Why Quentin Tarantino Needs to Stop Deflecting The Violence Question

Quentin Tarantino Violence

Quentin Tarantino probably had a vastly different idea of how the months leading up to the 85th Academy Awards would transpire for him. As he began to promote Django Unchained, he no doubt expected to spend the majority of Awards Season talking about America's legacy of slavery, about his decision to portray it as unambiguously horrific, and how the peculiar institution has historically been treated in film.

That's how this awards season started, of course. At the beginning of December, Tarantino was explaining that his goal was to make audiences feel, viscerally, the brutality of slavery. Later in the month, he was making the very excellent point that the legacy of slavery continues to this day, in the form of America's massive prison complex and the war on drugs.

'Django Unchained' & The Sandy Hook Shooting
Unfortunately, just 10 days before Django Unchained premiered, the massacre in Newtown, CT happened. Making matters worse, in the weeks since Sandy Hook there have been a succession of other mass shootings.  (In fact, there was another school shooting Thursday, near Bakersfield, CA). As a result, all anyone is talking about is the influence of violent media on actual, real world violence, and unluckily for Tarantino, the conversation about slavery has been terminated and replaced with nearly constant demands to address the dubious notion that his violent films may contribute to that problem.

Perhaps that's why he's beginning to lose his shit about the issue. Now generally, Tarantino's responses to these questions have been measured; he's made the excellent case again and again that, no, his movies are not responsible for societal violence. That's changed somewhat since the beginning of the new year. Speaking to NPR on January 3, Tarantino got rather testy with Terry Gross, but that was nothing, compared to his low-temperature freak-out aimed at the U.K.'s Channel 4 news host, Krishnan Guru-Murthy.

The Question About Violence In Movies That Shut The Interview Down
“Why are you so sure there is no link between people enjoying movie violence and people enjoying real violence?,” Guru-Murthy asked, during an interview that aired last night. Tarantino's response revealed, like nothing else, that he's getting goddamned tired of talking about this. “I’m going to tell you why I’m so sure? You’re not asking me a question like that. I’m not biting. I refuse your question. I refuse your question,” he said. “I’m not your slave and you are not my master,” he continued. “You can’t make me dance to your tune. I’m not a monkey. I am saying I refuse.”

Tarantino then added, “The reason I don’t want to talk about is because I’ve said everything I have to say about it. If anyone cares what I have to say about it, they can Google me and see 20 years of what I have to say about it.” It's hard to blame Tarantino for being extremely annoyed with the whole thing. Hell, I'm annoyed with the whole thing. Django Unchained has been unfairly singled out for scorn despite hardly being unique in how violent it is, and one can't help but feel that the conversation about it has changed less because of a sudden rediscovered concern about how violent his films are, but because people would so much rather talk about something that feels nebulous, like societal violence, rather than talk about something that remains, almost 150 years after being abolished, a very taboo subject.

So it's absolutely appropriate that Tarantino rejects the premise. However, this conversation is happening whether he likes it or not, especially after Django Unchained's five Oscar nominations. And outbursts like this are going to make him an easy target for stupid people who think Americans are so impressionable that we can't watch a fictional depiction of violence without immediately running out to kill our neighbors. (Not to mention rather dishonest people who enjoy stirring up tabloid-levels of moral outrage just for fun.)

Falling back on the dodge that he's already said everything that must be said on the issue is just going to make media-concern trolls even more determined to play gotcha with him — especially when his angry outbursts contain terminology that, considering what Django Unchained is actually about, are rather... unfortunate. So if nothing is going to make the question go away, maybe the time has come for him to figure out a way to change the subject back to what it should be.

I keep waiting for someone to ask him what I think is a far more interesting question about violence in America. America has a long history of pretending half the country didn't start a war that killed nearly a million people just to keep their slaves,  The manufacturers of our popular culture also have a history of minimizing just how bad slavery actually was for the enslaved, and of course,there's also the country's unwillingness to discuss the continued disenfranchisement and oppression of the descendants of those slaves. Doesn't that, more than any film ever could, contribute to a national culture that seems terrifyingly comfortable with acts of massive public violence?

Maybe, maybe not, but since no one else is asking, maybe it's time Tarantino said it for them. It might not make the idiotic conversation stop, but it makes for a better quote than the word 'monkey.'

Ross Lincoln is a LA-based freelance writer from Oklahoma with an unhealthy obsession with comics, movies, video games, ancient history, Gore Vidal, and wine. 


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  • ILDC says:

    He should have had Itchy and Scratchy come in and behead him to better prove his point.

  • bimbo says:

    No doubt, there is connection between violence in movies and real life, because movies are watched very young people who's mentality still forming, with killing their psyho would be broken.

  • bimbo says:

    I guess here, Mr. Tarantino just defending his image and of course money. After all he make on violence big bucks. After that he would want get off the heat. What do you want from mafia back movies?

