Quentin Tarantino’s two part classic Kill Bill will go down as one of the greatest action films of the past 20 years and one of the critically-acclaimed director’s greatest films in terms of visual and auditory effects.
However, Kill Bill is one of the best examples of orientalism, which defines western society’s historically patronizing representation of “The East”: Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East.
The first volume of Kill Bill shows the film’s protagonist, Beatrix Kiddo, travel to Japan, where she immediately goes to purchase a samurai sword from “former Kung-Fu star” Hatori Hanso. After a scene which shows Kiddo fetishize over a wall lined with beautiful samurai swords, she purchases a sword and then she is on her way to kill Bill and the others who stand in her path, the first being Japanese native O-Ren Ishii.
Kiddo then finds O-Ren and battles all 88 of her henchmen, killing each one, and then eventually killing O-Ren and her two “bodyguards.”
By the end of Kill Bill Vol. 1, over 90 people had been killed by Kiddo, a white woman; because what else is there to do in Japan other then killing people with a samurai sword?
Not once throughout the movie are we, the audience, introduced to a Japanese native not associated with death or violence. This connotes that Japanese people are violent and have no true meaning to life other than killing others to stay alive.
One thought on “Kill Bill: Quentin Tarantino’s Orientalist Classic”
So I 100% agree with you — but I imagine Tarantino would argue that he based much of the story and cinematography on the cult actions films from Chinese and Japanese directors (he has a lot of global influences, but I know of these two, for sure) he has long adored — and actually supported and promoted over the years. So I imagine him saying, how can I be Orientalist, if I am using a perspective I gained from native directors?
Tarantino, a white man, did a similar self-conscious appropriation/homage of blaxploitation films with Jackie Brown.
But this is kind why I really don’t like Tarantino, even though I recognize his filmmaking skills. Sometimes I feel like he’s like some guy who says/does something stupid — but then says, I was only joking! As if the fact that it’s just one big joke justifies the perpetuation of all of these stereotypes.
Now, having said that, it’s not all stereotypes. In terms of gender, Uma Thurman’s character in Kill Bill and Pam Greer’s in Jackie Brown are amazing representations of strong women. But it doesn’t take away the context.