The Hateful Eight is a thrilling film that brings together nine seemingly opposite people; a general from the Civil War, a murderer (who also happens to be the only woman), a black man, a town sheriff, a hangman, and a few more. They’re brought together due to a blizzard, and their ‘cabin fever’ leads them to slowly kill each other off. The Hateful Eight creates an interesting portrayal of racial politics, male power, and a need for survival by intense action, language and a sort of game of ‘Clue’.
Racial politics is a strong theme throughout the movie, and the characters rely on it quite often to create tension. In the first chapter of the movie, John Roth’s wariness of Warren creates a classic disliking between the two, and Warren’s often fiery words earn him a string of insults, especially the N-word. Later in the film, these insults give Warren a reason to eventually kill them when other conflicts arise. This film takes place just after the Civil War–a time when racial tension was high. This almost gives the viewer a sense that Warren, or Bob (the Mexican) may have done something or been a part of a bigger plan. That doesn’t mean that the viewers are inherently racist, but the racism presented within the movie creates this tension that leans towards those two.
Male power is portrayed by each character throughout the movie, and this helps tie into the ‘whodunnit’ of the film. The character who shows this male power most, though, is John Roth. He sees himself as the sort of owner of Daisy because he’s a bounty hunter planning on bringing murderer Daisy Damergue in to the town of Red Rock to be hung. He constantly treats he terribly and calls her a b**** (although this IS partly because she’s a murderer). He sees himself as her owner, of sorts, because he sees it as his job to bring her to justice. He’s just doing the law, as he claims, yet treats her terribly. She’s blamed after the poisoned coffee kills 2 people. All of this almost makes the watcher believe that it could have to do with her, even though we see that she is not the one who poisoned the drink herself. It’s similar to the racial politics; the hatred toward these characters because of one deciding factor (race or gender) really does shape how we view this movie and how we assign blame to various characters.
Lastly, this film depicts the need for survival. This is often a theme shown through the texts what we’ve read in class, and it’s no different in this movie. Each character has reason for why they poisoned, killed or hurt some other character. Deep down, it’s for survival. Warren is shown shooting multiple people to protect himself. The poisoning of the coffee was done to kill the others off others and for Gage to protect himself. Most things in this movie are done in the heat of survival. We see this throughout other stories; The Female American, Benito Cereno, and most recently, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. At least one character in each of these stories (if not many more) have this basic need for survival that helps shape the story.
The Hateful Eight brings early American literature to life in an interesting way; this movie was not originally a book, so it does not have a direct literary source. It brings the themes mentioned above to life in its own way, through an intense set of events. No one seems to hold back on being part of the racism, or male power. Everyone is definitely participating in the need for survival. Quentin Tarantino (director of the movie) creates his own sort of ‘American literature’ through film. This movie (and those like it) make it easier to get a general idea of what American literature and storytelling is. A visual representation through film can help us understand the continuing relevance of American literature. This medium expands the audience of American literary history; many more people watch movies these days than they read books. Although I do not think any child would be watching a movie such as The Hateful Eight, they certainly do watch movies, such as Pocahontas, that contain American literary themes. The themes and ideas may be planted in their heads before they truly understand what is means, and before they can truly read and comprehend anything of this sort. Technology can truly shape how we see different things, and in cases like The Hateful Eight, it only restates and adapts the themes and ideas of American literature that we have seen so many times before.