Term Paper: Perceptions of Male and Female Viewers

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Perceptions of Male and Female Viewers Regarding Women's Violence in Kill Bill, Vol. 1 by Quentin Tarantino

The purpose of this study is to determine the extent, if any, to which male and female viewers perceive the violence of women in Quentin Tarantino's motion picture, "Kill Bill Volume 1" in different ways. In addition, the extent to which the differences in the opinions between male and female viewers contributed to their gender difference will be examined.

Finally, the study will seek to determine if male and female respondents share any opinions regarding violence.

The aims of this study are three-fold:

To determine the extent to which male and female observers differ in their perceptions of violence content in this movie;

To identify those factors that contribute to any difference in the perception of violence by males and females; and, 3. To develop a better understanding of how these factors may contribute to the incidence of violence against women in the general population.

Literature Review

Background and Overview

The motion picture, "Kill Bill, Volume 1," is the fourth production from writer and director Quentin Tarantino, but it is certainly not his only violent work with "Pulp Fiction" to his credit; however, "Kill Bill" has attracted much attention and been the source of an increasing amount of controversy because of its use of a female protagonist in an incredibly violent role. The movie stars Uma Thurman, who emerges from a coma after being in a coma for 4 years and seeks revenge for her attempted murder. The sequence of events that follows is rife with limb-cutting and decapitations, and the blood spurts in fountains throughout. While no one would likely argue with the desire for justice and retribution in similar circumstances, the ends to which Thurman goes to exact her particular brand of vengeance would be regarded as exceptional, and even deranged, in almost any setting. In fact, notwithstanding her commitment to bringing her attackers to task for their deeds, there is probably more per capita killing and maiming in this movie than in any production in history.

Even some male reviewers found the violence in this movie gratuitous; for example, in his review of Kill Bill, Volume 1," Richard Alleva writes, "The artistry of this bloodthirsty Peter Pan [Tarantino]... was cultivated (if that's the right word) by the chop-socky, cut-rate epics from Taiwan and Hong Kong that he viewed and re-viewed while working in video stores. He is now giving us the deluxe version of those kung-fu bloodfests" (Alleva, 2004, p. 23). Unlike a Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan production, though, there are some fundamentally disturbing qualities about Tarantino's work in "Kill Bill" that transcend these highly violent - yet otherwise socially benign - past efforts. "True, [Tarantino] is a masterly cinematic technician who establishes tempos and compositions in which his performers can shine.... But sooner or later a warrior kills a hundred yakuzi who move as if choreographed by Busby Berkeley... And we realize we are in a comic book that moves and talks and gives off extremely bad vibrations" (emphasis added) (Alleva, 2004, p. 23). Interestingly, these "bad vibrations" appear to be an extension of the playwright himself. In an interview with Tarantino, Rosie Millard described the filmmaker as being less than "charming," and says that she "cautiously mentioned to its director, Quentin Tarantino, that a growing intolerance to on-screen violence might indicate that the public is wearying of blood being sprayed all over their films. Cinematic decapitations, the severing of arms, and so on, doesn't turn most people on. 'So, I've made an unpopular film,' growled the helmer. Then he launched into me for bringing up the topic of violence, with regard to his (very violent) film, and indicated he was not going to comment any further" (p. 41). Success in the media clearly does not carry with it a requirement for charm, and Tarantino has not been apologetic for his employment of violent components in the "Kill Bill" series, nor in his past efforts such as "Pulp Fiction," which were also characterized by highly violent acts committed by both men and women. Motion picture producers have proven time and again that violence sells, and charm is probably the furthest thing from Tarantino's mind in making the "Kill Bill" series. According to Alleva, "I doubt that these questions matter very much to Tarantino, who doesn't care about the difference between complexity of characterization and vacuity. Comic book readers of the 1950s didn't care either. Their second millennium counterparts now dominate American movie audiences, so, rest assured, Tarantino will flourish" (2004, p. 23). In "Kill Bill's," case, though, the protagonist's ability to shift between a soft, vulnerable and submissive female into a hard-nosed and versatile detective character is also noteworthy; for instance, in his review of "Kill Bill Volume 1," Klawans (2003) describes one such scene:

Thurman is as astonishing in her playful moments as she is at this serious juncture. Look at her walk into a little restaurant in Osaka, pretending to be just an ingenuous American tourist; see her switch, almost without transition, to speaking with fierce, voice-trembling conviction, and in Japanese at that; then watch her deliver a deliberately bombastic, post-battle tirade, with neither more nor less straight a face than Daniel Day-Lewis put on in Gangs of New York (Klawans, 2003, p. 32).

In sharp contrast to the criticisms leveled against "Kill Bill," Stuart Klawans admits to "at least being entertained," and then much more. "By now," he says (in 2003), "you will have heard several complaints against Kill Bill, Volume 1. It is drunk on bloodshed. It is infatuated with trash cinema and its own tricks of style" (emphasis added) (p. 32). As noted above, though, both men and women appear to be drawn to these works as moths to a flame, notwithstanding the largely unknown impact of such productions on the national psyche. Perhaps watching movies such as "Pulp Fiction" and "Kill Bill Volume 1" is like pushing on a sore tooth with your tongue; you know it is going to hurt, but the pain is delicious anyway. For Tarantino's fans, the criticisms against the violence in these movies is not important; for his critics, such criticism does not go far enough: "What you might not have heard," he says, "is that Kill Bill boasts a breathtaking performance by Uma Thurman and a serious and coherent theme. For people with a principled aversion to violent cinemania, these factors will not be enough to justify ten bucks spent at the box office" (p. 32). According to Klawans, all of the criticisms leveled against Tarantino are true but that is not what is important, at least from a cinematographic perspective:

For those moviegoers who don't object in advance to Kill Bill, the following might be worth considering: Twice within the first segments of Kill Bill, a young girl witnesses the murder of her mother. Later, the movie's most grotesquely gory sequence climaxes not with another death (what would be the point, when there have been so many?) but with a spanking, as a young boy is released from the killings and told to go home to his mother. The character who is so devoted to maternal care -- and who sins against her own devotion, almost as soon as the movie starts -- is known as the Bride. She spends the movie exacting revenge for the many wrongs that were done to her, of which the most unforgivable seems to have been the killing of her unborn child.

In the final analysis, Klawans believes that while merely presented a legitimate theme in a movie does not necessarily "legitimize" the overall production, there are a number of female-related components to the violent events that are perhaps more poignant and evocative from a female viewer's perspective than a male watching the same events. In fact, many of the violent encounters in "Kill Bill Volume 1" appear to be emasculating in nature, as when "The Bride" (Thurman) chooses to cut of her opponents' limbs rather than kill them outright, and when she seeks to exact her initial revenge in the hospital against the male attendants who had been abusing her while she was in a coma. The loss of her baby adds further fuel to the female fires as well. Although Thurman's vengeance is not restricted to her male adversaries, of course, the fact that a female protagonist is able to overcome such enormous numbers of males in the process may just be "icing on the cake" for some females in the audience. According to Klawans, the loss of the baby, in fact, serves as the catalyst to change the tone of the picture from one of being "jokey" to one that is "lurid and improbable"; nevertheless, he notes that "Thurman goes all out to play the moment as if it's real, while Tarantino nervily prolongs the scene to give the horror time to sink in. When an actress and her director have the will and ability to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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