I’m going to be reviewing and analyzing two of my favorite movies, Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2. The lead character in this film “the bride” was a former member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad lead by her true love, Bill. Our main character soon finds out she is pregnant with Bill’s child and is eager to escape her life as a professional killer. Beatrix Kiddo or “the bride” fled to Texas and met a young man who is later gunned down at their wedding rehearsal by a very jealous Bill (with help from the rest the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad). Approximately four years later our bride wakes up from a coma and discovers the baby she was expecting is gone. She, then, decides to seek revenge upon the five people who destroyed her life and killed her baby. Thus, the saga of Kill Bill vol. 1 and Vol. 2 begins.
I’ve noticed the “white characters defeating Asians at their own game” theme in most American movies regarding martial arts. In Kill Bill Vol. 1 (Uma Thurman) our bride is better at martial arts than not just Lucy Liu, but an entire fleet of Yakuza warriors. Lucy Liu’s character, who’s spent her entire life training and clawing her way to the top of an international crime syndicate, specifically mentions that the bride is a better samurai then herself. Hollywood has an obsession with Asian mysticism and making insane amounts of money. Lucy Liu mimics the stereotypical Asian female. This stereotype is called the “Dragon Lady”. The Dragon Lady is usually an East Asian women who is strong, deceitful, domineering and mysterious. The Dragon Lady term originally is Western not Chinese. It is believed that you cannot have a hit movie unless your main character is a Caucasian person. That means transferring all positive values of the Asian culture to Uma Thurman our bride and relegating the Asian characters to villains or supporting roles. Unless your Jackie Chan or Jet Li of course.
Kill Bill is unique because in the American movie world our heroes are almost always men historically. Male actors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis are known for their heroic actions in films but sometimes we forget that heroic actions can come from anyone (race and gender alike). Here you have one hundred and eleven minutes of a women chopping a million men literally in half, I love it! No, not because I’m obsessed with blood and violence but because Quentin Tarantino my favorite American screenwriter thinks outside the box we call the television screen. Tarantino’s revenge flick is in the cinematic traditions of Japanese martial arts and Italian horror. Needless to say Quentin Tarantino’s cast is multi-racial.
This films main characters are the members of the Deadly Viper Assination Squad. Consisting of two White women, two White guys, an Asian women and a Black women. Our bride (One of the white women previously mentioned) is seeking revenge on them. The other Caucasian women Elle stayed by Bill’s side of course. The African American women Vernita Green, seems to be living a happy and successful suburban life. Of all the dangerous deadly vipers only the African American women has left her life of crime. While on the other hand, the Asian women O-Ren Ishii has become the head of the Yakuza.
Although a more direct approach regarding race is made in the infamous scene where O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) is taking control of the Tokyo underworld and another head of the families makes disregarding remarks not only about her gender, but also about her Chinese and American ancestry. Because O-Ren Ishii is supposed to be Japanese American her response is “The price you pay for bringing up either my Chinese or American heritage as a negative is… I collect your fucking head” after decapitating the man who was once speaking and holding his head high. Making a pretty clear statement about being accepting of other races and of mixed race people.
O-Ren’s Crazy 88’s gang is Japanese stereotyping. They are hyper violent, ignorant, alcoholics and very fashionable with their matching black suits. O-Ren’s personal body guard Gogo dresses like a schoolgirl and is absolutely viscous. However these stereotypes throughout film are so obvious it makes the movies feel more anti-racist than racist. Same goes for the Brides legendary sword maker Hattori Hanzo and her martial arts guru Pai Mai. I feel like Asian culture is always seen as martial artist or Kung-Fu experts in the United States unfortunately. (Orientalism)
The bride is a badass, a mix somewhere in between gruesome and inspiring. I really like her revenge seeking character that has no mercy for those who have betrayed the bride. However, I don’t like how much emphasis is put on the amount of killing bride does for her assumed dead daughter and not on her own behalf. The Vipers beat her half to death and bill shot her in the head during her wedding rehearsal. That’s why the bride should be pissed although the pregnancy does add that extra drive. The moral is well portrayed in the first film and carried out through the second, the bad guy’s always pay. Not only do they pay, but the pay at the hands of the women they have wronged.
Still, I don’t understand why four smart, sexy and deadly women are working for Bill in the first place. Bill gives out orders, they follow, but why what’s in it for the Vipers? It bothers me because all these women attacked the bride at Bills behest but for what reason. Both the bride and Vernita (The female African American viper) are mothers and motherhood is the bride’s huge motivating factor. I thought the mommy aspect was awesome because the mommy figures we’re portrayed so savage like, same for the two counterpart non-mother figures O-Ren Ishii and Elle. Oh, and I also found how seriously Bill took fatherhood very interesting.
Like Tarantino’s other films they don’t seem to be great works of gender and racial equity, but if you pay close enough attention you’ll see and understand that the stereotypes aren’t really what they seem. These are not women acting out male roles, with the traditional characteristics intact, but action roles conceived for women, with women’s sorrows and women’s biology, in which they show the strengths and limits of their sex. We then notice that women don’t drag around gait egos in constant need of stoking like men in these films. Unfortunately, in terms of plot and action the downside is the brake applied by motherhood. A pregnant warrior is one who stops dead in her tracks, when her mind switches channels in mid-stream, goes into nature mode. Babies are anticlimax and anti-action.
I cannot stress this enough, what makes people different is what they value and what you’re all about is what makes you different. Historically, Hollywood movies do not portray women as shooting first and asking questions later heroines. Hollywood has believed that White people are better at playing Asians than actual Asians and any other ethnicity really. They replace the main characters with someone who is accepted by white America and throw them multi cultured sidekicks. There is a power distance between the people and the film industry, the extent to which less powerful members of organizations within a culture accept unequal distribution of power.
Revenge is a dish best served cold and I think we should spend less time being angry about given situations and spend more time getting even. In case you didn’t know Inequality is socially constructed meaning that it’s made up by the people for the people. The reason Tom Cruise is playing a samurai in our films is because you like tom cruise and honestly you probably wouldn’t watch a film starring some random Asian guy you have never heard of, this typecasting revolves solely around the dollar dollar bill ya’ll. It doesn’t stop with ethnicity, because women too are being stereotyped in the film industry.
It is difficult to be a main character in the American film industry because society is both gender and racially bias. A conventional, formulaic and oversimplified conception, opinion or image is a stereotype. Try accepting other races and mixed race people because we live in the land of the freest diverse country in the world. Stereotypes throughout this film are so obvious it makes the movie feel more anti-racist than racist. The amount of killing bride does for her assumed dead daughter and not on her own behalf is still a beautiful work of art. The bad guy’s always pay. Not only do they pay, but the pay at the hand of the women they have wronged. There is a power distance between the people and the film industry, the extent to which less powerful members of organizations within a culture accept unequal distribution of power.
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