Sunday, January 10, 2016

Haberdashery of Horrors

There's been a lot of talk about Tarantino's latest, The Hateful Eight and its treatment of certain character(s). There are spoilers from here on in so be warned.

1. Now seeing that Jackson gets top billing and is the main character,people keep seeing him as the hero or even anti-hero. Look at every Tarantino film before this one and you will likely find one:

  -Reservoir Dogs: Mr. Orange
  -Pulp Fiction: Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega (the anti hero)
  -Jackie Brown: see title of film...
  -Kill Bill: The Bride
  -Death Proof: Abernathy, Zoe and Kim
  -Inglourious Basterds: Lt. Aldo Raine and his basterds, Shoshanna Dreyfus
  -Django Unchained: Django and Dr. Schultz

In Hateful Eight, there are no Djangos or basterds to save us. We are stuck inside of a haberdashery, due to a blizzard, with reprehensible characters.

Are well not allowed to have a film filled with villains and no heroes? I am not talking about anti heroes either. I am talking vile, nasty human beings. When ambiguity upsets the order of categorizing characters into either heroes or villains, the knives come out.

2. Character Breakdown

Sheriff Marquis Warren: Joined the war for the purpose of killing white folks. Was not flat out executed because he also had a penchant for killing Native Americans.

Chris Mannix: Joined the war for the purpose of killing black folks

Sandy Smithers: The Bloody Killer of Baton Rouge. Notorious for his slaughtering of black folks.

The three aforementioned character's despicable pasts are just that: a part of their story we have not seen. We are only informed about them by other characters or themselves. And while Sandy is the most stationary of those three characters, we also hardly see any of his physical hostility towards anyone. Thus leaving Mannix and Warren. Who become crucial characters in the blood soaked final chapter.

The Four Pasengers (Oswaldo Mobray, Jody, Bob, Joe Gage) are all seen slaughtering the inhabitants of Minnie's Haberdashery. Note that beyond revealing what their real names are (Pete Hickox,Jody Domergue, Marco the Mexican and Grouch Douglas, respectively), we are given little on their background. We know they are part of the Jody Domergue gang and that they are headed to Mexico and that their plan to ambush the stagecoach holding Daisy Domergue backfired on account of the blizzard.

John Ruth: Physically abuses Daisy several times throughout the picture. There is no moral compass that Ruth abides by.

Daisy Domergue: A murderer sentenced to die by hanging in the town of Red Rock.

She allows O.B., someone who didn't hit her once or called her a slur, to drink poisoned coffee which in turn made him puke his guts out onto the floor. She does the same to John Ruth and after doing so, shoots him.And she doesn't warn Mannix about the poisoned pot either, which Mannix himself point out later. This is a woman who laughed in the face of the guy who just puked out blood all over here and had just knocked two of her teeth out. She does the same to him as he threatened to do to her by shooting him in the throat. Without any hesitation or remorse.

The prisoner John Ruth was transporting could just as easily have been a male. Her gender is a means to subvert genre expectations. Which Tarantino has done throughout his whole career. Take a genre, be it the war film or the exploitation flick, and twist it.

3. I see reviews, Matt Zoller Seitz's one more than anything, that point to BOTH racism and misogyny. I, a white male, am not going to tell you that misogyny and racism does not exist or that it does not inform the creators of media that is consumed by moviegoing public.

But the arguments that only point out the fate of Daisy's character and not to anything else is suspicious. I've seen articles discussing Daisy's treatment and that she has no backstory but they don't discuss Warren's treatment.

And if said articles did so, they would be twice as wrong. Warren, a racist himself, is just as hateful a person as Daisy or anyone else in the Haberdashery is, save for O.B.

Everyone loves Django Unchained. Its great revisionist history escapism. Yet it runs the risk of allowing us to disarm ourselves against the racism thatis alive today. As Devin Faraci's brilliant article points out, Django Unchained is the Lincoln Letter. Hateful Eight is where Tarantino reveals the lie about living in a post-racial America. In the wake of Ferguson, Baltimore and Charleston, people still believe in the Lincoln Letter. Is it any wonder he marched in a Black Lives Matter march?

Which leads me to my final point

4. In the 19th century, America was a country filled with racism and misogyny and a propensity for gun violence. In the 21st century, nothing has changed. There is a certain point in the film that, upon first viewing, made me go from liking the way the story was set up to thoroughlly enjoying the set up. It is when Oswaldo Mobray discusses a point between making a dividing line in the middle of the Haberdashery. This a movie with a strong biting commentary. Think about all the aforementioned characters in one place. A place in which even the owner discriminated against a race: Mexicans.

Does The Bride or Aldo or Django use the type of justice that Oswaldo Mobray waxes on about to John Ruth and Daisy? Of course not. They are Tarantino characters. And with the characters of Tarantino, rigging a mansion or a theater with dynamite, using the 5 point palm exploding heart technique on the man that screwed you over, or simply beating a man to death and caving his head in with your boot, is the kind of justice they know. Frontier justice as Oswaldo calls it. There is no hero saving the day and course correcting history.

Oswaldo spells it out for the audience as clear as day: "Justice delivered without dispassion is always in danger of not being justice."

When Mannix and Warren hang Daisy they do it with passionate revenge. Tarantino finds that awful. As one of my friends pointed out, just note when the patriotic music starts playing. It is when they are reading the forged Lincoln letter.

This is a sadistic and perverse portrait of America that offers zero apologies. No wonder people are so divisive about it.


  1. I really appreciated your comment on my blog, and I agree with you. Honestly man, the misguided backlash for this film seems to be part of the 24-48 social justice warrior backlash that is always happening. They attack one thing, then move on to something else. It's much more about "Listen to me! LISTEN TO ME!" than genuine criticism. Are there racist and misogynistic characters in Tarantino's films? Yes, of course. Does that mean the creator is himself those things? No, other course not. Was Alfred Hitchcock a psychopath because he made films about killers? I'll just never understand how people can't separate art and life.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I agree about the backlash. The dialogue that could be insightful and fueled by interesting ideas is instead saddled with misguided criticisms. It is so reductive.