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It Hurts: "Kill Bill" Passes "Swimmingly"

by Ethan Tussey

by Jennie Webb for IN MEDIA RES

First of all, let me put it out there: I am not really a film gal. I do watch movies and as a female writer I'm invested in how women are portrayed. Working in theater in Los Angeles, I'm active in promoting women playwrights and putting more women to work onstage and behind the scenes. So, yeah, I'm a feminist, but I'm no certainly no cinephile.

I was only recently introduced to The Bechdel Test as a meter for women's representation on screen. I love this test, mostly because of the surprises it uncovers - which titles pass, as well as the chatter amongst the rule-followers who administer it, true Bechdelian heroes (male and female).

Here's the particular surprise that struck me: the inclusion of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, with commentary that this shamelessly violent gore-fest passes "swimmingly."

Huh.

I remember when the film first came out, being amused that Tarantino was labeled both a misogynist and a feminist. I didn't take the debate seriously, since here's my take on Kill Bill: This movie is ostensibly about women, but it's not about women. Because all of the women behave like men. (Or really, teenage boys.)

Now, I have nothing against action adventure flicks, or on screen violence, or the whole QT oeuvre. Fan of Pulp Fiction. Liked Reservoir Dogs, what I can remember. Have not seen Django Unchained. (Read: "I'm not really a film gal.")

But seeing the filmmaker get a pass to push Kill Bill down the "girl power" stream, even some 10 years later, kind of rankles me. Sorry. This is totally a man's movie where the central kick-ass characters happen to look like women, but that's as far as it goes. Everything they do, and everything they have experienced, comes from a man's mind. The outrageous world Tarantino has created is one where, quite simply, women become men.

Characters like The Bride, O-Ren Ishii and Gogo Ubari live in an interesting world. But do we really want - as Tarantino has suggested - to hold it up to teenage girls as an inspiration? Ouch!

Me, I'd rather see a movie with women who act and react like women. Although I don't mind if they kick some ass while they do.

Clip from Kill Bill

Clip from Kill Bill

from Kill Bill (2003)
Creator: Quentin Tarantino
Distributor: Miramax
Posted by Ethan Tussey
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