The question of authenticity again: Mandingo fighting in Django Unchained — was it true?

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Leonardo DiCaprio in the role of a slaveowner who deals in Mandingo fights.

☞ The question of authenticity in Django Unchained again. This time, it’s not to do with the profuse use of profanities or with the use of the N-word, but with Mandingo fighting. The controversy here reminds one of the debate on the authenticity of the Russian roulette sequences in Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter (1978). Again, the question is how true should a movie be to history? Couldn’t a movie take liberties with facts in order to make the narrative more interesting?

“A key plot point of Quentin Tarantino’s western-blaxploitation-revenge movie is the supposed sport of Mandingo fighting, in which two (black) slaves fight in a bare-knuckle death match, for no reason other than the (white) slaveowners’ enjoyment. The search for the perfect Mandingo, or wrestler, is the vehicle Tarantino (who, of course, wrote and directed the film) builds the rest of his movie around. But a bevy of historians say it probably never happened.

One expert tells Slate (which says that “no slavery historian we spoke with had ever come across anything that closely resembled this human version of cockfighting”) that the very notion that Southerners would send off their slaves to die is logically flawed. Given the entire structure of slavery was based on economic expedience, it just doesn’t make much sense that a slaveowner would be willing to lose one of his strongest and healthiest men to death for sport.”

From HuffPost Entertainment: read more…

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One response »

  1. There was apparently a flagellation game or contest called Lap-Jacket (or Lapjacket) for which there is one 19th Century reference, contained in the following article which appeared in the May 12, 1877 issue of the Dodge City Times:
    “We yesterday witnessed an exhibition of the African national game of ‘lap-jacket’ in front of Shulz’ harness shop. The game is played by two colored men, who each toe a mark and whip each other with bullwhips. In the contest yesterday Henry Rodgers, called Eph for short, contended with another darkey for the championship and fifty cents prize money. They took heavy new whips from the harness shop and poured in the strokes pretty lively. Blood flowed and dust flew and the crowd cheered until Policeman Joe Mason came along and suspended the cheerful exercise.
    “In Africa, where this pleasant pastime is indulged in to perfection, the contestants strip to the skin, and frequently cut each other’s flesh open to the bone.”

    This is the only reference to Lap-Jacket that I have ever been able to find.

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