Archive | January, 2016

Tarantino, Sex, Violence, & Race

11 Jan

Tarantino isn’t just making super-violent films because they sell tickets and DVDs and are streamed in exchange for money. He likes to explore violence in an almost fetishistic way, and, at times, a sexual way. It seems to be something he has a psychological need to return to over and over.

Clint Eastwood has said that narrative films are about drama and drama is based on conflict and and that violence is the most extreme form of conflict. Eastwood has said, “Drama usually has some form of intense conflict.” The actor Cornel Wilde said that “You can’t get away from violence in drama. If you do not have conflict, you do not have drama.”

Conflict, as it escalates, moves from the verbal to the physical. It moves from nasty and aggressive use of language to nasty and aggressive use of physical force. Humans and animals begin with a vocalization – a growl or profanity – and move to threatening poses and postures and lunges without contact. Then it moves into direct bodily attacks. In human conflicts, sometimes it doesn’t involve a bodily attack, just an attack on someone’s property, as in keying a car.

Given how much violence there is in the world and how great a potential there is for large-scale and highly destructive violence, people are very concerned about it and have been studying it, seeking to understand it and find ways to reduce it. There are questions about whether violence in film stimulates people to be more violent in real life.

Also, there is a concern that if people in powerful and influential media roles repeatedly condemn others in highly negative terns, it might make someone become violent. On January 8, 2011, U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and eighteen other people were shot at a meeting in a supermarket parking lot in Casas Adobes, Arizona, in the Tucson metropolitan area. Six people died, including federal District Court Chief Judge John Roll; Gabe Zimmerman, one of Rep. Giffords’ staffers; and a nine-year-old girl, Christina-Taylor Green. The perpetrator was a man later diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, Jared Lee Loughner. There was concern at the time that he absorbed the kind of imagery and rhetoric found on Palin’s site and it influenced his actions. Giffords herself had been concerned about it. In March 2010, Giffords drew attention to the use of crosshairs on a national midterm election map on Palin’s campaign webpage. The crosshairs indicated targeted congressional seats, including Giffords’s, in Arizona’s 8th district. After the map was posted, Gifford’s office was vandalized. At the time Giffords said, “We’re in Sarah Palin’s ‘targeted’ list, but the thing is that the way she has it depicted, we’re in the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize that there are consequences to that action.”

Eastwood said, “… yes, I am concerned about violence in film. In ’92, when I did “Unforgiven”, which is a film that had a very anti-violence and anti-gun play, anti-romanticizing of gun play theme, I remember that Gene Hackman was concerned about it, and we both discussed the issue of too much violence in films. It’s escalated ninety times since “Dirty Harry” and those films were made.”

In the films of Tarantino, you see some really nasty violence. What seemed particularly unpleasant, and something worth considering, was the sexually-themed violence in a couple of his films. It’s specifically male-on-male and white-on-African-American sexual violence. I explored this is my 10-minute video that can be found on YouTube. Here is a link:


There’s more that can be said, more to explore and analyze and understand about this subject. What’s particularly interesting in the case of PULP FICTION and DJANGO UNCHAINED is the way in which some of the scenes in those films dramatize feelings, conflicts, and fantasies that Tarantino feels compelled to explore on film.