Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tarantino's Anti-Semitic Inglorious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino’s new film, Inglorious Basterds, has been hailed for helping to improve the image of Jews. Instead of being victims, they are for once, the spin is, portrayed as tough. This is the hype. An argument can be made, however, that this film could be seen as an extended anti-Semitic allegory.

The Jews in the Inglorious Basterds are not tough. Brad Pitt has a macho attitude he charmingly spreads throughout the film. But he is not portrayed as a Jewish character. In fact, his nickname is ‘Aldo the Apache.’ He recruits Jews to kill NAZIs. But he himself is not one. The other big killer got broken out of prison. His being Jewish is never established.

The Jewish soldiers are overwhelmingly silent. When being interrogated by the German Colonel Landa, in one of the final scenes, the Jewish character who is captured with Raine sheepishly repeats Raine’s answer rather than formulate and assert his own. Landa then mocks the Jew by letting him know that his nickname among the Germans is ‘The Little Man.’ Sitting next to the defiant, macho, southern Raine and across from the NAZI that captured them, this Jewish character’s masculinity is belittled.

In another scene we are to meet the feared ‘The Bear Jew.’ He is the Jew that the NAZI’s most fear because he beats them to death with a club. We hear his hear his club hitting the walls in a dark tunnel as he slowly comes out to kill an SS officer. When finally emerges, rather than a club he has a baseball bat. After killing the German, he parades around yelling about baseball and hitting one out of the park. He is just a stereotype of an innocent Jewish kid from Brooklyn. The feared Jew is deflated.

The only real Jewish NAZI killer is Shoshana Dreyfus. If one were looking for a vindication of Jewish masculinity, it is interesting to note that the main tough guy is a Jewish woman. The Jewish men who simultaneously kill with her are stock comic figures oafishly pretending to be Italians. Shoshana is the only consistently tough Jewish killer. Showing the Jewish woman as powerful hardly boosts the image of assertive Jewish men.

But Tarantino’s heaviest dose of anti-Semitism comes in the film’s climax. Soshana kills the NAZI high command by burning them to death in the movie theater she owns. While they burn, her face appears on a screen saying, “This is the face of Jewish vengeance.” Since Shoshana made the film, it is projected on the face of the screen, and the screen speaks for her, anti-Semites could interpret this line to mean, “film is the face of Jewish vengeance.” These anti-Semites could easily understand this as an allegory for Jewish control of the media.

For this film to be a parable about Jews and America, the Germans would need to be seen as stand-ins for Americans. The NAZIs in this film make several nasty racist slurs against black people. Since Germans of that time and place had little contact with black people, you would typically attribute such racist anti-black remarks to Americans. Subconsciously, putting American attitudes in NAZI mouths could convince the audience that the NAZIs are stand-ins for white America.

Shoshana angrily and resentfully rejects the love advances of a German (read white) soldier for being a part of the State. Her only real love interest is with her black employee, Marcel. This is offensive to the NAZI power structure and would have, at the time, challenged America’s mores too. Their love appears wholly noble. But Tarantino’s work inviting so much theoretical interpretation causes us to ask, “What is the symbolism?” “What drove Tarantino to make the love interest and co-conspirator black?” Was this, again, an attempt to compare America and NAZI Germany? Unfortunately, the Jewish – Black alliance against the power structure could lend credence to anti-Semetic interpretations.

Shoshana’s passion with Marcel finally erupts in the projection booth just as the couple is about to destroy the racist hierarchy. Thus their transgressive love is nearly projected. In fact, when her vengeance is enacted, they stand on opposite sides of that screen and communicate with each other via a bell. Shoshana stops the NAZI film entitled ‘Nation’s Pride” and projects her vengeful film in its place. Simultaneously Marcel, behind the screen, starts the fire by igniting a large pile of film. Thus anti-Semites could easily see the film as an allegory of Jews destroying the Nation via Jewish the use of white guilt, control of the media, and advocacy of multiculturalism.

My reading of this film may see symbols where none were intended. It is probably not significant that the film that plays while the NAZI hierarchy burns is black and white. But Tarantino is nothing if not a self-reflective auteur. The film’s focus on Goebbels’ use of film to bolster the nation inevitably raises questions about film’s ability to destroy the nation. In a film that has been billed as a Jewish empowerment film, some anti-Semites will notice that the vast majority of the Jewish vengeance happens in a cinema. As one famously obsessed with film theory, Tarantino should have anticipated this potential anti-Semitic interpretation.


Joy Reed said...

Tarentino is very twisted, but that is what makes him famous.

Culturist John said...

True that. A twisted genius.

Anonymous said...

