A Walmart Black History promotion went horribly wrong at one store in Nashville, Tennessee.
The location based at Charlotte Avenue may have meant well when it decided to promote the two DVDs above side-by-side to honor African-American heritage. Unfortunately, they didn’t quite investigate the contents.
If you’ve ever worked retail, then you probably know most of these aisle and end-cap promotions come directly from corporate, so it’s probably best to blame the Bentonville, Arkansas, home offices. But so far, this is the only guilty store that has come to our attention, so one never knows.
A friend snapped the above pic and submitted it on Friday. Why is this Walmart Black History effort so offensive?
Well, there’s nothing objectionable about the Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have A Dream” speech. It’s in the right location. But right next to it is the film Mandingo.
While Quentin Tarantino did take some inspiration from this flick in creating Django Unchained, QT’s Oscar-nominated western at least had examples of strong black characters and a sense that good would triumph over evil.
Django certainly has exploitative elements, but not all those elements are directed at African-Americans. In other words, the white villains get put in their place with some righteous and violent payback.
Not so with Mandingo.
This film, now available in HD through Amazon Prime and, clearly, from this store’s DVD section for the low price of $5, seems to revel in the violence, racism, and humiliation that its slave characters are subjected to.
While the overall message of the film might have been that slavery is bad, you never get a sense from watching it that it pains the filmmakers to present scenes of degradation.
A young boy is used as a footstool for the older slave master, who is suffering from rheumatism. A male slave character is bent over, his private area stretched out and measured by a prospective buyer. A lady of the plantation whips a female slave in a fit of rage, then basically rapes the male lead by forcing him to have sex with her or suffer the consequences of a false allegation.
One character is hanged. Another is boiled alive and held under the scalding water with a pitchfork. Two slaves fight to the death in a scene that is still as graphic as anything you would see today, 40 years later.
Even the film’s title celebrates the use of male slaves for breeding rather than assigning any dignity whatsoever to its tormented characters.
(“Mandingo” is a term with several penis-centered definitions that I won’t get into here — just read the Urban Dictionary entries.)
Mandingo was not a film with an artistic statement to make. It was a “slavesploitation” movie — a sub-genre of the exploitation films of the 1970s.
While this Walmart Black History display may not be racist per se, it’s certainly offensive. But what do you think, readers? Should Walmart issue an apology, or is too much being read into this?