming Tarantino’s highest grossing film. But while one could argue that Django is art (or aspires to be some sort of pop art), a similar claim could never be made about this or any such toy. Was it worth it for the Weinsteins to have commissioned them? Likely not, though we’ll take a Vincent Vega doll that can do the twist any day.