Did Cliff Booth actually kill his wife or was it just a rumor spreading around the Hollywood backlots?
Cliff Booth, the ex-stuntman and current gofer played by Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, is one of the most complex movie characters in recent memory.
Keeping in line with Quentin Tarantino's nostalgia-drenched period piece, Cliff represents a breed of male lead we haven't seen on-screen in over a decade. He's a man's man oozing with machismo, ever-composed. He's affable and good-natured with an edge of arrogance, casually racist but somehow still likeable. And yet, there's something cold and dangerous just beneath the surface, a willingness to engage in violence at a moment's notice without ever breaking a sweat. Cliff doesn't come off like a killer, but one gets the sense that he could easily kill.
Partway through the movie, we find out that Cliff might have gotten away with killing his ex-wife—or at least that's the rumor spreading around the Hollywood backlots. While the truth of this rumor is largely irrelevant to the plot, its thematic import might shed light on some of the more dubious elements of Tarantino's vision.
The details of the supposed murder play out through the following context:
While Cliff's best friend/boss Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) works on a Western, Cliff is stuck at Rick's house working on the roof. A little bummed out, Cliff reminisces about the last time he booked a gig. Flashback to Rick pleading with a stunt coordinator to give Cliff a shot. The coordinator refuses, citing the fact that he doesn't want to work with a guy who killed his wife. Flashback again (yes, a flashback within a flashback):
Cliff is on a boat with his wife holding a harpoon gun. She's nagging him incessantly, insulting everything about him. That's it. We never see what happens next.
The movie leaves it up to debate whether or not this is even Cliff's memory of what actually happened or the stunt coordinator's reflection of the rumor. The truth is obfuscated even further: As the main flashback continues, Cliff proceeds to best a cartoonish Bruce Lee in a fight. This scene in particular is incredibly problematic for a lot of reasons, but even within the bounds of the narrative, it's hard to say whether or not Cliff's memory is a reliable interpretation of events as they really happened.
Both potential readings make sense. If Cliff really did kill his wife, that fits in line with his character. Even though the story of the murder comes off as a bit of a shock when we first hear about it, Cliff proves his capacity for extreme violence again and again throughout the movie—first when he beats the Manson Family guy who popped his tire and again during the movie's ultra-violent finale. If anything, knowing Cliff killed his wife works as a setup for his violence later on in the movie. Then again, if Cliff killed his wife and everyone knows about it, how did he get away with it scot-free?
Alternatively, if Cliff didn't actually kill his wife, the fact that he still lost his ability to continue getting stunt work speaks to the nature of rumors in Hollywood. Cliff is shown time and time again to be a talented stuntman who can parkour jump onto roofs and take blows with ease. But Hollywood is also an industry notoriously subject to the whims of perception. The idea that a talented person might be unable to get work due to a false story seems culturally prescient, albeit problematic.
Ultimately, both interpretations point to questionable morals at the movie's core. If Cliff didn't kill his wife, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood centers around a talented, capable guy whose career was ruined by a lie involving a woman. That's not exactly the best look considering the current landscape of Hollywood, especially when Tarantino arguably covered for Harvey Weinstein in the past and defended Roman Polanski's rape of a minor. Polanski gets a very kind depiction in this movie, too, all things considered.
But if Cliff did kill his wife, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood suggests that maybe, just maybe, that's kind of okay. After all, Cliff's capability for brutal violence ultimately saves his friends and Sharon Tate from the whims of the Manson Family. Every other instance of Cliff's violence is righteous and, at least within the moral framework of the film, "good." So if Cliff killed his wife, she probably deserved it—at least that's what Once Upon a Time In Hollywood seems to say.
In the end, it's impossible to know whether or not Cliff actually killed his wife, so it's probably best to pick the interpretation with the least troubling implications for you. Then again, which is the lesser of two evils?
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Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.
Villains always have the best outfits.
From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.
Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com
But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.
Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.
Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.
Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com
Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.
As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.
History of Nazi Chic
For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.
The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.
Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it
Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.
The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com
Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.
Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.
Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com
Nazi Chic in Asia
Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.
A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.
In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.
OF COURSE. i.imgur.com
That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.
In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.
So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?
The answer is not so black and white.
On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.
But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.
Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.
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Summer Walker returns and is no longer playing games.
Summer Walker loves creating music but despises the music industry.
She regularly considers retirement and ended her 2019 tour early because of social anxiety. "I hope that people understand and respect that at the end of the day I'm a person, I have feelings, I get tired, I get sad," she said in a video post. "I don't want to lose myself for someone else." She was relentlessly vilified for her decision. Fans cited stiff meet-and-greets and chalked up Walker's cancellations to a sense of entitlement.
Then she was presented with the "Best New Artist" award at the 2019 Soul Train Awards, and her hurried acceptance speech was dissected by tasteless memes all across the country. Walker's candid cries for understanding remained completely ignored by years end. The truth of the matter is that Walker suffers from anxiety and stage fright that is all but totally crippling. So she did what any misunderstood artist does, she disappeared and stopped saying anything at all.