Maybe The Reason Tarantino Shut KGM's Butt Down Was Because He's Been Asked The Same Question For 20 Years

Watch Tarantino say no again and again and again when asked about the relationship between film and real life violence.

"It's like asking Judd Apatow 'why do you like making comedies?'", Tarantino said yesterday when Channel 4's Krishnan Guru-Murthy asked him why he likes making violent movies.

In the clip, which has been widely tweeted, Guru-Murthy then pushes Tarantino to say why he is so sure there is no link between screen and real-life violence. 

Tarantino refuses to answer, saying: "I'm not going to bite, I'm not going to take your bait. I refuse your question." KGM pushes him further, and Tarantino responds by pointing out that he's been asked that question for twenty years, and he is tired of it.

You can see why he might be getting a bit fed up with rehashing the same questions over and over again.

When Jay Leno asked him about movie violence and gun violence, Tarantino argued it was "disrespectful" to the victims to equate the two:

CNN named Django Unchained as one of eleven violent movies released in the run-up to Christmas – "the day we celebrate Christ's birth" – and pushed Tarantino to quote Shakespeare:

When he was asked by NPR's Terry Gross whether Sandy Hook had caused Tarantino to "lose his taste" for cinematic violence, the director lost his patience again:

GROSS: You sound annoyed that I'm...

TARANTINO: Yeah, I am.

GROSS: I know you've been asked this a lot.

TARANTINO: Yeah, I'm really annoyed. I think it's disrespectful. I think it's disrespectful to their memory, actually.

GROSS: With whose memory?

TARANTINO: The memory of the people who died to talk about movies. I think it's totally disrespectful to their memory. Obviously, the issue

is gun control and mental health.

And at a press junket last year, the BBC reports:

"I just think you know there's violence in the world, tragedies happen, blame the playmakers," he said, adding: "It's a western. Give me a break."

In 2003, on Kill Bill:

The director defended the film against accusations of graphic violence, saying it was so outlandish and bloody that it was obviously set in "fantasy land".

"This is definitely not taking place on planet Earth," he said.

And way back in 1992:

"I love violence in movies," he told the 1992 Montreal World Film Festival, "and if you don't, it's like you don't like tap-dancing, or slapstick, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be shown."

…"I can't worry about [real life violence]," said Tarantino - honestly, if callously. "As an artist, violence is part of my talent. If I start thinking about society, or what one person is doing to someone else, then I have on handcuffs."

Of course, being asked the same question a lot isn't really a reason to be sympathetic with Tarantino – he certainly isn't as upset with being asked softball questions repeatedly – but when it's one as inane as "does cinematic violence cause real violence", I can see why he gets annoyed.

Incidentally, in the short- and medium-run, violent movies reduce violent crime. The reason, according to a 2009 paper in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, is that individuals with a prior propensity to violence tend to disproportionately enjoy violent movies. As a result, when a violent movie is released, they go and see it, instead of going out and doing violent things. That has the effect of reducing violent crime by 1000 assaults US-wide over the opening weekend.

So actually, Tarantino might have saved someone's life by making Django Unchained.

Quentin Tarantino. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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The amazing lawnmower man

How ex-bank manager Clive Gravett became obsessed with Edwin Beard Budding, the inventor of the lawnmower.

It’s midday in the Museum of Gardening. Clive Gravett, the founder, curator and owner of most of the exhibits here, is pondering a relatively unimportant item in his collection: a glass tube, about a foot long. “Blown glass,” says Gravett, leaning in close, “so it’s probably early Victorian.” This, he explains to a curious visitor, is the work of George Stephenson, the “father of railways” and inventor of an early miner’s safety lamp. It’s a device for straightening cucumbers.

Stephenson’s triumphs are listed on a plaque nearby, but this museum, located in a corner of a garden centre in Hassocks, West Sussex, is one of few places on Earth where a luminary of Stephenson’s stature must stand in the shadow of a more exceptional figure. The Museum of Gardening is a shrine to Gravett’s hero Edwin Beard Budding, who in 1830 made one of the great intellectual leaps of the 19th century. He invented the lawnmower.

