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Kill Bill: Role Model in Feminism

Updated on April 25, 2016
Kill Bill Movie Poster
Kill Bill Movie Poster | Source

Kill Bill: Feminism Depiction

Kill Bill is a film that depicts the story of a woman getting revenge on a former lover and his group of assassins for wronging her on the day of her wedding rehearsal. As the protagonist pursues her journey to locate Bill, her ex-lover, she is found fighting numerous obstacles that would deteriorate the fatigue of any average person. Numerous viewers of the film find her character to be entertaining, but nothing more than what a normal protagonist would bring to the world. After the movie’s release, the director, Quentin Tarantino, described the movie as a “feminist statement” in a following interview. In the movie, Kill Bill, supporting feminism statements are given to illustrate Uma Thurman’s character, “The Bride,” as a defining role for cinema’s new take on what women are capable of when performing a challenging task. Through her actions, The Bride is a role model to today’s women, which is shown through her willpower, bravery, and independency.

Before analyzing the depiction of the character, the backstory can offer viewers a better idea of her personality and values. The Bride is a character that was given her name based off her first cinematic appearance to the audience. According to the behind the scenes video for the movie, Quentin Tarantino states Uma said to him, “Quentin, what if the first time we see the Bride, she is beaten up, blood all over her face, but when we see her, she is wearing a bridal gown.” Apart of the Deadly Viper Assassination, she is the only one to leave the group in order to build a normal life for herself, because her morality changed when perceiving murder to be an incorrect solution to a problem. Being recalled as the deadliest woman in the world by Bill, it served as a great loss to the contribution of their association. From her sudden departure, the posse hunts down The Bride, also known as Beatrix Kiddo, in order to exact revenge upon her for leaving the group.

Beatrix asserts her strength of willpower through her constantly forming mentality and physical appearance. Although the following scenes take place at the beginning of the movie, viewers can identify strong points of our protagonists’ best skills. At the beginning of the film we find the character on the floor, seen as being submissive to a superior being, having the audience believe she had no strength to fight back. In the following scene, the film transfers into the scene of her fight scene with Vivica A. Fox’s character “Vernita Green.” Her physical strength is shown to the audience in this scene, indicating that she must have been overtaken by a superior of more experience in the art of martial arts when we first saw the Bride character. The physical strength in this scene is accompanied by her mental strength in the next two scenes by witnessing the Bride awaking from her coma to find that her child was murdered when she was shot at her wedding. At this moment, realistically, most women would stereotypically try to move on with their life in order to forget the past, but she chooses to avenge the death of her daughter and to redeem her dignity. At the end of the two-movie series the audience can piece together the chronological order of events that occur within the movie, and from this it can be shown that she grows from a weak, fragile girl to a deadly assassin whose strength can outweigh those of the average female persona.

Although her opponents are equally matched to her skill level of fighting, the Bride differs in strength due to her endurance while learning the skills of martial arts and how she was taught due to her master being Gordon Liu’s character, Pai Mei. Oren Ishii, played by Lucy Liu was born on a military base where she grew up witnessing death first hand starting at the age of 9. According to Beatrix, “By age 20, she was one of the top female assassins in the world.” From this moment on, her strengths were shown through her dark past, but her weakness is her ability to underestimate her opponent. It is from her cockiness, which leads her to her first injury during her fight with Beatrix at the end of the first movie. Not expecting her skills to be so exceptional, she if found scalped within just a few minutes of the fight. Though, being cocky and prepared is a match that may be beaten, it was no doubt that being cocky and unprepared would lead to an imminent death. Michael Madson was guilty of this fault, because in the second movie we find him peacefully waiting for her arrival only he had no experience with a katana no more, and was rather more versed in the western style of weaponry, conforming to the use of guns. It was not the weakness of confronting Beatrix which would serve as his fault, because he is the only one who was able to defeat her, by burying her alive. He was at fault when another co-assassin was knocking on the door with a million dollars in cash in exchange for Beatrix’s katana that he stole from her when he buried her. It was at this time we see his weakness for greed, because within the briefcase of money laid a Black Mamba snake (which was a reference to Beatrix) that bites him in the face, killing him without a second to retaliate. Vernita Green’s skills with an edged weapon were no doubt her specialization as within the first scenes we see the knife fight between her and Beatrix. It is clear that although she moved on with her life as an assassin, it was always going to apart of her many skills in life. The present weakness is that she developed compassion for others by having a family life following her darker past. This fault led her to beg Beatrix to empathize for her new found family, which she did not care for, therefore, killed her in spite of her new life reasons.

