Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Hateful Eight (Tarantino, 2015): 3 Questions

3 questions come to mind after watching Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight:

1) To what extent is violent artwork necessary? Not in the sense that it appeals to a minor demographic that craves the grotesque, but for all of us in society at large. I've always thought it's not essential. Yet in the west, people have been required to read tales like these since Homer--as a young person I always questioned why the Euro-American tradition considers The Odyssey a classic when it's method of justice is essentially a bloodbath. After all, and to put it bluntly, Odysseus "harms" the suitor Melanthius' scrotum and also hangs his faithless housemaids who kick their feet until their last breaths; echoes of these literary scenes clearly occur to The Hateful Eight characters Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) respectively. Even the crucifixion, a representation of which the camera dwells on at length in The Hateful Eight, is violent. And in the end, violence remains. And in the west, these stories are told generation after generation...

2) Is racial harmony only possible when a common adversary is shared? At the end of the film, both Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) share a laugh in harmony while (and only when?) Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) slowly hangs.

3) Is a healthy society one in which biases are openly expressed, or is it one in which people are restricted from offending each other? Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek has argued that a healthy culture is one that tells painfully blunt jokes "as part of his maybe dubious strategy of countering racism with “progressive racism” or the “solidarity” of “shared obscenity”—the use of potentially uncomfortable ethnic humor to expose uncomfortable political truths that get repressed or papered over by politeness." Without exception, the characters in  in The Hateful Eight are racist, sexist, ageist, and every other "-ist" condemned in U.S. culture today.

O.K. It's a great movie so I have more than three questions, and the film answers these questions in interesting ways, but I'm stopping here for now.

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