A few days ago I was chatting with my dad about our various writing projects.
Dad: You know how you've been writing about Quentin Tarantino?
Dad: You know he used to work in a video store?
Dad: And you used to work in a video store?
Dad: Well there you go.
Well there I go. Once upon a time Quentin Tarantino worked in a video store – and so did I.
Today I write about pop culture, and Tarantino makes it.
There you go.
Tarantino's latest film also begins "Once upon a time . . ." and as to be expected, reactions to his "movie movie universe" movie, Inglourious Basterds, are once again as mixed as his genre conventions.
Though I didn't explicitly say so in my recent threepartpost here for Bitch exploring the question of feminism in Tarantino's work, I'm a fan – a cautious, conscientious fan, who recognizes that his work is problematic on many levels. For me, the combination of the issues in his work, and the visceral pleasure of the movie experiences he creates, presents a conflict that is worth exploring. Additionally, and I think this is crucial to my experience and interpretation of his work, he is a movie-maker of, and pop culture influence on, my generation. Pulp Fiction is as much a marker in my life as Star Wars, Goonies, or Trainspotting, Wonder Woman, 90210, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Tarantino and I may not have grown up watching the same movies, regardless of our once-upon-a-time employ, but his work has led me to his influences, which in turn have furthered and enriched my relationship to popular culture.
Last week many of you contributed enlightening responses to my two part poston women directors and provided useful suggestions on we can do to ensure that Hollywood supports women producers, screenwriters, and directors. Thank you!
Since then, I've been thinking about what can we do to get Hollywood to do a better job of representing women in film as leading characters. And I'm curious – as consumers of culture, do we, in general, read books more than we go out to watch movies (at least mainstream movies)? And if this is so, wouldn't Hollywood be wise to make greater efforts to adapt books to film?
Should we help them out by making a list of books featuring women we admire, women who have inspired and moved us, and made us think about the world differently? I mean, though I can't speak for everyone, and I do occasionally loves me some gratuitous explosions, I'm fairly certain that an adaptation of Eat, Pray, Love is going to get more women in theater seats than say, G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra.
I know most people don't care for Lois, but I think that's because they haven't really given her consideration. I mean, here's a female character who, despite office sexism perseveres with moxie. She's tough-talking, street smart, and modern. She has her own apartment in the City, is an award-winning reporter, and is dedicated to her profession—all of which sounds admirably progressive, even feminist to me. It reminds me of something I wrote in my book about Gloria Steinem's comment about rescuing Wonder Woman by putting her on the cover of Ms. magazine. While Wonder Woman serves as a symbol of our highest aspirations, Lois may have more accurately reflected the lives of journalists at Ms., and at the time was certainly in need of as much rescuing as Diana Prince.
The newspaperman, and newspaperwoman, have long captured the American imagination – and reporters, anchors, and even photojournalists have served as the protagonists in comics, animation, television and film.
As a woman writer and pop culture herstorian I can't help but be drawn to places in pop culture where women and journalism intersect – and that means I absolutely adore Lois Lane.
She is not the first woman reporter in popular culture, but Lois is likely the most recognizable – and certainly the longest lasting in the American cultural consciousness, having debuted alongside Superman and Clark Kent in 1938.
Readers, we are living an era of ill-advised remakes of already great (or at the very least, already classic movies). Titles allegedly in the re-works include: Red Dawn, Red Sonja, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Total Recall, Barbarella, Short Circuit, and The Karate Kid. So this morning's report from Variety about a new adaptation of James M. Cain's novel, Mildred Pierce, had me exhaling a huge sigh. According to the report, Todd Haynes, who wrote and directed I'm Not There and Far From Heaven, is slated to write and direct a miniseries staring Kate Winslet with the possibility that it will air on HBO.
While I'd watch Winslet do anything after her guest appearance on Extras, and she can surely go toe-to-toe acting wise with the original film's star, Joan Crawford, who won an Academy award for the role, I wondered if a new version would have anything different to offer.
Sarah Mirk's post last month, Beat the Majority - Name a Female Scientist, reminded me of an ad I saw several years ago for a Women in Film festival here in Seattle. In it, a dominatrix flanked by muscle men is asking a man in an interrogation chair if he can name five female directors – five female directors who weren't actresses first. Of course, he can't, and the dominatrix proceeds to list all the directors included in that year's festival line-up. While many accomplished actresses have also directed – Barbara Streisand, Jodie Foster, Ida Lupino, Sofia Coppola, Penny Marshall, and Diane Keaton – to name but a few; it could be argued that it was their acting that helped them break into directing. This should in no way belittle any of their accomplishments, but what about women who set out to direct in the first place, without the benefit of already being recognized?
Thank you all for a great conversation this week regarding the question “Is Quentin Tarantino a feminist?”
Responses were as varied as could be expected and ranged from expressions of the power and strength one may feel after watching Zoë, Abernathy, and Kim, and a desire to adapt Beatrix Kiddo’s better qualities; resilience, confidence and physical prowess.
After several years, a lot of script work and much trademark frenetic verbosity, writer/director Quentin Tarantino's long-awaited Inglourious Basterds – his "bunch of guys on a mission" film set during the Second World War – finally premieres on the 21st of this month.
With a nearly all-male cast it's arguably a return to the tough-guy roots of his earlier movies Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994), where manly-men bantered over such topics as the meaning of Madonna's "Like a Virgin" and the global appeal of hamburgers – regardless of whether they're measured in imperial or metric units.
Though they often repeat the contradictions inherent in representations of women in Exploitation films, and thus come from already problematic source material, the kick-ass heroines of Jackie Brown (1991), Kill Bill (2003 & 2004), and Death Proof (2007) still show visceral examples of female power that women can get excited about.
So this week we'll take an in-depth look at these characters and Tarantino's work, and hopefully have a discussion regarding the question: "Is Quentin Tarantino a feminist?"