Quentin Tarantino’s new film “The Hateful Eight” had its detractors before it was even released. Many filmgoers and critics took issue with his commitment to the copious use of the N-word in his screenplay (which was leaked early) and police unions around the country planned to boycott the film because of the director’s recent controversial comments on alleged acts of brutality at the hands of law enforcement.
Now that audiences are finally getting to watch the director’s roughly three-hour epic western, critics are leveling a new charge at the provocative auteur — sexism.
In “The Hateful Eight,” a considerable amount of grisly violence is inflicted upon the film’s lone lead female character, Daisy Domergue, an accused murderer bound for execution played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. And that hasn’t sat well with some viewers. “At a certain point, the N-word gives way to the B-word as the dominant hateful epithet, and ‘The Hateful Eight’ mutates from an exploration of racial animus into an orgy of elaborately justified misogyny,” wrote The New York Times’ AO Scott in his review of the film.
“Daisy doesn’t get a voice in any story told about her, and the one time she has a small, personal moment, it’s wrenched away from her in an angry outburst by a man. It’s like she’s trapped in a cabin full of Internet commenters,” added Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff. And TIME’s critic describes abuse of Daisy as the “movie’s defining running joke.”
The backlash has been swift and pronounced enough to draw a defense from longtime Tarantino producer Harvey Weinstein, whose company is distributing “The Hateful Eight.” “This guy is the most pro-woman ever,” Weinstein told Variety. “[Look at] Uma Thurman [in ‘Kill Bill’], Pam Grier [in ‘Jackie Brown’], Melanie Laurent and Diane Kruger [in ‘Inglourious Basterds’]. If there are cries of misogyny, we will sit down and make them watch ‘Jackie Brown,’ and at the end of the ‘Jackie Brown’ seminar, they will have to say, ‘Hey, we’re just fishing for stupidity.’”
A counter-argument to Weinstein’s point would be that all of the female characters he mentioned are either tortured, beaten or have their lives gravely threatened in the course of those films. But Tarantino believes that this simply demonstrates an equal playing field for his male and female characters, all of whom have the ability to inflict or endure violence. “Violence is hanging over every one of those characters like a cloak of night,” Tarantino told Variety in a separate interview. “So I’m not going to go, ‘OK, that’s the case for seven of the characters, but because one is a woman, I have to treat her differently.’ I’m not going to do that.”
Leigh, who is getting Oscar buzz for her vanity-free performance in “The Hateful Eight,” has also come out in defense of the film’s portrayal of Daisy. ”I feel he’s the most female-centric director around. And he writes parts for women that are just the best parts there are to be had. He’s not sexist. He doesn’t write her as some delicate victim flower. She’s a killer. She’s gutsy and her whole identity is, ‘Yeah, give me what you’ve got, it doesn’t mean anything to me. Hit me again, I don’t give a f**king sh*t.’ You know? She’s not going to show any vulnerability and that’s a tactic she is using and it tells you a lot about her childhood,” she said during a Q&A with Uproxx.
“Quentin loves people and he loves men and he loves women and he’s not – there’s just no misogyny in him. There just isn’t. And if you don’t get that from his roles, then there’s something off,” she added.
Still, while in the past, his films’ box office success and rapturous critical reception have been able to overshadow his films’ opponents, that may not be the case this time. “The Hateful Eight” performed very well in its platform release this past weekend, but it’s running time and mixed reviews may prove detrimental to its finding a broader audience. Also working against “The Hateful Eight” was a recent illegal online leak of the film via a pro-piracy group of hackers calling themselves Hive-CM8. The leaked version was reportedly downloaded 1.3 million times in a 24-hour timespan.