By now, the dust will have settled on Tarantino's latest "The Hateful Eight" allowing me to get some thoughts in that may resonate with my readers regarding a very specific criticism the film (aren't you all so glad we can actually call it that?) has suffered regarding misogyny. If you have not had the pleasure of catching it yet, there should still be ample opportunity to do so in the coming weeks. And if you are a crazed Tarantino fanatic and "soldier of cinema" that caught the 70mm roadshow on Christmas Day, bless you. Tarantino threw it back with the roadshow and the super-wide screen. There is something very special about experiencing film on the big screen again, similar flipping through an actual paperback, that goes beyond nostalgia. It's the real deal.
"The Hateful Eight" let me down in many ways. Being the renowned auteur that he is, I expected more. But I'm not here to talk about what it succeeded or failed to do cinematically. I'm here to talk about the loads of backlash Tarantino's gotten for the alleged portrayal of misogyny on his latest film and why it does not hold true. We know the deal with Tarantino, though. He is "too violent", "too racist", "too childish", or over time has gotten "too Tarantino." By the latter, I refer to his directorial style becoming so much a style of his own that nearly all of his films seem to be molded around this framework. So films like "Jackie Brown" seem to sit out of place when placed alongside his other work (but when I think about it, Jackie Brown fit pretty well under that framework). Although I can understand this criticism, I don't see how it hurts him as a director. And I most certainly do not agree with the former criticisms stated above regarding racism and violence. But that's an argument for another time.
Let us begin with the fundamental fact that "The Hateful Eight" is a period piece. A quasi-western set so shortly after the civil war that the bloodshed is still very fresh in everyone's minds alive to tell the horrific tales. We can expect that the treatment of women might just be a bit uncomfortable what with the fact that they can't even vote and all. And let us remember that depiction does not always equal advocacy. Some "fans" have boycotted Tarantino completely after this one. Just because he didn't deliver another feminist picture. That, to me, is ludicrous. Were "Jackie Brown", "Kill Bill, Vol. 1 & 2", "Death Proof," and "Inglorious Basterds" not enough for us? Does Tarantino need to prove he stands by pussy power any more than he already has?
Daisy Domergue is introduced to us in the first scene of the "Hateful Eight." She is riding in a stagecoach, chained to her bounty hunter, John Ruth, and shows clear signs of being roughed up while on this ride. He is transporting her to Red Rock to hang, unlike most bounty hunters that prefer to bring in their criminals slung over the back of their horse to avoid any complications on their journey to getting paid. But John Ruth is the hangman. And when he catches you, you hang. So just like all the other outlaws (male or female), she is being held to the same standard.
There is violence explicitly towards Domergue in the first couple of scenes. This is a problem for a lot of people. She is in a stagecoach with three men and is getting her head cracked open with the butt of a rifle, her nose broken, and spoken to like, "How you like the sound of them bells, bitch? Real pretty, ain't they? You open up your trashy mouth again, I'll knock out them front teeth for ya', You got it?" But again, she is the only prisoner in the film and one of the most wanted outlaws in the country for her atrocities. In addition, the ride is made all the more exasperating by her comments. She licks the blood off of her lips after getting her nose broken. She laughs and doesn't solicit pity from anyone. I do not hurt for her because she doesn't need me to. And just like any other bad guy, I hope they crack the butt of the rifle over her head a couple more times.
Fast forward to Minnie's Haberdashery where there is some more beating on Domergue. Now there are some teeth missing, she gets splattered in blood, and finally, hung. Like all of Tarantino's films, though, pretty much everyone else dies too. Some are critical of the way in which her death was carried out, by noose. The truth is, that was probably the cleanest death of all on "The Hateful Eight." The others drank poison so they regurgitated what seemed to be all of their insides, get their nuts blown off, and a limb or two got amputated. Maybe just the one. I don't recall. It's Tarantino. It's in your face violence. People die, male and female alike.
Then there's the fact that Domergue wasn't as well-rounded a character as all the others. Back to my initial point about this not being Tarantino's opus. Some critics say that she wasn't given the opportunity to make a case for herself as a villain or saint. Her story was told for her and the viewer never gets the opportunity to make any conclusions about her themselves. But the thing is, she wasn't the only hateful one who wasn't given the airtime as the others. Other characters were just as underdeveloped as she was. Being the only female in the room doesn't make you special. Tarantino didn't want to tell Domergue's story just like he didn't feel the need to tell all of Joe Gage's. Whether or not that was a wise directorial choice is a different topic.
I would have had a more difficult time watching "The Hateful Eight" had Domergue been bent over the long picnic-style table and raped by all the other men in the room. But she wasn't. On the contrary, the uncomfortable image of sexual violence still fresh in my mind is Major Warren feeding his "black dingus" to a man he tortured and killed (who, albeit, was after his head in the first place). Hombre on hombre sexual violence. I haven't heard very much criticism about that aside from it being a "childish" addition to the film.
I saw something interesting on Deadpool today. Without saying too much, he was fighting two women in one scene and he was feeling conflicted about it. He said something along the lines of, "Is it sexist if I hit you or is it sexist if I don't?" A very good point. Let us not forget that feminism is about equality of the sexes. It's a man not standing up on the bus to give a woman his seat. It's about a woman opening a man's door. It's about a woman sleeping around and not being called a slut, or a man taking his wife's last name and not being called a little bitch. This is why I don't have a problem with Domergue in "The Hateful Eight" serving as a punching bag. Sure, it may be uncomfortable for us to watch because we are still licking the wounds from centuries of inequality. So things like a guy punching a woman in the face after she has already hit him several times still don't sit well with us. I don't mind seeing a woman get her ass kicked so long as dudes are getting their asses kicked too.
I'm a huge fan of Beatrix Kiddo. She is a tough bitch. And nobody had a problem with her kicking major ass. Let us not forget she brutally murdered several women in "Kill Bill." And we didn't have any problem with that. The problem was, perhaps, with the graphic violence. Not with the violence towards women. Because it was fair wasn't it? She held her own even against Bill. Not like Domergue. She was in chains. Now it's a different story. But let's say it had been Major Warren or the Mexican in chains. Then all of a sudden it's a racist movie. But let's say we put Joe Gage in those chains. And it was Joe Gage that was getting beat on over the course of the entire movie. Then it would sit a little better with us, wouldn't it?