The Hateful Eight: Tarantino and Feminism

By Anna Brüner

 

Courtesy of The Weinstein Company
That woman deserves her revenge, and we deserve to die.”
— Kill Bill Vol. 1

When I first came to film school, I would roll my eyes and suppress my snarky chuckles any time the legion of fanboys in my classes and on my crews brought up Quentin Tarantino. Oh, Pulp Fiction is your favorite movie? You hardcore individualist. Oh, you think Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 are best when viewed together back to back? Such a visionary. Oh, you saw Reservoir Dogs before any of your friends did? You must be a goddamn prodigy, boy. But I would be totally full of shit if I didn’t acknowledge the truth that, yes, Tarantino is one of the main reasons a lot of people want to make movies. He was even one of the main reasons I came to film school, something I’m sure he’s disappointed in me for, since he rails against film school and lauds the “just go out there and do it yourself at all costs” method of filmmaking. But I like to think Quinny and I are on good terms.

There’s a reason why Tarantino’s style is called “fanboy cinema,” and no, it has nothing to do with his more­often­than­not obnoxious fanbase. It’s because his movies are made to be finely woven tapestries that pay homage to his favorite films, made for people who love film as much as he does. Westerns. Gangster flicks. Grindhouse. Gritty, 70’s drive­ins and underrated international classics. These are the “sugar and spice and everything nice” that go into making a Tarantino film. Excessive violence, killer soundtracks, bold colors, and characters with questionable morality. Another one of these key ingredients? Misogyny.

Now go ahead and call Tarantino whatever you want, the man has been called almost every name in the book. But absolutely do not call him a misogynist. Sure, many of his characters are misogynists. But Tarantino, like every artist, is not his art. Despite what I’ve called many of the men I’ve worked with who cite him as their favorite director, I would never dare call good ‘ole Quinny a misogynist. In fact, it was never until I started seeing reviews of The Hateful Eight roll in...most of them misinformed complaints as opposed to actual reviews...that I had ever heard “Tarantino” and “misogynist” uttered in the same sentence in mainstream media.

The Hateful Eight is a harsh movie, set in the harsh snowy landscape of the American Rockies, during a harsh time in America’s history. The film picks up just after the American Civil War, but don't think that The Hateful Eight is anyway a follow up or partner to Tarantino’s last film, Django Unchained, also a western. In Eight, we find ourselves and our characters surrounded by an unforgiving wilderness with a blizzard closing in fast. All of them take shelter in the same cabin to wait out the storm. Two of them are bounty hunters, one is the new sheriff in town, one a Confederate general, one a hangman, one a Mexican frontiersman who tends to the cabin, one a mysterious loner, and one a murderer being taken into town to hang. There’s only one woman in the cabin, and she’s the murderer.

Daisy Domergue is unlike any other Tarantino heroine....the main difference being that she's not a heroine. She's a killer, a criminal, a gang leader, and she out to kill anyone who tries to take her in. All the men in the cabin are likely targets....until you realize that at least of them is working with Daisy. Unlike Tarantino’s other female characters, we never get a backstory on Daisy (aside from the fact that she’s a murderer), and very little is done to create empathy for her. She shouts racial slurs, spits in people’s faces, lashes out violently, and parades around chained to bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth’s wrist like she’s just showed up to the party of the century. The only time Daisy every appears docile is while strumming a guitar and singing “Bye and bye, I'll break m' chains and to the bush I'll go / And you'll be dead behind me, John, when I get to Mexico.” 

Courtesy of the Weinstein Company

Courtesy of the Weinstein Company

There is absolutely nothing sympathetic about Daisy. She’s not a vengeful Jewish orphan out to bring down the Third Reich like Inglourious Basterds’ Shoshanna. She’s not a wronged assassin hunting down the people who tried to kill her and took her child like Kill Bill’s The Bride. She certainly isn’t the ride or die, free spirited, impassioned love interest Fabienne from Pulp Fiction.The only thing we, as an audience, are given to feel anything for Daisy is the violence committed against her. From the very beginning of the film, she is bruised, bloody, beaten multiple times by John Ruth and the butt of his gun, threatened, thrown around, and brutalized. None of it, by the way, sexual. Only pure violence. And threw it all she laughs, curses, swaggers, and smirks.

This is what I’ve noticed most critics calling The Hateful Eight “misogynistic” refer to in their arguments that the film encourages violence against women. But upon seeing the movie, I simply couldn’t see where they are coming from. Daisy is a violent criminal, who meets with violence when she lashes out. If she were a man, absolutely nothing about the plot or character dynamics would change. So why then, did Tarantino make Daisy’s character a woman, when he didn’t have to?

Because he’s a feminist.

Remember when Gone Girl came out and audiences lauded the representation of a cold, calculating female villain? Well, guess what Daisy is? The violence committed against her in The Hateful Eight doesn’t make her a victim, just like the adultery committed against Amy in Gone Girl doesn’t make her  a victim. Daisy is no victim, and Tarantino is no misogynist. He's about the most un­misogynistic person I've ever met,” said Jennifer Jason Leigh, who plays Daisy. “He loves women. He writes the best parts for women around, really.”

And who can disagree with that? Smugglers. Gun runners. Assassins. Mob bosses. Drug dealers. Spies. Murderers. These are the kinds of parts Tarantino creates for women, that women so rarely get. Not only has he put women in these types of roles, but he has exposed generations of aspiring male filmmakers to these types of female characters. He has taken the almost unheard of female anti­hero, and he has launched her into the mainstream. With Hateful Eight, he has put the female villain into the mainstream in a way that disregards sex or gender and focuses on one thing: brutality.

The Hateful Eight deals with a lot of topics: the justice system, racial relations following the Civil War, the divide between the north and the south, the east and the west, and the underlying violence that all humans, no matter who they are, are capable of. One thing it doesn’t deal with, however, is misogyny. I hate Daisy Domergue, but I love her. I love that she exists. I love her ugliness, her evil, and her rage, and I love that I am never once asked to pity her.

“When you get to hell, John, tell them Daisy sent you.”