Monday, August 24, 2009
Did Tarantino prime us for Cheney?
Did one inglourious basterd facilitate our acceptance of the other?
I confess I've been checking in regularly over at Parabasis as Isaac Butler has gone into full ethical meltdown mode - I can't even keep track of the conflicts of interest and levels of hypocrisy he's now juggling on a daily (or maybe hourly) basis. Still, you have to hand it to Isaac, the Vassar-speak and self-regard keep flowing in about equal measure, however ludicrous the self-serving arguments become.
But at the same time I've been drawn into an interesting debate elsewhere on the site about Quentin Tarantino. I've simply mentioned that as one of the leading forces in the mainstreaming of torture into American pop culture (via Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, various scenes in Kill Bill, and of course his producer credits on Eli Roth's Hostel movies), it seems obvious that there's a link between Tarantino's oeuvre and the political culture that aids and abets American torture today. In historical terms, Tarantino is Dick Cheney's artistic avatar.
This, of course, leads to all sorts of complicated arguments and denials, some of which it's worth working through, I think, for the light they shed on the assumptions of our critics and the film-going audience. Many people like to imagine that "sophisticated" aesthetic thinking must insulate the artist from his political milieu (and his influence on said milieu) - yet at the same time, of course, the efforts of "politically correct" critics to condemn, say, racism in film, etc., must be absurd if we simultaneously accept their thesis on Tarantino.
My gut is that, yes, Tarantino has always been a sadistic political reactionary cloaked in a "progressive" pop disguise, and that this irony is intensely abhorrent to his fans (for obvious psychological reasons). To me, the correspondence between Tarantino (and Roth, James Wan and Leigh Wannell and the rest) and the likes of Dick Cheney and John Woo, is at least suggestive, and generally, I admit, convincing; my gut feeling is that there is a moral loop between the political and the cultural spheres. But how Tarantino has operated within the political context of the past two decades is a longer topic than I can manage in a single post. Perhaps there's yet ANOTHER multi-post series in the Hub Review's future . . .