Dé Céadaoin, Samhain 19, 2008

Kill Bill is The Defining Movie of The Decade (Bear With Me on This)

There have been some who have dismissed the philosophical elements of "Kill Bill" as mere gimmick and flash, and there is in fact some truth to this. It is clear in watching the film that that director Quintin Tarantino spent most of his energy on making sure that the fight scenes and the backgrounds looked cool, and just how morally ambiguous could this movie be; considering that once Beatrix Kiddo has finished her mission of slaughtering a hundred people or so she is every bit as self-satisfied as Rambo or Colonel Braddock?

But though the ambiguity is often shoved to the background there are many key points in the film where it bubbles hotly to the surface, and though Tarantino has always been about flash and style above all else, his understanding of humanity is just as keen as any more sober auteur.

Who is Beatrix Kiddo? At the beginning of the story she is simply "The Bride"(Though the name 'Kiddo' is cleverly hidden in plain sight) a woman with no family and seemingly no history, marrying an average man, (with the overtly average name of Tommy Plympton) she doesn't love chiefly to provide stability to her unborn child, whom she has deluded Plympton into thinking was his.

Towards the end of the film, Kiddo admits to Bill that she had no hope that the marriage would work. It is only through blood sacrifice that Plympton is able to fulfill the main social role of a spouse, i.e. to provide a common identity and base for interacting with the wider world.

It is only after "The Bride" is savaged and the wedding party butchered that she gets a name. She awakens from a coma in some anonymous hospital after four years of being the victim of periodic rape, without even as much human interaction that comes with screaming or begging for mercy. Kiddo awakens lost, confused, atrophied, completely driftless. It is only after she defends herself from another would be rapist and long time tormentor "Chuck" that Kiddo gains some sense of direction. She gradually trains herself to use her own legs again, commanders Chucks "Pussy Wagon" and draws up the hit list of her former lover and colleagues, the only people who know her to be Beatrix Kiddo.

Who is Beatrix Kiddo? She is, both to herself and the world, the enemy of her enemies, and nothing else. When "Kill Bill" does delve into ethics it is typically to observe how hollow such an identity is. Observe the scene between Budd and Elle Driver when he asks her if she is now disappointed without her arch-enemy.

It is significant that the two volumes of "Kill Bill" came out in 2003 and 2004, when American society was beginning to show faint signs of recovering form it's post-9/11 shock. It was not yet enough to prevent the re-election of poor George Bush. Bush (or at least his handlers) is very much like Terantino's Bill; the Dark Father, one who uses his powers of emotional perception to command loyalty and love by inspiring his followers to lose themselves and submit to his personal ambition.
Such is the condition of the ultimate follower, the subject. The battered wife, the man willfully oppressed by some dictatorial regime, and the terrorist fanatic are all one in the same. The subject will suffer anything rather than return to the weakness and mortality of the self.

It's easy to see how a Bill or any number of real life Dark Fathers could flourish in the criminal underground. The Dark Father thrives in any environment where blood is routine. But human will is stronger than outward signs would suggest, and a routinely violent world is the only one in which the Dark Father flourishes. The power of European kings gradually began to wilt as war and chaos became gradually more occasional. As 9/11 continued to pass into the distance,and the failures of the Bush administration became more undeniable, it was only a matter of time before the absurd cult of Dark Father Bush, Dark Father as common man* began to fall apart.

(*As opposed to the more typical Dark Father, one who is refined and somewhat otherworldly, a Bill type.)

As the shock and trauma continued to dissipate, Americans became horribly aware that we were being cheated of the country that had been promised us. The nation that invented airflight, perfected spaceflight, cured polio, harnessed electricity, resurrected democracy, and became the arbiter of culture for the whole developed world; was now the enemy of its enemies, and nothing else. The right wing's vision of America was composed chiefly of the grim pseudo-morality of Manichaeism. America was good because it fought evil. Evil was evil because it fought America.
Stem cells, clean burning cars, college education for the general populace. All these were distractions at best and Satanic voodoo at worst. There is time only to steal ourselves for the eternal fight.

There will always be thugs and fools in any society that see nothing wrong with this. Incapable of understanding the glory that comes with passing new medicines, technologies, or new ideas to future generations of total strangers, they understand only the glory of using brute force to crush the Other. They sit in their glass and metal box churches, freed from thought by the VH1 theatrics of the stage, praying God to never forget his children, exhorting him to always send more enemies.

Their day is done. They were never anything more than a tool for the Dark Father, and now he is dead. What better metaphor could there be for a Sarah Palin rally than the defeated Elle Driver, flailing about a ravaged trailer, sustained only by blind rage.

Those who wonder how the supposedly unelaborated slogans of hope and change could have inspired so many need only watch the closing credits of "Kill Bill" as a radiant Beatrix Kiddo rides with her daughter, free from the identity of enemies, free to create herself, free to create her life, to create, love, and live. Life is what most people will always choose whenever death is not the default, and I will never abide those who say that the fact that the latter is more typical is proof that it is our eternal destiny.

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