Budding was one of those bright-eyed tinkerers so common in the 1800s – a “machinist”, according to his epitaph. Legend has it that he was sitting one day at a cloth-cutting apparatus, watching a bladed cylinder travel over wool and cleanly remove the nap. He glanced out of the window to where men were working a lawn with scythes, and had a sudden moment of inspiration. Surely this cutting cylinder could be used just as easily on grass as on cloth?

In that instant, the lawnmower was born. “And it’s barely changed to this day,” explains Gravett, a sinewy man in his early sixties with icy blue eyes that thaw when he gets excited. “Compare it to the fine-turf mowers of today. It’s the same thing. You have a roller, a cutting cylinder, and a drive. That’s his design.”

Gravett was destined to fall for Budding. The son of farm labourers, he wanted to follow his father into horticulture. “I planned to stay on the farm but my mother said, ‘You don’t want to end up like us, living on tithed property.’ She gave me a bit of a push.” Instead, he went into banking and – smart, energetic and blessed with an unforced quirkiness – rose to be branch manager.

“Thirty-five years later I was very disillusioned,” he says. “I’d seen a lot of colleagues waylaid by stress, and I thought: ‘No, you’re not going to do that to me.’ We got our branch to the top of the list and I resigned, and accused [then RBS chief executive] Fred Goodwin of corporate bullying in my resignation letter.”

He then started up a small horticultural business. It was while tending the gardens of a retired solicitor in Ditchling that he discovered four old mowers in the garage. “He said he wanted to dump them,” Gravett remembers. “I took them away, found there was an old lawnmower club, and it went from there.”

Gravett is cagey about how many lawnmowers he owns, but it’s somewhere around a hundred. That’s not many, he suggests, given that antique lawnmowers are hardly pricey. It might seem excessive, though, given that there’s no lawn on his property. Many of his mowers reside at the museum. They are huge and bulky and strangely insectoid in the 19th century, with motors coming in about 1904, and then the weight drops away until the Flymo arrives in the 1960s – a gorgeous piece of domestic futurism, more manta ray than machine. “A lot of collectors are quite funny about Flymos,” he observes.

Gravett loves to talk about the magic of restoring a lawnmower. “Some Ransomes mowers can be difficult to date,” he says, “until you strip the cutting blade back to the metal and see 1907 or 1911, and you’re the first person to see that since it was put together.” His real passion, however, is research. It’s the research that brought him to Budding.

Born in 1796, the illegitimate son of a farmer (“his mother was probably the housemaid”), Budding was a clever child, training in carpentry and then engineering. As well as the lawnmower, he designed an early pepper-box pistol, and in the 1840s, a few years before his death, he invented the screw-adjustable spanner. None of these made him much money: they arrived too early. His lawnmower was so ahead of its time that he had to test it at night – “possibly because of prying eyes”, Gravett says, laughing, “but possibly because people would think he was stupid”.

Today, Gravett remembers Budding though his museum and charity, the Budding Foundation, which supports young people across education, training and sport. He is still looking out for lawnmowers, and urges everybody he meets to check their shed for forgotten treasure.

There is one machine he doesn’t have in his collection: a Budding. “Nobody has a Budding,” he sighs. “He probably made a few thousand, but the wars gobbled up scrap metal. Even so, I like to think one might be found.”

But Gravett managed to get close to his hero a few years ago when he took a trip to Dursley in Gloucestershire, where Budding is buried. “Nobody had written about his grave, so I decided to find it. I researched the churchyard, and the council provided me with a map to the plots.” The border fence had been moved twenty years earlier after six graves were taken away. When he found Budding’s plot, it was right up against the new fence. “We’re lucky we didn’t lose him.”

The grave, like Budding’s legacy, showed signs of neglect. It was overgrown and covered with brambles. Gravett lights up at the memory. “I cleared all the brambles off, and then, since I happened to have a 100-year-old lawnmower in the back of the truck, I hefted it over the fence.

“I mowed as close as I could to his resting place.” 

This article first appeared in the 05 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Divided Britain