  • Rob says:

    I understand Tarantino's annoyance. Every time something like Sandy Hook or Aurora happens, people want to talk about guns, movies, videogames, music... everything but mental health. We have this conversation every time, and nothing is done. Oh, sure, we increase school security, we put parental stickers on records, and we wag our finger at films which have zero to do with the issue. But teaching boys that it's okay to be sad, lonely, scared... that anger isn't their only permissible emotion? Too complicated, and too wimpy. Doing something to really help the mentally troubled? Too expensive. Just prescribe another pill and blame Tarantino and Bushmaster rifles. Still, Ross Lincoln has a point... he COULD have phrased his tirade better.

    • ColinS says:

      Umm, you certainly can prove a direct link with a Bushmaster rifle for sure, and not violent movies, nor videogames (and what about proper parenting in the latter two?)

  • bimbo says:

    Movies are too powerful to ignore it's influence. It's naive to ghink that they don't make a difference in human's behaviour.

  • Jason says:

    He dodged this question because he's answered it 100 times over already, people already know his stance on the matter.
    As for movie violence causing real violence, I grew up watching bloody horror movies, and Quentin's films, one of the first films I saw was Blade (a violent bloody horror) and I'm a very peaceful person, I avoid violence. I know people way more violent who never got to see violent films as children.
    Likewise you cannot blame weapons for this (I'll mention this since Iv'e seen one or two people mention weapons in the comments) if you handed me a pistol I wouldn't start to shoot people because "hey Iv'e got a gun, and why not?". The people that commit these acts are mentally unstable, and are the only one's to blame.

    • bimbo says:

      I don't belive you can stake your relatives on this belives. Like I've said, movies watched by young people. You said, that you know young people who never watched violent films? That's ridiculous, you can't know this for sure, because you are not present all the time in mind of those who claimed they haven't see violent films. And if they are cruel, that's mean they are unstable, and if they unstable then you can't be sure if they said the truth about anything. Tarantino's violence is ugly like his face when he speak about it.

      • Clay says:

        Asian cultures produce the most violent films and video games, by far, yet have a much, much lower rate of violent crime and youth crime. Pull your head out and check some facts. And turn your spell checker on, for the love of God.

  • david says:

    This is one of the best articles I have read in a very long time. I thnk you have been one of the few people who have actually covered both sides of this issue and it is very much appreciated. In my opinion though,.. violence, in any form ....breeds violence...

  • Phenomenal article and one I hope QT reads. The contrived questions aren't going to go away, so the sooner this superb director finds a way to rein in his justified frustrations and articulate his reasons --- yes, one more time --- the better.

  • Maria says:

    10, 000 people watch violent movies and are not affected. Its the 10, 001 person that is affected. There have been numerous studies that have shown that prolonged exposure to violent video games desensitizes young people to violence. Why do we live in a society where our favourite pastime is watching people, (simulated) being killed violently? Its not the hollywood directors who are to blame but the American public who love their violent entertainment.

    • bimbo says:

      I agree. It's vicious circle in which millions of people and a director of film participating. But to get out of this circle who have upper hand? Millions of people who have passive voice or a director who have courage and break free from it? Many directors made decent movies, but not this one. This one is experimenting on you and what to push you in such a deep shit as he can, and then watch it.

    • bimbo says:

      More to say, those who take a gun to their hands opened herself to fullest when they go and kill people. Others much more worse after that movie they just beat their wives and children on day to
      day basis. They are hidden mosters. And they surround you without a killing you yet.

  • bimbo says:

    ...but from another point of view, QT did a awful job, he shows all kind of path of madness of human can go. He shows how bad we are.

  • John says:

    Yawn. Why are you writing this? He has voiced his opinion many times. We know where he stands. I agree with him. How many billions of people watch movies and TV? How many read novels, graphic novels, and play video games?

    Now, how many people go on killing sprees? There percentage is ridiculous. You can't just take the easy way out and blame movies or video games or music or whatever is hot this year. You need to take a serious look at the mental and political issues surrounding psychopathic behavior. We need to figure out how to spot these individuals and figure out how to help them.

    Let's get real and not scapegoat.

    • bimbo says:

      I have no idea from his words where he stands on this issue he smudged it. And if he don't speak it in clear English then there is a foul play and somebody should analyze that for self. I think guns should not to blame
      they just tools you need them in case to defend the country(2nd Amendment) and himself. The main concern should be the brain, what it sees, what it feels how it's forming bad. People waked up only after something big happens, like Perl Harbor or University or school killings. Everybody knows a man who killed 20 children, but there millions psychos who were nurtured by QT's movies and killed a man in a year, who can count this? With his movies he turned people against each other, how problems should be solved. By gun or knife but by QT philosophy it would be better it people would kill each other by hammer, becase for him it's fun. He submerge people in shit and called it controling. Do you hear him? He wants control over you.

      • the vast majority of studies - and every single one conducted without confirmation bias - show no link between violence and violent images in movies, TV and video games.

