Sharon Tate is a woman in a Quentin Tarantino movie … It’s complicated

When she first shows up on-screen, it’s as a memory of her husband, Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave from whom she was separated when he was sold off to another owner. Others are one-note — shrill, ineffectual, tempting, annoying. And the more I’ve contemplated this choice, the more Sharon reminds me of an ostensibly different Tarantino character, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) in “Django Unchained.”
In that revisionist pre-Civil War western, Broomhilda is a textbook damsel in distress; before she has even appeared on-screen, Tarantino’s resurrection of the theme song “Django,” from the 1966 Sergio Corbucci film that inspired it, signals her function as the protagonist’s motivation. In a triumph of creative license, she lives. As Tarantino pointed out in that Entertainment Weekly interview, how often has Tate’s life been filtered through pop culture over the past several decades as opposed to the gruesome circumstances of her death? Everything happens to Hildi; there isn’t much for her to do — but then, how often has a black woman been the object of affection, in a way that doesn’t feel creepy, in the movies? She is instead merely an idea and a feeling, and a near-perfect idol — a rarity for Tarantino, whose characters, regardless of gender, are usually fundamentally flawed or bad in some way. Sometimes the women are full, messy, intelligent and resourceful human beings: Pam Grier’s Jackie Brown, a smart, willful character who banks on everyone’s underestimation of her, is one such woman. But we’re still no closer to understanding her. But what complicates Hildi is the history of how black women, and especially slaves, have been treated in real life (raped, beaten) and depicted on-screen (as mammies or Jezebels). And then there’s the concern about which explosive subject he’s depicting — like slavery, the Holocaust or rape — is most likely to detonate should he, a noted provocateur, flip the wrong switch. He added, “When you talk about all the different friends that she had, even acquaintances that she had, they all tell the same story about her, about this unaffected beauty, just this reservoir of goodness and kindness.”

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Tarantino’s interest isn’t in unpacking Tate’s struggle to be taken seriously in her craft — although he almost brushes against this tension during the great sequence in which Sharon goes unrecognized by the ticket taker at a theater showing one of her films. It’s a low bar to clear, and an object of affection is an object — but also, it still kind of works? “Django, now your love has gone away/Once you loved her, now you’ve lost her.”
Once Upon a Time In Hollywood released in India on August 15. It’s also true that Tarantino succeeds at having us focus on something other than Tate’s murder. Hildi and Django stir up that familiar combination of excitement and dread. Advertising

With the arrival of each new Quentin Tarantino film, the mix of collective excitement and dread is palpable. (And a relief, considering that Tarantino’s depictions of violence almost always feel exploitative.)
That’s the thing about Tarantino — everything he does can be two things (or even more things) at once. It can and has been argued that the film’s twist does a disservice to Tate’s legacy by not affording her the opportunity to defend herself and ultimately win against her attackers, in the way that Shosanna in “Inglourious Basterds,” the Bride in “Kill Bill” and other preyed-upon Tarantino women have. It’s not quite so simple as that, confounded by the way the movie plays fast and loose with audience expectations and historical context. For much of the film, she is hardly real, a vision, a fantasy — existing only in Django’s imagination as he bathes in a creek or rides a horse. There’s no “easy” viewing experience when it comes to his films. It’s a different kind of box to be put in as a woman, the kind that lifts them up while stripping them of power. (All such women, including the wife whom Brad Pitt’s stuntman probably murdered, appear in some form or another in Once Upon a Time.)


Sharon Tate lies somewhere in between. While Tarantino doesn’t shy away from showing the mistreatment of Hildi, he does so to elicit empathy for her, through the eyes of Django. He “became very enamored of her” while researching her life, he told Entertainment Weekly. That’s true. (She’s merely a “sexualised cipher,” as one review put it.) They’re not wrong — line-count aside, we don’t really glean much about who Tate might have been beyond her on-screen bombshell persona. When Django finally lands at the plantation of her new owner, she has been trapped in a hot box for hours as punishment. There is something to be said for the existence of the tender love story that somehow peeks its head out from the disturbing and over-the-top Tarantino-isms we’re used to. The way Tarantino has talked about his decision to include Tate in the film provides some insight into how he developed the character for Once Upon a Time. In typical Tarantino fashion, the line between evoking the tropes and ideals of pop-cultural pastimes for the sake of “authenticity” and reinforcing those tropes and ideals is heavily blurred. Advertising

Also read | Once Upon a Time in Hollywood movie review
Critics have seized on that characterisation — or rather, lack of characterisation. She’s even given the tiniest bit of agency — trying to run away. 0
Comment(s) The director wants her to seem full of life, whether dancing at a party at the Playboy Mansion or generously picking up a hitchhiker on her way to run an errand. A dreamy, meandering ode to Old Hollywood and a nod to what were perhaps the most infamous American deaths of 1969, the film weaves a fictional tale about a fading TV star, his stunt double and the Manson family murders. Margot Robbie plays the best known of those victims, actress Sharon Tate, who flutters in and out of Tarantino’s picture like a gazelle in a nature documentary — she hardly speaks but does dance and walk and drive around Los Angeles a lot in slow motion, the camera lingering on her presence in her natural habitat. There’s the feel-good anticipation of a guaranteed visual feast, quick-witted exchanges of dialogue, standout performances. She appears beautiful, on a swing under a sweeping, picturesque tree and introduces herself with just one line: “They call me Hildi,” she says, smiling and bashful. White womanhood comes with different baggage, but Once Upon a Time … elicited a similar conflict within me. No, the director doesn’t give her much of a life here, either, but the absence of her death — the Manson family members don’t murder Sharon and her house guests on that fateful night in the film — feels somewhat cathartic. The dominant discussion around his latest movie suggests that with Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Tarantino got it mostly wrong when it came to the women who populate his script. More Explained

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Hildi’s interiority barely surpasses the one-dimensional; when she’s not an angelic presence for Django, usually some kind of act of violence is being enacted upon her: tortured at her master’s command, held hostage with a gun to her head during the climactic shootout.