The Bride also shows great bravery on her journey to find Bill. Many women are stereotyped to be fragile and hesitant when seen by a higher power, but when Beatrix wakes up in the hospital she does not take “no” for an answer, and according to Uma Thurman in an exclusive interview she states, “she comes back from the dead in a way, with nothing left to live for, but to sort of redeem her honor, and die having done that in some way.” From the perspective of the actress, she also notices that this character she played craves vengeance for her daughter. It can be daunting to have to face a former lover and have to destroy a person you once shared a life with for many years, but also in addition to this conflict, she faces four other previous companions who she knows are all deadly weapons of the human body, but stays persistent throughout her entire journey without a scene with doubt. Although the argument has been made that since no appearance of doubt was shown, then it must make her a “killing machine,” but there are present emotional scenes in the movie such as the hospital scene which display our character with great despair for the loss of her child. Uma describes her situational emotion as if she was “heartbroken,” and it is important to note that because heartbroken is a relatable feeling to an audience that knows when you become heartbroken, you feel sad at first, but then immediately you either shut down or get angry for the probable cause behind that emotion. As Uma Thurman states in her interview, “She is a life-giver not a life-taker.” This is the reason why we only see her break down her wall in a few scenes in the movie, it is because she is angry at Bill for what he did to her, but also the determination and vengeance she carried with her, caused an even greater boldness in her facial expressions which showed she had her eyes set on only one thing, and that was to kill Bill. It is incorrect to refer to her as a monster or killing machine, because both scenarios call for a responsive mechanism that has no possibility of obtaining emotion, and there is a deeper emotional feeling that we get from these actions, even though they are not displayed through ordinary relief.

The bravery of the deadly viper assassination squad was presented, but it was only boldness they displayed and not bravery, because all other main characters stood their ground, which is an underlying characteristic that helps define bravery, but they also needed to face a difficult challenge in order to gain that bravery. They were shown as cowards for they fought her at the wedding when she was least prepared, giving them an advantage over her, and also at each encounter they tried to manipulate the scene into becoming an advantage for them by eliciting a misguided direction that would lead Beatrix at a fault from this unknown information. Vernita used a gun that was hidden inside a cereal box, while Elle Driver wanted to kill her in her sleep at the hospital. Oren had countless bodyguards fight her in her own cowardice situation, while Budd used a shotgun to disable her ability for movement and followed it with a sedation in order to confirm her stillness. Lastly, Bill held her at gunpoint as well to disarm her of her own decisions.

The last reason she deserves to be a role model is for her independency. In addition to having to deal with the many conflicts listed previously, it may be overlooked that besides the help of Hattori Hanzo making her a sword, she took down a gang of five deadly assassins all on her own. When she is buried alive, we see her break out of the coffin with her one-inch punch move that allows her to escape to freedom, but even before this happens the only assistance she was given was the flashlight to see how she was positioned in the coffin. Not many people can break out of a coffin on their own and also do it when they are many feet underground, tied-up with only a knife in the bottom of their shoe. Her independency is apparent from her escape from the hospital, because she had to kill two men while she had a disabled body, and had to hide herself from the rest of the staff in order to make it to the parking lot. Imagining a person crawling through the hospital after being in a hospital bed for four years has to raise attention, which means it was very difficult to get out of there on her own. When analyzed on the surface, Beatrix is seen as an unstoppable woman, but I would like to remind the viewers of the surface beneath her armor which is that throughout this entire movie, she is dealing with the loss of her child with no help from any family, and it must be tough to go to sleep at night knowing that you carried a baby for months on end only to never witness their existence.

Many viewers ask if the feeling of the movie would change if the main role was played by a male lead, and the entire reason behind this film is to show the power of women, which is why it would have never worked. Giving a female, common male characteristics can infer the strength one can build from one emotional distress situation. The Bride is not shown with a bodybuilder figure which also infers that most of her power came from mental concentration. If the protagonist was male, this movie would lose many of its main values as an empowerment to women, because now it became a movie about action and not emotion. Viewers observe the movie and react with what is shown on the surface, but if they look underneath it, they will recognize the feelings only a mother would have to losing their child, especially to a man they once loved. It would have a negative effect on the movie, because if a male lead was killing the assassination squad, it would infer that the female leads were still inferior to a higher being.

