Whatever the merits of his new film, Tarantinos films have revelled in extreme violence against female characters. This has to stop
When news broke early last year that Quentin Tarantino had cajoled Uma Thurman into driving an unsafe car during the filming of Kill Bill which resulted in a crash, the director called it the biggest regret of his life. Soon after, reports came out that he had spat on Thurman during filming and had choked her in one scene, as well as strangling Diane Kruger in a scene in Inglourious Basterds. The question now is: is it time to cancel Quentin Tarantino?
His latest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, has provoked considerable unease as it takes on the gruesome subject of the murder of Sharon Tate, among others, by the Manson family in 1969. His interest in savage violence against woman is, if we look back, a common thread in almost all his films.
In Tarantinos debut directorial feature, Reservoir Dogs, the only female characters in the credits are Shot Woman and Shocked Woman. Pulp Fiction, his second film, features female characters more prominently, but a trend of revelling in the abuse of women began to emerge. One of Pulp Fictions most famous scenes involves Uma Thurmans character getting stabbed in the heart with a shot of adrenaline to resuscitate her after a drug overdose. (Though its fair to say male characters were also subjected to extreme violence.)
The Kill Bill films were a cinematic orgy of onscreen violence, most of it directed at Thurman: her character is severely beaten throughout and buried alive. Daryl Hannahs character Elle Driver doesnt fare much better she has both her eyes pulled out. Things reached a peak with Tarantinos 2015 western The Hateful Eight: Jennifer Jason Leighs character is handcuffed to a corpse and beaten and tortured throughout the film.
The question remains whether we should continue to indulge the directors fondness for piling abuse on women, particularly in light of his own admission of acting out scenes of physical violence towards his female actors, even if he claims it is in pursuit of the perfect shot.
One of the characters in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Tates husband, Roman Polanski. Early last year, soon after Tarantino got into hot water over the revelations of his on-set behaviour, an audio recording emerged from a 2003 interview in which he said that he didnt think that Polanskis sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl in 1977 should have been classified as rape. Tarantino said she was down with it and that Polanski had sex with a minor. Thats not rape.
At the time it led to widespread condemnation, but after Once Upon a Time in Hollywood premiered in the Cannes film festival in May, the calls to cancel him have died down. The next film might be different, and we might see a more contrite Tarantino, but we have to ask whether we should bother to find out the answer?