On the opening day of Christmas, Tarantino gave to me: four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and 500 N-words.
Today is the opening day for Quentin Tarantino’s new film “The Hateful Eight.” And since it’s Christmas, I thought I’d put on my scrooge costume and call out the right for a certain hypocritical tendency.
If the filmmaker wasn’t already the bete noir of conservatives, he certainly became so recently after his well publicized anti-police comments. I can certainly understand how a police officer might have a personal reaction to that, but must the entire Republican base rush to demonize Tarantino? So an artist made some remarks you disagree with. Why should we care what our artists’ opinions are on social and political matters?
The National Review published a diatribe so meandering and tedious I couldn’t even follow it, but perhaps it had been a long day on the web.
Look, Mel Gibson has voiced some Catholic notions some might find a tad medieval, Richard Gere had his famous self-indulgent rant about China and Tibet at the Academy Awards years ago, and of course Tom Cruise is from another planet. None of that prevents me from enjoying their work, although I must admit that Emma Watson gives me nightmares in which I’m the victim of a draconian Title IX investigation and have no idea why. Likewise, Wagner was either a bitter anti-semite or such charges are overblown. If I’d come to a conclusion on the matter I’ve long since forgotten it, and enjoyed a recording of “Parsifal” yesterday on the morning of Christmas Eve. As for Tarantino, “Inglorious Basterds” remains one of my favorite films.
It certainly seems that when dead white males come under attack for views and actions that are no longer socially acceptable — currently Cecil Rhodes, for example — one often hears the defense that such men were normal by the standards of their time, and that it’s unfair to hold them up to the progressive standards of today. It’s a convenient argument that I myself am prone to make, especially when someone wants to ban a book or tear down a statue.
But we should apply the same standard not just to dead white males, but living artists as well. There’s no reason to expect them to have tidy haircuts and traditional family values. That’s not their purpose in life. Their purpose is to produce art, some of which you won’t like (and you are hereby absolved of having to like any contemporary visual art, which cultured people agree is a joke). What artists say or with whom they lie down at night is of no consequence — to me, at least.
As Flaubert said, “L’homme est rien. L’oeuvre est tout.”