The general public view Uma Thurman’s character as a bad role model due to her role as a “killing machine,” and that it is promoting violence among young women in order to achieve a goal. This is not the case when considering The Bride, because as mentioned before, a machine does not have feelings and in addition she does not follow orders the same way a robot would. The violence would not have been excessive if the amount of rivals was reduced. It was imminent that a leader of a major global city would have an army protecting her life, and therefore, she was going to have to defeat them if she was going to get vengeance.

The violence in the movie was considered to be too excessive in terms of relations to comparisons between other action movies, but when described as being part of an artistic form, it can be seen as expressing her anger. Although many may find humor behind that concept, that the excessive violence was admissible, it did add the effect of how much bloodshed would have to be drawn in order to for her to avenge her daughter’s death, and many question the realistic approach behind why there would be so much. Violence is used mainly for entertainment purposes, even Tarantino claims in an interview with Jan the reporter, “It empowers women by the fact that Uma Thurman is a female warrior; she is a female avenger.” Following this he states, “These women kick ass, they are warriors, and they live by a code of honor, and they die by that code of honor too.” It is important to note that the director felt strongly to use the violence as a way to emphasize her power as a female gender. To repeat, he felt that this movie should serve as a “feminist statement,” which is why the underlying supporting details listed are not merely just expressions of my own analysis, but rather the director hoped to impose this view onto his audience. It is important to display the excessive violence in order to show her strength and her facial reactions to these deaths, because her body looks weak, but when put next to the deaths by the sword, she seems unstoppable. In addition, her facial reactions during the bloodshed show no mercy, because she felt many of the people she harmed deserved to be given that treatment if they were to stand with the decision of protecting those who would kill an innocent child. Violence gives support to a female lead to show that she fights against the stereotype that she is weak and submissive to others who may visually show a more threatening appearance than a beautiful person. It is noted in the movie how one leader, Oren, sees her to be “a silly Caucasian girl that likes to play with samurai swords.” This perception is exactly what she was fighting against when dealing with her competitors, because before she came at them with full force, they believed she was a puppet that they could control due to her lack of ability.

The reason to look at this character specifically in terms of empowerment for women versus the other three female leads is because of her obvious role as a protagonist, but also because the others show weakness where The Bride shows strengths. The villainous characters show weakness to their cockiness, lack of control, and decision-making. When they are faced with a challenge, they are the kind of people to go head first without thinking of an outcome where they might lose, and also obtain a lack of control when they are choosing to follow orders by Bill since they are coincidentally his puppets. Lastly, their overall decision-making as a whole may not serve as a great reputable source for defending their honor, because the first decision we witness committed by all of them, is the beating of a bride the day before her wedding. Although many actions are followed by the beginning choice which incites the revenge story for The Bride, it is the main scene in which can be argued against their decision-making skills.

The motivating urges of Life and Sex are both roles that play in when considering The Bride as a role model. The motivating urge of self-preservation and life offer the idea that she fights for herself and is redeeming her honor by choosing to fight back. After awaking from a four-year coma, it can be inferred that she felt she was given a second chance at redemption for how she was treated, therefore, feeling obligated to hunt down those who wronged her. The other motivating urge of Sex lies within the death of her daughter, which ignites confidence within her to fight for not only herself anymore, but also to be an avenger. Not only does the sex urge relate to her daughter, but also to Bill, her ex-lover, because the anger was given due to an unforgettable action undone by him, which causes her to begin her journey. It can be arguable that the worship urge also plays a part in inciting the revenge story, because she may be hesitating in that moment when she suddenly awakens and contemplates where to go from there. She chose that violence, and vengeance would be the proper answer for this certain situation, and although she had a past of countless assassinations, we can tell by her visitation to the hotel to kill the Asian bodyguard, Karen Kim, that Bill might have sent her on assassinations for only people who may have deserved them.

Having Uma Thurman play this role versus another female actress is significant in part of her involvement and determination to give the character the most appealing performance that she could be given. Tarantino stated that “he couldn’t make a movie with anyone else,” which may be due to their close relationship after Pulp Fiction, but also because she helped build the character of The Bride. Julie Dreyfus claimed “she had to master Japanese swords and Japanese language, she is superwoman.” Comparing Uma Thurman to superwoman conveys the idea that she may serve as a role model to the public for her general practices and principles for her performance in the movie, which may have given the effect of passive assertion of role model characteristics through her performance. To touch on her perspective of the movie’s goal, Thurman states “it’s about justice and redemption,” and states that “she goes about it in an honorable way.”

