Stephen: Defying the Stereotypical Slave Experience

When one thinks of the era of slavery during the 19th century a very clean cut situation is what comes to mind. A time in which it was simply black versus white, slave versus owner. We automatically imagine that all blacks were treated terribly by their masters and that all slaves must have hated their owners. We disregard the fact that of course all individual cases were different and that the experiences of all slaves were not one and the same.

The character of Stephen best portrays the variety of experiences and treatment that slaves faced. In one scene, Dr. King Schultz, Django, Calvin Candie, and others are seated at the dinner table. Stephen is standing at the head of the table crouched over Candie while an exchange is happening between Candie and Schultz. Candie replies to Schultz, “Well hell, I can’t imagine two weeks in Boston”. To this reply, Stephen bursts out laughing and begins to make exclamatory remarks. The fact that Stephen is allowed into the conversation of the white men shows that he has a sense of belonging and holds a very different place in the household and society than the other slaves who are barely allowed to look the masters in their eyes. Aside from this example, Stephen also advises Candie, bosses around other slaves, refers to Candie on first name basis, and sits at a desk while drinking liquor. All of these are examples of Stephen’s un-stereotypical and boundary breaking role.

Stephen’s role within the film of Django demonstrates a slave betraying those of his own race and turning┬áthe situation into a battle of power and status of individuals rather than the black versus white struggle which slavery is so often depicted as.