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The True Villian of Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood

4 min read

The True Villian of Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood

In 1969, four members of the left their commune at Spahn Ranch and headed to 10050 Cielo Drive. Their orders? ‘Totally destroy everyone in [it], as gruesome as you can.' This particular scene became known as the Tate murders, after its most famous victim, fledgling film star Sharon Tate, who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant at the time.

The incident would be credited with changing Hollywood forever, but the sheen on the studio system had already been corroding away for years. Their squeaky-clean brand of musicals, war movies, westerns and historical epics, were being exposed as propaganda propping up the holy trinity of American values – family, patriarchy and Christianity.

Vietnam war

Nightly news reports broadcasting video footage of the Vietnam war made an entire generation of young Americans sick to death of the rosy picture the movies were painting of the USA. They wanted something that reflected their frustration with what they were increasingly viewing as an unfair world. More and more, films with morally ambiguous anti- and a more honest look at American ideals were becoming the norm, much to the horror of the establishment. This trend didn't begin with the Manson massacres – the shockingly violent was released two years prior, with the counter-culture Easy Rider being greenlit months before – but the murder of was the final nail in the coffin of Old Hollywood.

A good pitch for a bestselling paperback

Whether that reputation is earned or just a good pitch for a bestselling paperback, is of no consequence to a young . Goes the story told by certain critics, that Quentin blames Manson for murdering the , and ending the period of serialised westerns and Evel Knievel-type leads that Tarantino eulogises in Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood. That the replacement of that gilded age with the gratuitously violent, bad language filled movies of and was a crime for which he had to dedicate an entire movie-length takedown to, and if you think that narrative seems to have a glaring plot hole, you're not the only one.

Tarantino's work is defined by that kind of non-linear narrative, blood-vessel busting, racial-slur ridden that New Hollywood brought in, whether that be the highbrow philosophical pontifications of , or the grubby sleaze of The Sexplorer. These are the foundations upon which Tarantino's cinematic empire was built.

Also, for a film so supposedly obsessed with Manson seismically shifting the tastes of filmgoers, he's hardly in the movie. He gets precisely three lines and says practically nothing with them. Even a shot from the trailer where Manson's eyes meet with 's Cliff Booth, doesn't make it to the final cut. That's because if OUAT has a target, Quentin has a much broader one in mind.

The naive middle-class children of the greatest generation

The ones who bear the brunt of the director's grief, isn't Manson himself, but his family members. The naive middle-class children of the greatest generation, taken in by a progressive agenda that rejects the traditional masculinity that won America two World Wars. You might know them as hippies, and while Manson himself was more of a white supremacist than an actual hippie, it was the hippie way of life that he used to attract young men and women. Throughout the movie they spout their paranoid theories and fanatical philosophies. They're a much bigger focus of the film than Manson is. Even Spahn Ranch's matriarch, Squeaky Fromme played by , is a much more intimidating presence than Manson ever becomes.

But even as we're getting closer to his target, we're not quite there yet, but all this should be starting to sound more and more familiar. OUAT takes place in a cultural landscape forever changed by advances in media that exposed a new generation to the flaws of a system the previous generation was all too willing to sweep under the rug, and there's a shift in the cultural zeitgeist that not only replaces the old guard but is a solid rejection of it. That sounds familiar, right? Tarantino hasn't made a film about 1969. He's made one about 2019.

Tarantino's last few years in movies have not been his happiest. The internet generation have found that the organising of marginalised groups is now easier than it's ever been. One of the results of this discovery has been the #MeToo movement, a battering ram against the systematic abuse of women in the movie industry.

Even more so now than when OUAT first came out, it's easy to see the parallels between the flower children of the '60s and the social justice warriors that took down some of Hollywood's most powerful predators.

The true villain in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood is a ticking clock, whether that clock is ticking down to the end of the Hollywood of the past and the ideals that it pushed; or that the clock is ticking down to the end of the Hollywood of now, and the monopoly it has on all the broken systems and corrupt institutions that caused so much harm to so many, but gave a privileged few a level of power and freedom incomprehensible to ordinary people. That clock keeps ticking. Time's up, gentlemen.

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