The Problem with Daisy
I finally watched The Hateful Eight this week and as much as I love Westerns and as much as I love Quentin Tarantino, I have a problem with the movie. As I began to consider things, it became clear I have a problem with the last three Tarantino films and they are all basically the same problem.
This problem involves spoilers. So read with caution.
My problem is Daisy.
Played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, Daisy Domergue is a psychotic, homicidal racist. She is by no means a character with whom we are supposed to sympathize. She is given some depth that makes us feel at least something for her but when her character dies, there is no sense the death wasn’t earned.
Daisy is also the only major female role in the film. And she spends most of the movie getting beaten up.
The men in the movie argue with each other. They swear at each other. They psychologically punish each other. And it is a Western so, of course, they shoot each other. But they don’t beat each other up. Nearly every punch is reserved for Daisy.
And I know I’m supposed to think that she deserved it. Instead, I though that it was no wonder she turned out to be a psychotic murderer.
Looking back at Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, Tarantino seems to have a pattern of abused women.
The two prominent women in Inglorious Basterds are both powerful and brave and yet their bravery eventually results in their death. One of them in a particularly horrifying sequence where we see the life choked out of her.
Rather like Daisy.
In Django Unchained, the only prominent female character is a woman who is basically a rape and torture victim. Yes – our main characters are coming to rescue her. So that’s good.
Still, the women in all three of these films are, in the end, victims of torture and abuse.
I don’t think Quentin Tarantino hates women. To the contrary, Kill Bill and Death Proof are both sort of female revenge fantasies. And Jackie Brown is about a woman in a dangerous situation basically outthinking everyone around her.
On the other hand, in Kill Bill, The Bride gets the crap beat out of her for two movies. She does kill Bill, yes. But he has nary a scratch on him. His heart just exploded. She has spent most of two movies covered in blood.
Again, I don’t think this is indicative of Tarantino’s opinion of women. But when you watch the pattern, you have to wonder if it is indicative of the entertainment industry as a whole.
Tarantino is a sponge when it comes to popular culture. His films are almost always a regurgitation of dozens of films both well known and unseen by all but a few. So does his treatment of women within these films reflect a through line of the movies he uses as inspiration?
I want to honestly state that I really enjoy his films. The way he throws so many ideas into a blender and finds a way to turn them into something that reflects the source while still being uniquely his own really works for me. As a fan of Westerns, The Hateful Eight pushes all the right buttons.
By the end of the The Hateful Eight, though, Daisy has been punched, shot, splattered with blood and brains, and hung by the neck until dead. At some point, it started to bug me. It wasn’t funny. It wasn’t justice. It was just cruel.
Is that what Tarantino wanted me to feel?
Maybe. But he’s made me feel that before. I’d like to see him try something else.