Are you crazy ?! this article is a JOKE! Don't you have anything else to do in your life ????

Damien said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Damien said...

Culturist John,

Sorry, I hate to be rude, but I sent you an email, with an article and I didn't get a response. So I don't know if you received it.

Anonymous said...

You find anti smitism , even in a
pro jewish film. What about the
great performances by german actors
in a film, that is,a definitely a very
uncomfortable subject for them.

Lexcen said...

John, I thought that as a culturist, you would explain to anonymous that movies are part of our culture and influence our opinions and perceptions on issues.War movies have had a considerable influence on our perceptions of war whether it is the stereotype of the evil Germans of WWII or the perception of Vietnamese in Apocalypse Now. Movies have the power to shape our perceptions and opinions of our society. For example, if you studied western culture only through movies, you would think that people are jumping in bed with each other and are extremely promiscuous. That might or might not be true but the movies do create that perception. If it is true then how much of our behavior has been shaped by what we see at the movies? In this sense, analyzing movies is indeed worthy of a culturist's attention.

Anonymous said...

I do think that this movie 'Inglorious Basterds' is Anti Semitic. I am not Jewish but grew up in a Jewish neighbourhood.

I would add to everything that has been said the following: Why depict the Jewish as having had a role in mindless aggression and senseless random violence against Germans?

This in fact and in reality is a reversal of the true roles. The Germans victimised the Jews in Cordoning them off in Ghettos and Concentration Camps to extract anything of worth from them before killing them like cattle.

Nothing was too bad for Jews and it is well understood how brutal and evil the treatment they faced was. Such treatment is in stark contrast to the response offered by the Jews which was not at all violent.

By re-writing history to a new generation of younger viewers not as familiar with the true facts of history, the idea portrayed is that Jews had sunk to the level of Nazis and hence are equally despicable.

The historical fact is that nothing is further from the truth.

Also why call them 'Basterds' when the correct spelling is Bastards with an 'a'. Everyone should know that the word 'terd' is an espcially nasty insult--addressed as the nomenclature of a group of people who are supposedly the heros of the film.It could be argued that this is what the Germans call them. But then Bastards would be more natural and appropriate as Germans would certainly not understand the nuance of 'terds' and so this is clearly aimed at the English speaking audience, rather than any possible name allegedly given to the group by German soldiers.

And why the lengthy sermon at the outset about the 'rat' and how one instinctively hates and fears a rat.--it is a bite sized piece of racism that may be found in a racists 'starter pack'--such as in a Hitler youth book of induction.

This all combined--especially in scenes such as when a new born German boy Maximillian is orphaned with apparent total lack of concern, or indeed how the SS officer refuses to give up information which would lead to the death of his comrades makes the audience feel sympathy for Nazis.

The Media symobilsm is so blatant as to not even deserve explanation.

If that isn't anti semitic, I am not sure what more symbolism is needed.

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Haven't seen it.

Is it worth the money in order to make a credible examination and evaluation?


Culturist John said...


All Quentin Tarantino films are worth watching. But they are not to simply be seen for their political content; their dialogue, film history content and fun are reasons to watch them. Check out "reservoir dogs" or "Kill Bill Vol. 2" And, if you enjoy Inglorious basterds any more because we have added a question about political implications, I shall be glad.

Enjoy! John

Ducky's here said...

It's not surprising that Tarantino strongest character is a women. Quentin clearly has a very limp unit and has feared women in all of his films except "Reservoir Dogs" which had none in the cast.

That said, it's unfortunate that a vulgar no talent clown like Tarantino is given this much attention.

He may have been trying for a comedy in the tradition of "To Be or Not To Be", "Stalag 17", "Closely Watched Trains" and others but he doesn't have the skill for that kind of film making.

Anyway, to get an idea of the carnage of the war you need to get away from American films and look at the Russians. Try Klimov's "Come and See" or the magnificent "The Ascent" by Lasisa Shepitko.

If you want to gain a perspective on culture through film you have to look at several cultures. Right now the post modern crap of a douche like Tarantino gives you an idea where western culture is heading.

Anonymous said...

I just saw the movie.. I came out and first I liked it. But it made me thinking about it. Our society makes anti-Nazis a good thing. There is no doubt that what the Nazis have done was bad, but does it allow us to glamorize scenes where people (Nazis) have been exterminated? I mean our society trivialize the fact that 70 years after the 2nd world war we have conditions in Palestine who are also not human. But of course it was a welcomed opportunity for the weinstein brothers (Jews) to celebrate power, lobbying etc. I am a big fan of tarantino movies and always will but I can differ between a nonsense action movie and a political message. I am sure most of the people can't. Basta

prashant said...

True that. A twisted genius.

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