I had read many reviews about Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight – most of them written by angry women. When I finally saw it I got their point but at the same time… I didn’t.
I interpreted The Hateful Eight as a great challenge to feminism. Maybe Tarantino wanted women to reflect on their own role in society. About how they may be considered equal to men. I read a few articles claiming that the only woman protagonist (Jennifer Jason Leigh) serves as a punch-ball for the bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and the other characters of the movie. It did not work like it for me.
It is true that Daisy Domergue gets hit and punched from the very beginning, but there is a reason for it. She is a prisoner. She is a murderer, and the bounty hunter managed to take her. The film begins with the bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) persuading John Ruth to get a lift on the stagecoach where he is travelling with his prisoner. After a while, they meet former Lost-Causer militiaman Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), who hitches a ride as well. They are heading to Haberdashery, a stagecoach lodge, the place where other femicides had been committed the same day in order to ambush Ruth and save Domergue.
In fact, her brother Jody Domergue (Channing Tatum), the Mexican Bob (Demián Bichir), the hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) and the Cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) had arrived that afternoon. They had killed the owners, including some women, to station the ambush. Jody Domergue hid in the cellar and is unseen until the end of the movie. While the others get poisoned and fight between each other right one or two metres above his head, he waits for the right moment to save his sister.
As in other Tarantino movies, women can suffer terribly and be killed, but they can also play big parts. They are the centre of the action. In The Hateful 8, the killing and the ambush happens because of Domergue – who needs to be saved not by a romantic lover, but by her own brother. And she does not need it because she is a woman, but because, as could have happened to every other female or male prisoner, she was taken.
Tarantino loves and respects women. He puts them on the same level as men – and, as they can be as powerful and strong as men, they can win or lose.
In this case, Domergue gets defeated. Warren shoots at her brother right in front of her, and she gets covered with his blood and brain matter. She does not even deserve a quick death: as a homage to the bounty hunter John Ruth, who gets poisoned, she gets hanged.
Tarantino created great female characters. Beatrix Kiddo wins, Shohanna Dreyfus dies. Men and women can be deadly killers or poor victims, or both. They are on the same level, and they can die violently. But that’s Tarantino, baby.