Tarantino also offers another feministic view in Kill Bill when filming the rape scene which takes place in the hospital bed. He depicts these male characters as pigs, and gives the idea of how some people may treat others like based upon their past experiences. Aideen Johnston also comments and says, “When discussing the rape scene, Kill Bill provides a very welcome alternative. It is literally filmed from the Bride’s perspective, and Tarantino constantly reminds us how disgusting these men are.” If he was not offering a specific view on the movie, then he would have filmed the scene in a lateral sense where as if we the viewers were just observant of this action versus trying to give us an opinion as to what we should think when approaching this topic.

The character costume design speaks to the film on the sense of how the feminism approach appears visible when viewing how each female character is dressed. Each character is fully clothed and according to Aideen Johnston, “the film significantly downplays the role of women as decorative objects.” The costume Oren-Ishii wears is one of a cloth kimono that serves as a formal attire in Japanese culture, whereas Uma Thurman fights in a yellow jumpsuit with black stripes which mimics the costume of Bruce Lee in a former movie of his own. The only questionable outfit would be Chiaki Kuriyama’s outfit which depicts a schoolgirl’s uniform, but it may be in part because of her age in the underground Tokyo Yakuza scene.

The makeup for the protagonist of Kill Bill is greatly appreciated because it is highly underused. In many cinema movies, it is known that many directors will show stress upon the woman in order to convey the emotion, but will restrain her to a limit in order to keep the beautiful essence around her to stay more feminine. Tarantino chose the opening scene to make Uma Thurman look disgusted with blood all over her face and drowned in her mouth in order to show that he was ready for a brutal fight movie with his favorite actress. A notable scene that uses this concept is in the hospital bed when Uma Thurman awakens, because we see her covered in sweat from her dream and is screaming at the top of her lungs as if her pores were going to pop out of her face. Johnston states, “I fully applaud the fact that the character doesn’t suppress her emotions by worrying about her appearance, and would like to see more of this in cinema.”

When asked why this movie would give women confidence, it is because Uma Thurman strikes down the stereotype of a fragile, submissive, worrisome, female and instead is treated as a samurai warrior with full determination throughout the movie, shedding blood in her path until she reaches her goal of avenging her daughter. This movie should give women confidence from being able to stand for themselves in difficult situations, and in substitute of using violence like Uma does, they can use verbal language or significant actions that would alter their bad situation. It should also give confidence as to the fact that they should be who they are, and that if they do not accept the fact, then they will be chasing who they are as a person along their own journey. Johnston also states, “Seeing so many physically strong women on-screen has got to be a good thing. Moreover, it left me feeling empowered, even though I have muscles of jelly and could never in reality execute feats of such agility. Nevertheless, I came out of the cinema wanting to take Kung Fu lessons (or at least go to the gym more often).” This quote is important to ponder because a female author felt the empowerment that was in hopes going to be given to the female perspective after watching the movie. Women on-screen are more prominent nowadays versus in the 1900s, but even now the characterizations behind these roles seem to be still giving females stereotypical roles for the most part, whereas Tarantino tries to give a more realistic approach to the equality of both men and women in cinema. She follows up with an argument as to, “If Tarantino is going to make a film about strong women, why is it so unrealistic?” The movie is set in a realistic time and the characters and their emotions are realistic, but only the sense of environment and morality are surrealistic in the film. The main character and supporting actors still express realistic approaches to pain and action sequences, but the involvement of what is right and wrong is probably the only surrealistic approach to the movie. In addition, if he wanted the movie to seem surrealistic, then he is still known to giving strong female roles to lead actresses such as in his previous 3rd movie Jackie Brown, where Pam Grier is a strong independent woman who pulls off a heist and making at least half a million dollars at the end of the movie.

In the movie Kill Bill, Uma Thurman’s character, Beatrix Kiddo a.k.a. The Bride, is a role model for today’s women through her mental and physical willpower, bravery, and independency to conquer her quest to kill Bill. Feministic approachs help serve as to why she is an important role model for women who have conflicting issues in their life that they would like to change for the better, and Tarantino tries to define his “visionary” movie Kill Bill as a “feminist statement” in order for young women to feel empowered from these strong female warriors that do not take no for an answer.

Picture of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad
Picture of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad | Source

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