Have you read the New York Times article about Uma Thurman and her experiences with Harvey Weinstein and Quentin Tarantino? If not, let me get you up to speed. It’s horrifying, it really is. In ‘This is Why Uma Thurman is Angry’ by Maureen Dowd, Thurman details being subjected to assault by Weinstein and her own experience with rape beforehand, plus how Quentin Tarantino abused her in his own disgusting and brutal way. The overall theme of the article is her providing an insight into how certain men, with the encouragement of others, can get away with all sorts of abuse in the name of finding control. Whether it be sexually or, as we see with Tarantino, in the callous attempt to be an ‘auteur’. The interview came months after she notoriously declared that Weinstein and those who supported him don’t deserve a bullet, they deserve something much slower. And oh, how I agree.
But I want to focus on Tarantino. The monster that is Harvey Weinstein will forever be synonymous with rape, the embodiment of an industry that has betrayed and violated women since its foundation, and there is nothing I can say that has not already been said with the righteous venom it deserves. He will forever be a pariah and I am preaching to the choir here. Quentin Tarantino is a different story, he is probably going to do well for decades to come. He’s not a clear-cut example of toxic, predatorial entitlement. Readers of this column are not going to uniformly agree like we mostly do with Harvey Weinstein, for whatever reasons they may have. The cult of forgiveness that surround Cool Male Directors will probably ensure his career until the End Times. And it makes me angry. In the article, Thurman talks about her closeness with Tarantino, even describing it, in a very clear past tense, as a mind-meld. But that came to an end during the filming of Kill Bill, where he is on record on having spat in her face and choked her with a chain during filming, all under the guise of getting what he needed as a director. It’s just in the pursuit of making art, right? Same narrative as the Last Tango in Paris reports about Bernardo Bertolucci encouraging the lack of consent within a filmed rape scene, for the sake of capturing ‘the raw emotions’ upon Maria Schneider’s face. That physical domination over women is clearly an acceptable part of being an auteur, evidently. But the truly horrifying tale? Forcing Thurman to drive a stunt car she repeatedly said she was not comfortable doing, resulting in permanent injuries to her neck and knees when it crashed. She was denied access to footage of this crash for years, as Miramax worked to keep Tarantino clean and Thurman silent. The Weinsteins put their main man first ahead of any sort of decency.
It’s a crushing story – the betrayal of someone you felt shared a mind with, but being seen the world over as being inherently linked to one another. Even when your own association with the person dies, you’re forced to stay connected to them through the permanence of pop culture. The world saw them as synonymous. Who wouldn’t? They made Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, the embodiment of coolness in modern cinema in the average filmgoers’ eyes. I certainly know that. Do you know how much I wanted the yellow motorcycle jacket from Kill Bill: Vol. 1, regardless of knowing how I’d never fit it? It’s so fucking cool. How many of you with Tumblr or Instagram or whatever have seen the various screencaps of Mia Wallace post-overdose? The point is that in the world’s eye, the partnership of Uma Thurman and Quentin “Just Gonna Broadcast My Foot Fetish” Tarantino is something magical and legendary. But with the knowledge of what went into making Kill Bill, our love for it needs to die, smothered by those who once gave it so much care.
This is where I abandon any pretence for this particular column not being a soapbox – the love for the art should not outweigh the transgressions of the artist. It can be argued until the heat death of the universe about separating the art from the artist, but in this case, Tarantino’s transgressions cannot be separated from Kill Bill, they were a direct part of the process. The abuse in the name of artistic input, artistic domination, cannot be justified. To direct is not to dominate. To unjustly dominate is not solely in the realm of sexual assault – we know that, but we need to put this into practice. Now, to be clear, we cannot isolate this discussion solely to male offenders, that’s a gross silencing of the variety of victims out there. It detracts from the complexities involved what it means to suffer in an industry built on servicing the entitled predatorial ego inherent in toxic masculinity. I have to stress that that ignoring this only does a disservice to any progress we want to make. But in the case of Tarantino? Say it with me. The cult of the Cool Male Director needs to die. Crushed like the eye underneath The Bride’s feet.