Debra J. Dickerson previews Django Unchained, where an escaped slave, played by Will Smith, seeks to free his wife and exact revenge on his former masters. She takes issue with the easily demonized master:
Slavery wasn't evil because some masters were. Slavery was evil because, however humane its conditions, it is a crime against humanity. Making the wife's owner a beast … it worries me. Among all the other things slavery was, it was absurd and it was cruel in ways that could transcend whips and chains.
Alyssa Rosenberg echoes her sentiment:
In a sense, movies that turn slaveholding into a cartoon are, in their own way, as unproductive as movies where the intervention of a kindly white person makes everyone around them realize the good intentions they just didn’t know they had: the former allows audiences to narrow the definition of prejudice so they can feel it’s gone, while the latter at least acknowledges that maybe it’s still there. It’s harder to yank up the roots of institutions than to take a match to the newsprint comic villains are printed on.