Revenge and the Family Romance in Tarantino's Kill Bill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

This article examines how Quentin Tarantino’s two-part revenge saga, Kill Bill, transforms the underlying structures of revenge tragedy moving it toward romance, the mode associated with reunited families and wish-fulfillment. It argues that the film realizes a primary revenge fantasy, in which the murdered victim is also the triumphant revenger who seemingly rewrites the past and resurrects the dead. This fantasy is fostered by the revenger’s obsessive contemplation of (and re-experience of) loss, a condition that gives revenger (who is also a mourner) a delusional sense of the past’s proximity as a place that can be returned to and altered. In Kill Bill, the coma that Beatrix goes into between being shot and taking revenge provides a fitting metaphor for the psychic experience of all revengers, who find it impossible to move beyond a bereavement. While Beatrix’s enemies urge her to acknowledge the passage of time, for Beatrix, like an insect in amber, no time has passed: her brutal beating and the loss of her child happened only moments ago. However, unlike most revenge tragedy, Kill Bill ends happily with mother (whom we see shot in the head at the film’s opening) and daughter (whom we believe to be dead) alive and reunited. This subversion of the typical revenge structure reveals an underlying affinity between the genres and revenge tragedy and romance, opening up wider questions about the revenger’s impulse to recover the past and the ways that these desires are realized artistically within an intertextual framework.

Translated title of the contributionRevenge and the Family Romance in Tarantino's Kill Bill
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-134
Number of pages15
JournalMosaic
Volume47
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014

Keywords

  • Revenge tragedy
  • Genre
  • Romance
  • Tarantino
  • Grief
  • Mourning
  • Repetition

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