It must be nice to have the time to jump on board every “controversy” surrounding any movie that doesn’t completely affirm your personal worldview.
Quentin Tarantino’s new film “The Hateful Eight” had its detractors before it was even released. Many filmgoers and critics took issue with his commitment to the copious use of the N-word in his screenplay (which was leaked early) and police unions around the country planned to boycott the film because of the director’s recent controversial comments on alleged acts of brutality at the hands of law enforcement.
Now that audiences are finally getting to watch the director’s roughly three-hour epic western, critics are leveling a new charge at the provocative auteur — sexism.
Webster’s online dictionary defines “misogyny” as: “dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.” According to online busybodies, “misogyny” now means: “Whatever Quentin Tarantino puts in his interesting movies.”
I have seen The Hateful Eight and I can tell you that if your main takeaway from this nearly three-hour period piece is that Tarantino hates minorities and women, you’re doing it wrong.
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The Hateful Eight, like Django Unchained before it, is an ultra-violent, profane, and unique exploration of America’s Civil War Era past. A ferocious snowstorm has trapped eight menacing strangers in a stagecoach lodge located in the mountains of Wyoming for two days. Everything is not as it seems and the primary focus of everyone’s attention is the presence of a bounty hunter (Kurt Russell) with his bounty (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in tow. Tempers flare, secrets are revealed, and a lot of blood is shed as the motley crew “sorts some stuff out” over the course of 167 tense minutes.
As far as a review goes, all I will say is that this film is NOT for everyone, especially kids, teens, and those squeamish about seeing lots of blood (also, if you are trying to decide between The Hateful Eight and The Revenant—see The Revenant!)
But The Hateful Eight is a good movie that doesn’t deserve to be raked over the PC coals.
Modern critics seem unable (or unwilling) to put themselves into an historical world that a director has created unless it is a film that is explicitly (if not exclusively) about how badly rich, white people have acted in the past. Or movies that depict all characters that happen to be minorities or females as the best, smartest, most noble people who have ever walked the earth. Increasingly, the message seems to be: Don’t allow for nuance. Avoid complexity or accuracy. Focus on what will make Oprah nod with approval.
The Hateful Eight is a Western, set in the America of the 1870’s, when life was often lawless and brutal. Women could not vote. Slavery had only recently been abolished. The only trigger warnings people worried about were the ones coming from someone else’s gun. Quentin Tarantino is purposely taking his audience into that landscape and time period for a reason. So why are critics—even respected ones like A.O. Scott at the New York Times—crying “misogyny” and “racism” rather than making a good faith effort to understand the film? By these standards, we should no longer read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or the Bible, or the Quran, lest we be “triggered” by what we find there. Say goodbye to politically incorrect films such as Gone With the Wind (it portrays slave-owners) and Lawrence of Arabia (it depicts Muslim tribesmen as engaging in blood feuds and scavenging).
The predictable lameness of such politically correct pop culture whining isn’t new, but isn’t it time we stopped indulging it? As a lover of movies, I’m offended that we can no longer just watch a movie and appreciate the journey a director and his actors are taking us on. This ability to momentarily escape from mundane concerns and suspend reality is precisely why film is such a powerful medium. Let’s not turn movies into narrow and uninspiring vehicles for delivering politically correct messages.