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.

Photo: LYNSEY ADDARIO
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What Happened reveals Hillary Clinton as a smart thinker – unlike the man who beat her

Those asking why she blames everyone but herself for Donald Trump clearly haven't read the book.

Hillary Clinton is smug, entitled, dislikeable, hawkish, boring. She was unable to beat a terrible Republican presidential candidate. Why doesn’t she just shut up and sod off? Bernie would have won, you know. Sexism? There’s no sexism in opposing someone who left Libya a mess and voted for the Iraq War. Also, she had slaves.

This is a small sample of the reactions I’ve had since tweeting that I was reading Clinton’s memoir of the 2016 campaign. This is one of those books that comes enveloped in a raincloud of received opinion. We knew the right hated Clinton – they’ve spent three decades furious that she wanted to keep her maiden name and trying to implicate her in a murder, without ever quite deciding which of those two crimes was worse. But the populist candidacy of Bernie Sanders provoked a wave of backlash from the left, too. You now find people who would happily go to sleep in a nest made out of copies of Manufacturing Consent mouthing hoary Fox News talking points against her.

One of the recurrent strains of left-wing criticism is that Clinton should apologise for losing to Trump – or perhaps even for thinking that she could beat him in the first place. Why does she blame everyone but herself?

Perhaps these people haven’t read the book, because it’s full of admissions of error. Using a private email server was a “boneheaded mistake”; there was a “fundamental mismatch” between her managerial approach to politics and the mood of the country; giving speeches to Wall Street is “on me”; millions of people “just didn’t like me… there’s no getting round it”.

Ultimately, though, she argues that it was a “campaign that had both great strengths and real weaknesses – just like every campaign in history”. This appears to be what has infuriated people, and it’s hard not to detect a tinge of sexist ageism (bore off, grandma, your time has passed). Those who demand only grovelling from the book clearly don’t care about finding lessons for future candidates: if the problem was Hillary and Hillary alone, that’s solved. She’s not running in 2020.

Clinton marshals a respectable battalion of defences. Historically, it is very unusual for an American political party to win three elections in a row. The Democrats (like Labour in Britain) have longstanding problems with white working-class voters outside the big cities. Facebook was flooded with fake news, such as the story that the Pope had endorsed Trump. And besides, Clinton did win three million more votes than her Republican rival.

Added to which, it is now hard to deny that Russia interfered heavily in the US election, with Trump’s approval – “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he told a press conference in July 2016 – and perhaps even with the active collusion of his campaign. The next Democratic candidate will have to reckon with all this.

The election outcome would have been different if just 40,000 voters in three key swing states had flipped, so there are dozens of potential culprits for Clinton’s loss. But perhaps one of the reasons that many in the US media have been so hostile to the book is that it paints them as such villains. Even now, it is common to hear that Clinton “didn’t have an economic message”, when a better criticism is that no one got to hear it.

In their mission not to be accused of “elite bias”, the media desperately hunted for bad things to say about Clinton, when none of her offences came close to the gravity of a totally unqualified, unstable man with no government experience going on a year-long bender of saying mad shit and boasting about sexual assault. In both the primary against Sanders and the general election, she was treated as the obvious next president, and held to a different standard. (Incidentally, there is surprisingly little criticism of Sanders in here; she credits him with helping to write her policy platform.)

The book is at its best when it reflects on gender, a subject which has interested Clinton for decades. She calculates that she spent 600 hours during the campaign having her hair and make-up done, as “the few times I’ve gone out in public without make-up, it’s made the news”. She writes about the women she met who were excited to vote for a female president for the first time. She mentions the Facebook group Pantsuit Nation, where 3.8 million people cheered on her candidacy. (Tellingly, the group was invite-only.)

Yet Clinton was never allowed to be a trailblazer in the way that Barack Obama was. That must be attributed to the belief, common on the left and right, that whiteness and wealth cancel out any discrimination that a woman might otherwise suffer: pure sexism doesn’t exist.

The narrative of the US election is that Clinton was deeply unpopular, and while that’s true, so was Trump. But where were the interviews with the 94 per cent of African-American women who voted for her, compared with the tales of white rage in Appalachia? “The press coverage and political analysis since the election has taken as a given that ‘real America’ is full of middle-aged white men who wear hard hats and work on assembly lines – or did until Obama ruined everything,” she writes.

Clinton faces the uncomfortable fact that whites who feel a sense of “loss” are more attracted by Trump’s message than Americans with objectively worse material conditions who feel life might get better. That is an opportunity for the left, and a challenge: many of those Trump voters aren’t opposed to benefits per se, just the idea they might go to the undeserving. Universal healthcare will be a hard sell if it is deemed to be exploited by, say, undocumented immigrants.

Yes, What Happened is occasionally ridiculous. There’s a section on “alternate nostril breathing” as a relaxation technique that a kinder editor would have cut. The frequent references to her Methodism will seem strange to a British audience. The inspirational stories of the people she meets on the campaign trail can feel a little schmaltzy. But it reveals its author as a prodigious reader, a smart thinker and a crafter of entire sentences. Unlike the man who beat her. 

What Happened
Hillary Clinton
Simon & Schuster, 494pp, £20

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

This article first appeared in the 21 September 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The revenge of the left