Quentin Tarantino: Feminist?

On Friday night, I went to see the movie Inglourious Basterds; and aside from the fact that it was SO BADASS (pardon my french); I noticed there were really some positive female roles in it.

(SPOILER ALERT) – For those of you who have seen the movie; you’ll know the plot – Nazi Occupied-France, WWII; 1941 – 1944. 8 Jewish-Americans and the man in charge of the mission drop into France to do what they do best – Kill Nazis. When they find out about the fact that there is a major premiere of a Nazi movie happening in France, the Basterds set out on their plot to blow up the theater; owned by Shoshana, a Jewish woman who watched Nazis murder her family and narrowly escaped, moving to Paris and eventually owning said movie theatre..

So there are two characters in particular that really stuck out and made me consider the female roles Tarantino portrays in his movies: Shoshana and Bridget Von Hammersmark.

Bridget Von Hammersmark is a famous German actress in the film, and she is the one who hatches the plot to blow up

Diane Kruger as Bridget Von Hammersmark

Diane Kruger as Bridget Von Hammersmark

the theatre, contacting the British Government and enlisting the help of the Basterds. Von Hammersmark is the one who organizes the whole operation, and who risks her life to stand up for what she believes is wrong – and even dies for her cause. She plays it calm and cool in the face of danger, inviting soldiers from the Third Reich to join her for drinks and games and making conversation.

Even when she’s shot and in a cast, the original plan ruined, she still keeps her wits about her and even manages to come up with a new plan. Even when she is discovered by the German official known as the “Jew Hunter”, instead of crying and begging for her life, she says “what now?” and refuses to tell him anything, even attempting to fight back when she is strangled by the soldier; despite her foot in a cast.

Then, of course, there is Shoshana Dreyfus, who witnessed the “Jew Hunter” kill her entire family.

Melanie Laurent as Shoshana Dreyfus

Melanie Laurent as Shoshana Dreyfus

Shoshana flees the scene of her family’s murder; managing to outwit her family’s murderers simply by running far and fast. After she escapes, she moves to Paris; where she takes over ownership of a small movie theatre, hiring a black man – who becomes the love of her life – to help her in the projection booth.

When a German war hero falls for Shoshana, she makes no attempt to lead him on or even humor him in an effort to save her own hide – instead, she makes it pretty clear she has no interest in him and that she thinks what the Nazis do is despicable, telling him to “stop pestering her.”

Shoshana devises a plot to burn down the theatre she runs when she is told that the premiere of her German admirer’s film will be held in her venue. She, too, risks being discovered by the Third Reich in an attempt to seek revenge for her family’s brutal murder years before. Shoshana even shows few nerves when she sits down to eat strudel with the very man who killed her loved ones, answering his questions calmly.

Without these two women, Inglourious Basterds‘ plot would have been entirely different – it’s very possible that none of this even remotely would have happened. Which lead me to consider the other female roles in Tarantino films, and i realized – they’re all pretty powerful.

Uma Thurman as The Bride

Uma Thurman as The Bride

In Basterds, we have Shoshana and Bridget. In Kill Bill, we have Uma Thurman’s character of “The Bride” (Beatrix). After being shot in the head and consequently put in a coma by her ex-lover, Bill, she awakens out of her coma and the first thing she does is kill the sleazy orderly Buck who has been selling sexual access to her body while she was in a coma; and one of his customers. At the end of the second movie, she kills the man who had initially wronged her, standing up for her rights.

I could continue analyzing all of the characters in Tarantino’s films, but it would be like undertaking a major project. 🙂 So is Tarantino a feminist? Perhaps, but I think the best thing about this discovery of strong female charachters is that we can all agree that women can definately kick some butt.


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About beckawall

AU Alumni, feminist, master of peanut butter brownies. Lover of Teddy Roosevelt, politics, analyzing popular culture, and general nerdery.

One response to “Quentin Tarantino: Feminist?”

  1. A.Y. Siu says :

    Well, it passes the Bechdel test… not sure if that makes it feminist. It certainly is better than most Hollywood fare in terms of gender roles.

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