        • bimbo says:

          Did there was such violence in America before violent movies and games were on market? For example, 60s, or 70s? No,there wasn't. And what study do you refer to? Payed by Hollywood studios? I can you tell from my point of view, when I saw somebody just smashing a head by a hammer, I sometimes imagine can I do the same with somebody I don't lkie and I'm ashemed by this. Qt's movies made it looks easy and simple and this is a dangerous approach. Don't say about studies anymore, when I'm angry i recall the methods which I have saw in movies. But of course I've got enough sense to restrain myself, but I'm already formed man, what about young minds?

          • BearDogg-X says:

            Uh, yes, there was. The 1966 bell tower massacre in Austin, Texas where Charles Whitman killed his mother and his wife, then killed 13 others(and an unborn fetus; a 14th person's death in 2001 after he voluntarily ended dialysis treatment caused by a gunshot wound he received there was ruled a homicide) at the University of Texas and the 1927 Bath school disaster where Andrew Kehoe, angry over his loss in a school board election and in financial debt, used dynamite to blow up his farmland and the north wing of the elementary school, then later blowing himself up, in all, killing 38 children and 6 adults including the superintendent of schools.

            Not to mention the Zodiac Killer(60's-70s), the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker, and The Butcher of Kingsbury Run in Cleveland(1940's).

            That's if you were serious or just being a troll.

    • My apologies if the point wasn't clear. His referring to previous statements isn't making the silly questions go away, the opposite in fact. This is worsened by the fact that he's clearly (and understandably) becoming really frustrated by this. Angrily refusing to have the conversation just makes certain people assume he's conceding the point. My argument here is that since the conversation is happening whether he pitches a fit or not, he ought to just offer up a new statement and preferably one that redirects the conversation back to his film's actual themes. This would be a great opportunity, as I note above, to talk about how America's actual legacy of violence far outshines any pop culture influence on violence..

  • bimbo says:

    And I guess, that freedom of speach is great thing. And it overweight all horrors in film industry and free speach should be protected. But on other hand, the society should know in the face it's outlaws, and if I defend free speach that's mean nobody can stop me from politically killing QT movies and his so called art.
    Do you know why he was so upset? Because he don't like to be shown in newspapers as a bad guy. But if that would be proved, that would be much difficult to produce movies like that and such directors would be renege which would stop other directors to fill screens with shit like QT made.

  • bimbo says:

    look at this research:
    The whole qt's charade should be shut down.

  • bimbo says:

    Imagine the World without violence in movies. There wouldn't be any blueprints how to kill other people.
    In that case it would be quite problematic to devise one.

  • fprex scam says:

    Fuck you all Forex bustard

  • AJ says:

    How much blowback did the fictionalized portrayal of WW2 did Saving Private Ryan get for its violence, and why aren't we still talking about that film with regard to the level of violence?

    Why single out Django Unchained for its fictionalized portrayal of the violence surrounding the ownership of people?

    I watched both films and I believe the violence/actions to be not only plausible, but probable. While I didn't really like Django as a film, I can respect that violence is likely accurate to the day.

  • Chaim Paddaman says:

    Tarantino is a monkey. He is Harvey Weinstein's Monkey. He will dance, when Harvey tells him to.
    He is a meek and mild pussycat, he must grow some balls. He has never won a fight in his live.

  • Chuck says:

    The school shooting was just a blip on our cultural radar. It doesn't have a goddamned thing to do with Tarantino, or guns, or any other matter of substance.

  • Jeff says:

    "Desensitized young people to violence"? At what point are we going to give up this fantasy that the world used to be a happy and violence-free nirvana until evil video games and movies came along and inured us all against violence? Give me a break.

    By the way, the NRA keeps getting the argument wrong. Gun-control proponents aren't arguing that guns make people want to kill other people. A psycho is a psycho. But a psycho with a knife - or even a sword - can kill only so many people before they can get away from his blade or his arms get tired. But a psycho with a gun can slaughter job lots. Guns make it EASIER to kill lots of people.

  • anon says:

    so how come we dont see news media as a culprit especialy when people like the "joker" as well as charles mansion were directly trying to get media coverage by doing what they were doing in an age where the news media sensionalizes and gives attention to anything and everyone negative including world dictators like kim il jong.

  • mgyin says:

    Once Hollywood movies were pure escapism like Steven Spilberg's movies.But some are imitating Hong Kong action movies with multiple death bodies spilling gallons of blood.Violence movies might lead to shootings without the cause .Gun -control may need also violence movie-control.Human lives should not be destroyed for the sake of Hollywood-Mogul's profit.

  • tracemurray says:

    The question isn't really about violence...it's about the glorification of sociopathy and evil. Remember the Aurora massacre happened at a midnight screen of a CHRIS NOLAN movie. Not a Tarantino one. It's about context. Movies that espouse the futility of hope and emphasize the fun of evil (like Chris Nolan's Joker character) are part of the problem, not so much violence in general.

  • bimbo says:

    Violence - the kind you see on television - is not honestly violent - there lies its harm.

  • bimbo says:

    Seems Tarantino nurtured those bastard killers. Can you imagine for whom he prepares those mass killers?