Jeffrey Overstreet…

Jeffrey Overstreet… August 25, 2009

…doesn’t much like Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Nor does Daniel Mendelsohn (whose review you really need to read).

I’ve never understood the appeal of Tarantino’s films. But then, I’ve never quite understood the sort of girlish fascination that extremely violent imagery holds for wussy film critics who would faint at the sight of a drop of their own blood. As Jeffrey says, yeah, they’re “cinematic”. But cinematic about what? Hell! Triumph of the Will is cinematic.

What bothers me most about Inglourious Basterds is something a very angry acquaintance of mine once told me. He said he fantasized about being in a store during an armed hold up so that he could use his martial arts skills to disable the guy, break his arm, jam the gun up his butt and pull the trigger and then say, “Gee officer, the gun went off in the struggle.” In short, he was hoping for a chance to do evil and just biding his time looking for a plausibly dismissable victim.

Inglourious Basterds seems to me to be something of the same thing. Tarantino just wants to slaughter somebody, so let’s make the victims Nazis and then nobody will complain. Indeed, you’ll get a huge audience of like-minded people all getting off on your fantasies of slaughter with you.

That’s what happens when you take somebody who says:

“If I had a gun and a 12-year-old kid broke into this house, I would kill him. You have no right to come into my house…I would empty the gun until you were dead.”

…and make them one of your highly paid Manufacturers of Culture. Normal people don’t fantasize about slaughtering twelve year olds.

And a normal people does not lionize them. But we in the West have not been normal for some time now.

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