Inglourious Basterds & Toy Soldiers

You’d think war would be referenced with sobriety. The fact is, people love to joke about it. Take Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, about a two-sided manhunt for one (entirely fictional) Nazi officer. Full of jokes to make the audience laugh at unfunny topics, (Wikipedia) the movie’s value lies in its satirical view of one of humanity’s biggest tragedies.

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The basic premise of Lt. Aldo Raine and the Basterd’s role in the movie.

Arguably, the film does a wonderful job trivializing WWII. As film critic Meir Schnitzer wrote, “Basterds relies on the cancellation of history.” Schnitzel insists that Tarantino “[deletes] morality” to make another offensive “kosher porn,” where history is overturned so the Jewish win.

I must, however, disagree completely. I just don’t see this movie as a “cancellation” of Jewish struggle.

The movie is known for Lt. Raine’s band of Nazi-hunting Jewish-American soldiers, but to me, the core of Basterds is the suicidal revenge plan a wronged Jewish woman, Shosanna, hatches against SS Colonel Hans Landa. This movie is about a Jewish struggle. Only, I must concede, perhaps not in the way Schnitzer expects.

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Landa’s iconic line as Shosanna escapes the massacre that results in her entire family’s death.

As Holocaust studies professor Anthony Polonsky stated, “kosher porn” is the new “perception of Jewish strength.” Shosanna’s whole family was massacred and she lives in hiding. By burning down a theatre, killing hundreds of Nazis and herself, she helps Raine capture Landa. She is, technically, our hero. Shosanna’s victory is completely fictional, but in it resonates the Holocaust victims’ resilience.

Right?

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Shosanna’s last laugh: “You are all going to die.” Not quite the image of heroism.

Somewhat. Schnitzer is correct: Tarantino “[deletes] morality,” but only to create a world with no heroes. Revenge destroyed everyone. Our hero went up in flames. The Basterds still took pleasure in brutality. These heroes are not “good.” In the Jewish community, “to seek revenge by murder [is] to lower yourself” (Neroulias). Shosanna was no better than Landa. What heroes?

But it cannot be denied that, as Shosanna burned the Nazis and our Nazi hunters carved a swastika into Landa’s forehead, the Jews won.

Basterds is an amoral film with qualities of “kosher porn.” In this, Tarantino follows Schnitzer’s criticism. But as Polonsky states, it’s about revenge. In creating the morally ambiguous world of war, Tarantino captured the emotions of, without making another movie about, WWII: Jewish anguish and anger, romanticism of violence, and skewed Allied ideas of heroism. In no way is Tarantino glorifying Jewish victory– he is taking war through a comedic lens where everyone is “inglourious” because nothing destructive in war, heroic or otherwise, deserves glory.

The easiest way to look at war is to distance ourselves and make it a game. A comedy. Unreal. This is how war permeates our world. In today’s age, war is less about accuracy and more about glamorized movies. We pretend that soldiers are favorite toys and victim are worlds away.

I know war the way a child knows an army when he is given a set of plastic men: I don’t, and most people are the same. Instead, I root for killers and cheer when the jokes come rolling.

Of course, this is simply a difference in interpretations. Myself, a child in the age noted for its disconnectedness with reality, and Schnitzer, a child of Holocaust survivors, live different lives. Perhaps Schnitzer can see people when I only see green plastic toys.


“Inglourious Basterds.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2015.

Neroulias, Nicole. “‘Inglourious Basterds’ Latest in Jewish Vengeance Film Genre.” USA Today, 25 Aug. 2009. Web. 03 Oct. 2015.

Schnitzer, Meir. “Practice Evil with Evil.” Rev. of Inglourious BasterdsMaariv 16 Sept. 2009: n. pag. Web. 3 Oct. 2015.

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2 thoughts on “Inglourious Basterds & Toy Soldiers

  1. mickeyman1125 says:

    This was a very interesting take on war. I do believe that in today’s society we often joke around with sensitive topics that some might find offensive. However I applaud the individual who doesn’t necessarily make fun of humanity’s mistakes, but rather brings light to a subject. That’s why I support Quentin Tarantino and his risqué films. I thought that you used plenty of media and properly used hyperlinks within your text. Your blog was well thought out and flowed very smoothly from idea to idea. I also thoroughly enjoyed reading and learning about “kosher porn.” It was a great idea to use the opinions, reviews, and quotes from the sources you used such as Schnitzer’s criticism. However, I would really like to know not only what you think about the movie, but about the idea of “kosher porn” in today’s society. You could go more in depth into how Jewish people feel about films such as this or even your thoughts on the morality of jokes about war. Overall I was really interested in your topic and believe there is better to come.

    Like

  2. Zina Giannopoulou says:

    Nikki, This is really great: you are engaging with a great topic and a challenging movie about which people have different views. For better or worse, Tarantino polarizes audiences and critics, and you bring out this polarization beautifully while also engaging with the topic of war. Nice use of visuals, and an appropriate blog-tone, somewhere between mischief and seriousness.

    Like

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