Sometimes, it seems, a culture writes its own critique before a critic can even get to it. Despite the screams from several vapid bloggers over my bringing up the parallel between Quentin Tarantino and Dick Cheney, some on the far right are already making much the same point - only this time approvingly. Over at Big Hollywood, an offshoot of Andrew Beitbart's bizarre quasi-fascist new media empire, someone named Chuck Devore, a California State Assemblyman and candidate for U.S. Senate, is already wondering, "What if Tarantino had the 'Basterds' take Taliban scalps?"
And I have to hand it to Devore - he may not be a professional critic, but he immediately perceives the political subtext of Tarantino's new opus:
It is interesting indeed to see those who applaud Tarantino’s latest, admittedly excellent work, revel in the unbridled revenge against Nazis who get what’s coming to them. Many of whom, without batting an eye, view al-Qaeda killers as deserving of respect, protection, and the benefit of civilian law. Since all that separates al-Qaeda from the Nazis is the means - industrial power, modern education, and an organized national base - one wonders why a certain amount of cognitive dissonance wouldn’t kick in after a liberal enjoyed screening “Basterds.”
Devore goes on to point out the obvious parallel between Cheney's arguments and Tarantino's dramaturgy:
To the point, what would a liberal think of the scene where Lt. Raine interrogates a captured German sergeant, demanding the location of a German outpost and its supporting artillery? As the German NCO refuses to talk, Raine orders one of his men to kill the prisoner with a baseball bat. When the two remaining German prisoners see this, one runs in horror and is shot down, while the other is brought over and threatened with the same deadly treatment. He talks, saving the lives of the American commandos. For the prisoner’s troubles, Raines carves a swastika into his forehead. By comparison, the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed during interrogation seems rather pedestrian.
There's more, much more, about the Hague and Geneva Conventions, etc., etc. Go read the whole disgusting thing. And at least admit to yourself, Tarantino fans, that Devore is right - Inglourious Basterds is nothing if not a brief for the kind of abuses Cheney and the CIA got away with at Guantánamo and black sites around the world.
So I suppose the ball is now in 99seats' and Isaac Butler's court - if only either one knew how to swing a racquet! As for me, I'm not sure I even have to write a whole series on Tarantino anymore - I feel as if Devore's done the work for me . . .