Quentin Tarantino, the director of "Pulp Fiction" and "Django Unchained," is not unfamiliar with controversy. I realize this is a very I’m-20-years-old thing to say, but the man is one of the best directors out there. He took his passion for cinema and turned it into a successful career by writing and directing many of the most celebrated films of the last 25 years. His work is known for its fast-paced, witty and profane dialogue; its fantastical homages to other films and film styles (the Dirty Dozen, Spaghetti Westerns, Blaxploitation cinema) — and for his films’ often extreme violence.
That’s what critics often focus on. Many people are uncomfortable with his films’ violent nature, which is understandable and entirely their prerogative. But because this extreme violence is also often cynical — and doesn’t take place underneath a flag — cultural warriors of the stock that blame school shootings on video games, and teen pregnancy on secular music, often take aim at Tarantino as part of a decline in moral values. He’s also been criticized for his prolific use of the N-word in his films and for what many felt was an insensitive portrayal of the Southern slavery regime in "Django Unchained." But the big point is many, many people enjoy his films — shake out any college dorm and you’ll find dozens of mass-produced "Pulp Fiction" posters. That’s not going to change anytime soon.
It’s not a surprise, then, that Tarantino should again be the object of derision. What’s different this time is that the controversial things he did wasn’t something from a movie. It’s about things he said in real life; what’s disturbing is what he said really shouldn’t be controversial at all.
Saturday, Tarantino attended a march against police brutality in New York. He spoke at the event, saying "When I see murders, I do not stand by… I have to call a murder a murder, and I have to call the murderers the murderers."
Even a marginal use of critical thinking makes it clear this isn’t an "anti-cop hate" speech. It’s obvious Tarantino isn’t calling all cops murderers — such a statement would be ridiculous. When he says "murderers," he’s referring only to the specific cops who, you know, murder people.
Given the exceedingly high number of high-profile cases where citizens die or are assaulted at the hands of the police, does this not seem fair?
Bill O’Reilly and his reactionary fellows don’t seem to think so. O’Reilly declared Tarantino’s career to be "destroyed," while the president of a New York City police union called for a boycott of the director’s movies and named him a "purveyor of degeneracy," placing himself in a long tradition of right-wing figures denouncing what they see as degenerate art.
What they’re actually mad about, though, has very little to do with Tarantino. As a representative of the "liberal" media, his behavior is to be expected. What these guys (they’re almost always guys) are truly angry about is the movement this popular figure is endorsing. The boycott probably won’t work — the only people who’d buy into this mess wouldn’t watch his films anyway. Some NYPD officers themselves don’t take it seriously.
That aforementioned movement, Black Lives Matter, was created with the rather moderate purpose to reform the nation’s law enforcement institutions so they don’t kill quite so many black people. But luminaries in conservative media circles do nothing but condemn this necessary aim. A Breitbart News Network contributor writing about the Tarantino affair called BLM a "left-wing, anti-police hate group." This is not unique. Yet, despite their best efforts to prove otherwise, there is no demonstrable link between BLM and police deaths, and this is turning out to be the second-safest year for police on record.
Why, then, is a movement whose essential demand is "hey, please stop killing us" labeled as a hate group? How can people rationalize a grown man hurling a high schooler up and down a classroom for being quietly disobedient? Whom do these so-called advocates of liberty support when armed agents of the state repeatedly violate the rights of citizens and without remorse?
Could it have anything to do with who the primary victims of this condition are, and who are calling for its end?
Our current system clearly isn’t working — assault and death at the hands of those meant to protect us are everyday events in this country. Speaking out against police brutality shouldn’t be an invitation to controversy.
Alec Carver is a UF history junior. His column appears on Fridays.