There’s a particular subset of film enthusiasts known as filmbros. Filmbros tend to hold themselves in unmeritedly high esteem despite seeming to have watched only The Dark Knight and Logan, often touting their own perspective of film critique as superior regardless of literally anything and anyone else. They’re overly invested in comic book movies, and can be found hopping onto any and all conversations about the MCU, especially conversations that centre around women or people of colour, usually to express their “objective” disdain.
But the quickest, easiest and perhaps most foolproof way to spot a filmbro is this: ask them who their favourite filmmaker is, and they’ll tell you “Quentin Tarantino.” (Bonus points if they say it with an underlying, almost creepy tone of reverence.)
What is it about Tarantino’s work that draws filmbros in like flies to premium raw manuka honey? What is it about Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds that inspires them to pledge him their undying loyalty and unswerving determination to defend and exalt him in all corners of the Internet? Let’s consider the possibilities.
1) The centring of the white man.
Now, this isn’t unique to white filmbros only. Asian men are guilty. Black men are guilty. Brown men are guilty. Aside from Django Unchained, every single protagonist in Tarantino’s filmography is white. The relentless centring of the white man feeds into these filmbros’ white supremacist ideals. White supremacy isn’t limited to white protagonists beating up characters of colour. It’s often about how white protagonists occupy the spotlight in a way that characters of colour are never allowed to. See: From Dusk Till Dawn, a story about Aztec vampire-like creatures, told from the point of view of two white brothers (that also features a scene in which the Asian kid literally gets eaten alive, bite by bite). Filmbros buy into the centring of the white man in Tarantino’s work because it’s a concept they buy into in real life as well.
2) Treatment of Black people and other people of colour.
Tarantino’s hotly debated portrayal of Bruce Lee in his newest outing is hardly the first concern that’s been raised about the treatment of people of colour in his films. His creation and presentation of characters like Bruce Lee (Once Upon a Time In Hollywood) and Stephen (Django Unchained) are, in the most blatant terms, pure caricaturisation. Tarantino’s treatment of non-white characters could probably be glossed over if it weren’t for the fact that the director himself repeatedly shows a pointed fascination with the deliberate othering of people of colour or, even worse, targeted violence against them. Case in point: the repeated, almost obsessive use of the N-word, which is rarely uttered by Black characters in his films.
(Note: Samuel L. Jackson is not “Black people.” Samuel L. Jackson is a Black PERSON. Just because Tarantino treats him “well” in his movies does not mean he is automatically absolved of racism.)
3) Gratuitous, graphic violence.
Graphic violence in itself is not inherently a negative thing. It’s the context of the violence that matters. Violence is often used as a legitimate theme in Tarantino’s storytelling, but it’s also commonly used as an unevaluated presentation of masculinity. Very rarely does Tarantino challenge his viewers to deeply examine the nature of the violence being enacted, or to question the perpetrator’s motives and agendas. Filmbros eat it up, because hey, What’s More Manly Than Shooting/Beating Everybody Up Instead Of Talking Shit Out?
4) Feminism, but make it palatable.
When it comes to female characters, Tarantino fanboys often hurl Kill Bill at his critics like a trump card that’s been doused in Axe body spray. However, they often fail to confront the fact that in Tarantino’s portrayal of her, Beatrix Kiddo becomes “strong” only when a) she is put through unimaginable pain (of being shot near-dead and also losing her unborn child), and b) she becomes just like her male abuser. Female characters are few and far between in Tarantino’s work, but when they do appear, they’re “strong” only when they are allowed to be, and only in ways that will appeal to men. Tarantino repeatedly presents an “acceptable” form of faux-feminism that enables filmbros to feel like they’re camouflaging their misogyny.
It’s also worth noting that the only conventionally unattractive female character with a speaking role in Tarantino’s entire filmography (Daisy Domergue from The Hateful Eight) is also profoundly, irrefutably unlikable and irredeemable.
5) Stylish packaging.
One of Tarantino’s greatest strengths as a filmmaker is vision. He has the innate ability to create and execute a specific, unified vision with each of his films, from conception and writing to filming and editing. Each of his works is, stylistically speaking, undoubtedly and wholly coherent within itself. The issue is content. Tarantino dumps every questionable thing about violence and masculinity and race and misogyny into a hundred-page script or a two-hour cut of footage, bundles it all together and packages it up in bright, sharp colouring and visually impressive camera work. It’s the oldest marketing trick in the book, a veneer for the least discerning of consumers. Because if it looks this good, it can’t possibly be this bad, right?
6) “Good” reviews.
Tarantino’s work often receives favourable or rave reviews from big-name critics and industry VIPs, and filmbros tend to generously pad their pro-Tarantino arguments with these, wielding them as legitimacy for their adoration of him—all without taking into account that these reviews usually come from cishet white men like Tarantino himself. A new Tarantino film barely even has to premiere before it’s already held up as a contender for big industry awards, awards that are given by committees that are primarily made up of, once again, cishet white men like Tarantino. This is not to say that cishet white men aren’t allowed to like Tarantino. It’s easy to like something that was made for you, by someone just like you. This is, however, a reminder that cishet white men’s opinions are not the be-all and end-all of all film critique, and taking them as a perfect representation of how objectively good Tarantino’s work is would be myopic at best.
All of this is purely focused on Tarantino’s work as a filmmaker, but it has to be said that the man has also infamously and repeatedly exhibited displays of concerning behaviour. His open support of convicted child rapist Roman Polanski, his long-standing, close relationship with serial sexual assaulter Harvey Weinstein, his aggressive intimidation of Uma Thurman on the Kill Bill set that included spitting in her face, choking her with a chain and forcing her into a car accident that nearly paralysed her—all of which Tarantino made public, PR-appropriate apologies for years and years after they occurred, and usually right around when he happened to be making headlines for upcoming projects or releases. It’s pointless to go in-depth about how these incidents shouldn’t be swept under the rug in favour of discussion on how many Oscars he’s going to win with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but as Maya Angelou rightly said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
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Edited By: Keshav Kant