A look back at the debate surrounding Tarantino’s ultra-violent classic
March 24, 2022
The “Kill Bill” films are widely hailed as extraordinary pieces of cinema. The series has it all: jaw-dropping fight scenes, gorgeous cinematography, gripping storylines and, at its center, The Bride (Uma Thurman), one of the most iconic and memorable female characters in all cinema. A female-led action movie is unique in itself. According to a USC Annenberg study, women make up only 28% of speaking characters in action movies. “Kill Bill” already stands out by that metric alone, but Thurman’s The Bride is so much more than a lazily written, generic “strong female character” that Hollywood throws in to tick a diversity box.
Throughout the films, audiences witness all the life events that The Bride went through that made her who she is. From the attack on Bill and his minions that nearly killed her, to the brutal training regimen she endured under the guidance of her teacher, Pai Mei, “Kill Bill” does a fantastic job of fleshing out the character. from Thurman, a practice of many other mainstream action franchises such as “Star Wars” and the Marvel Cinematic Universe have failed.
Since its release, “Kill Bill” has been widely hailed as a feminist masterpiece, grossing a total of $330 million at the box office (not bad for a pair of R-rated films) and winning over 20 awards. .
A woman at the helm of a violent action movie that was also critically acclaimed and commercially successful was new to audiences, but welcomed as a nice change of pace. It was almost cathartic to watch a woman embark on a solo journey of revenge and take down everyone who wronged her. The film’s empowering themes have resonated with women around the world. In an on-stage interview, Uma Thurman was quoted as saying, “Women would come to me and they would say that somehow – they shared a bit – that this film had helped them in their lives, that ‘they feel downtrodden or struggling or having a bad boyfriend or feeling bad about themselves, that this movie released a survival energy in them that was helpful.
However, there’s a lot of debate over whether “Kill Bill” is actually a feminist movie or if it empowers women.
Although “Kill Bill” was acclaimed for its subversion of traditional gender roles, it was also criticized for presenting The Bride through the lens of the “male gaze”. Throughout the film, The Bride is complimented for her beauty by many male characters. Even when lying in a pool of her own blood, her good looks are seemingly emphasized as a key character trait, with the cops stating that Bill “would have to be a rabid dog to shoot a fucking pretty girl in the head like that. .” The fact that Uma Thurman’s character’s physical attractiveness is constantly emphasized even in places like this has led people to criticize the “Kill Bill” films as objectifying, as they make it seem like the personal value of The Bride is linked to her beauty. The belief is that “Kill Bill” falls victim to an all-too-common cliché regarding women in film, especially in the action genre, in which female characters are judged largely by physical attributes.
Another criticism of “Kill Bill” is the film’s seemingly rigid adherence to patriarchal norms of motherhood. The bride’s quest seems to take a turn around the second episode when she realizes her daughter is still alive and the quest to find her daughter takes precedence over her original goal of getting revenge on the people who killed her. raped. Tarantino points this out at the end of Volume II with a metaphor about a lioness and her cub, stating that with the two finally being together, all is well in the jungle. There has been a lot of criticism towards the departure of his journey from a quest for personal fulfillment to a quest to find his daughter. Critics say the change in The Bride’s motivations makes her less self-defined and causes her to lose her status as a three-dimensional character, forcing her back into a patriarchal role of motherhood.
Are these reviews valid? Do these factors take away from the films as a whole? That’s for a modern audience to decide. What empowers one may not empower another, and that’s okay. Movies are an art form, and art is meant to be interpreted in different ways depending on the eye of the viewer. “Kill Bill,” despite all the debate about female empowerment, managed to innovate by reversing gender roles while delivering a hit and beloved film that still resonates nearly 20 years later. The movie may not be perfect, but then again, what movie is it?
Will Duffy can be reached at [email protected].