Last night I went to see Django Unchained. It was a great film, and every bit of what I'd expect from Tarantino. But what struck me most wasn't anything in the movie itself, it was the audience's reaction. Minor spoilers ahead. It's also worth noting at this point that I live in a predominantly white area; I don't remember seeing any nonwhite people at the theater. What stood out to me in particular was the way Tarantino uses humor. Specifically, there is one point in the film where the protagonist is seeking to purchase a "mandingo," a slave that is forced to participate in brutal fighting circuits. The protagonist says he wants to bill his fighter as the "black Hercules," and the seller jokes that he should instead call him "Niggales." This line got a huge laugh from the audience, one of the biggest all night. Why? I mean, that's hardly even a joke. It's sort of a pun, but not a very good one. What the 'joke' really boils down to is "Haha, he said Nigger!" But the audience seemed to find it positively hilarious, apparently forgetting that the word has been used for centuries to denigrate and oppress blacks. What's especially surprising is that Django Unchained showcases the cruelty and violence of slavery. There is one scene where a disobedient slave is brutally torn apart by attack dogs. Throughout the movie whites use the word "nigger" to insult and oppress blacks in a way that is uncomfortable to us today as viewers. So why is it that in a movie that is in no small part about the evils of racism the audience laughs uproariously at "Niggales?" Tarantino is exceptionally good at exploiting his audiences. In Inglourious Basterds, we are disgusted when a theater full of Germans cheer for a film about killing American soldiers, yet we ourselves cheer when, 30 minutes later, those Germans are violently massacred. In Django Unchained, we are appalled by the way slave owners abuse blacks, yet we laugh along with them when they make nigger jokes. In this way, Tarantino reveals the hypocrisy of his audience without them even realizing it. Because when we laugh at a joke like "Niggales," it shows that we haven't paused to truly consider what that word means- even in a movie about the cruelty of racism. What I realized walking out of the theater is that we're not so different than we were prior to the Civil War. Just because we no longer have slavery does not make us more moral or enlightened individuals. It's easy for us now to think of slave owners as morally backwards and downright evil. It's easy for us to think that we are beyond racism, as a society or as individuals. But the same ignorance that perpetuated slavery still exists, albeit in a more subtle way, which continues to engender racism and inequality. Tarantino shoves our hipocricy and moral superiority in our faces, and we laugh along, not getting that we're the butt of the joke.