Get Ready To Fly, Bitch -- Death Proof, Lonely Manifestos, and Killer Chick Flicks
Arlene: Yeah? Why don't you go get ready for your lapdance?
[Stuntman Mike gets up and walks back into the bar]
Arlene: Hey, Mike.
Stuntman Mike: Yeah?
Arlene: No touch.
Stuntman Mike: No.
Arlene: I touch you, you don't touch me.
Stuntman Mike: I know.
“Young women now seem to want to behave like men and have sex without commitment. The signals they are giving are very confusing, and rage and humiliation build up in boys who are spurned again and again.”
-- Somewhat-Feminist Commentator Camille Paglia on the Virginia Tech shootings
I nearly walked out on Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof" after the car accident scene. Actually , my boyfriend hid my eyes during most of it (after the brutal face-smashing of Rose McGowan's character), but I had already saw the gory photos in Fangoria.
Basically, a guy turns four young women into hamburger with his car after stalking them. His name is Stuntman Mike. It seems like such a random, inexplicable act, intentional vehicular homicide -- but really, it's not. Tarantino's loving, lingering shots of the women being sexy, flipping their hair or shaking their ass in slow motion, tell you everything you want to know. These girls are *teases*. They intentionally tease and unintentionally tease, but their message is clear -- they have the power, the power of pussy. And Mr. Middle-Aged StuntGuy in the Icy Hot jacket and the Baron Strucker scar just ain't gettin' any.
I almost walked out of "Death Proof." Several people did. I'm not sure if it was because of the extreme violence or the fact that they've been listening to several women yakking around a table "My Dinner With Andre" style for a half-an-hour.
I almost walked out of "Death Proof" and went home and wrote Quentin Tarantino a long e-mail telling him what a bloody misogynist he was. But I stayed. And Tarantino, as if reading my mind, "apologized." Because in the second half of the film, the women "win."
Stuntman Mike stalks and hunts down another set of girls. But, little does he know that these are badass stuntwomen who will turn the tables on him and rip him another asshole. I'm not sure if he dies by the end of the film, but he sure as hell takes a nasty beating.
So, is "Death Proof" a feminist film?
Here's my problem.
The way Stuntman Mike dispatches the first set of girls is brutal and realistic to the extreme.
The way "The Girls" dispatch Mike at the end of the film is comical.
Stuntman Mike literally tears his victims apart, obliterates them, wipes their "prettiness" off the map.
By the final credits, "The Girls" do a slapstick number on Mike, hitting him in slow-motion and jumping in glee when he falls defeated. It is not even clear whether he is dead, the way it is not clear if Wily E. Coyote is ever really killed.
Why are these deaths handled differently?
Does gender play a role?
Would realistic, brutal revenge against Mike at the hands of The Girls be too disturbing, would it ruin the "mood?"
In a Times Online article social commentator Camille Paglia placed the responsibility for the Virginia tech slayings partially at the feet of a society that, in her view, has "feminized" men and encourages women to be "teases." The author of the article itself goes a step further and seems almost to point the finger at the women on campus that reported the future killer for stalking them:
"Then there were the college girls who reported him to the police for stalking and got him carted off to mental hospital after he sent them shy love messages full of yearning."
Hey, maybe the "Death Proof" girls *were* teases. Maybe the girls at Virginia Tech's rejection of Cho's advances did send him over the edge. Maybe this culture *is* feminizing men.
Teases, rejectors, feminizers. Doesn't mean chicks gotta be ground into hamburger.
Is Quentin Tarantino anti-feminist or not? And hey, don't I get into a lot of trouble for these posts? A woman bringing up topics like: "is this misogynist or not?" I mean, I remember my "Black Snake Moan" post...
"But you didn't actually *see* Black Snake Moan," David G. says. "I mean..you didn't actually see the movie so you couldn't actually tell if it really was misogynist."
"Yeah, but I saw the marketing."
"But the marketing is just the marketing."
I sit and ruminate over this for a while. David adds,
"But you actually *saw* "Death Proof. So I think this is a good thing."
Is "Death Proof" pro-feminist or anti-feminist? Did Tarantino get off on the misogynist antics of Stuntman Mike or is this film ultimately a love-letter to the Tough Chick?
Tarantino's films, I think, are ultimately a reflection of society -- a reflection of the tough choices and messy, oft-amoral situations that keep making our species interesting.
But no, "Death Proof" isn't a feminist movie.