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Django action figures fall to protests

Gail Choice | 1/23/2013, 5 p.m.

Score one for the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, and Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic Hope, for their very emotional outcry about the so-called "Django Unchained" slave dolls. On Friday, Jan. 18, the Weinstein Co. announced that it has asked toy maker NECA to discontinue the "Django Unchained" action figure dolls after receiving complaints that the dolls were offensive and trivialized the horrors of slavery.

According to the studio, action figures for all of Tarantino's films have been made, including those for "Inglourious Basterds," which featured figurines of Christoph Waltz as Nazi Col. Hans Landa and Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine.

The "Django" figurines feature 8-inch versions of plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) slave-turned-free-man Django (Jamie Foxx), dentist-turned-bounty-hunter Dr. King Schultz (Waltz), house servant Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) and slave Broomhilda von Shaft (Kerry Washington).

Both Sharpton and Ali referred to the dolls as "slave dolls" for dramatic purposes, enough to stir things up and take the spotlight, if only for a brief moment, from the highly successful Quentin Tarantino film "Django Unchained."

If it sounds like I don't agree with these two gentlemen and the stance they took, you're absolutely right, for two reasons: one, because these action figures are not playthings. They are collectibles and NECA is targeting a very specific market.

The Weinstein Co. further stated: "They were meant to be collectibles for people 17 years and older, which is the audience for the film."

There is a huge sector of grown men and teenage boys in America and around the world that collect these action figures, and are willing to pay big bucks. It's a very lucrative business and another avenue stream for the filmmakers and studios. The "Django" action figures will go for a lot more on the secondary markets now that the line was discontinued.

There is a show on the Travel Channel called the "Toy Hunter." This man literally travels the United States and the world purchasing action figures and other toys and selling them for big cash at Comic-con and other special events.

Secondly, I think my African ancestors would say, "Finally, they are depicting a Black man with backbone, not easily frightened or intimidated, and willing to march into hell for his woman." Think Tarantino went a little overboard with Django's quest to get his woman? Not hardly. Britton Johnson was an ex-slave who did the same thing.

Johnson was born in 1840, history says, probably in Tennessee. He became a legend on the West Texas frontier after the summer of 1865, when he went in pursuit of Indians who had kidnapped his wife and two children in a raid in 1864.

Johnson returned home to find his son Jim dead and his wife and children taken, along with other captives. Johnson's attempts to find his family became the source of legend. He spent until the summer of 1865 looking for Mary Johnson and his two daughters at reservations in Oklahoma and at scattered forts throughout the Texas frontier. He not only returned with his family but he reunited White families as well. He made other daredevil moves, and died a hero's death defending a wagon train.

Johnson's exploits are dramatized in the 1995 Fox TV series "The Black Fox," starring Tony Todd in the title role. Check it out on Netflix and Amazon.com.

We don't tell our stories because most of us don't know our stories. Tarantino opened a treasure box that is filled with precious, incredible, true stories of our ancestors who were slaves but who didn't let slavery deter them from love, justice and freedom, even if it meant their lives. We're here because of who they were.

Gail can be reached at hollywoodbychoice.com