Can Quentin Tarantino’s non-purposive kitsch violence succeed in the ultimate Jewish revenge fantasy? That’s the question Atlantic correspondent and Tablet contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg attempts to answer in his essay on Inglourious Basterds, the hyper-caffeinated auteur’s latest film, which depicts an elite, murderous, and Jewish squadron of U.S. soldiers who, as their non-Jewish leader puts it, are corralled for “one thing and one thing only: killin’ Nazis.” Kill they do—with baseballs to the heads they elect not to scalp. Goldberg, who dreamed as a boy of paratrooping into Axis headquarters and shooting Josef Mengele in the face, is deeply unsettled by what filmmaker Eli Roth, who has a role in Inglourious Basterds, calls “kosher porn.”
“It’s almost a deep sexual satisfaction of wanting to beat Nazis to death, an orgasmic feeling,” Roth said. “My character gets to beat Nazis to death. That’s something I could watch all day. My parents are very strong about Holocaust education. My grandparents got out of Poland and Russia and Austria, but their relatives did not.”
What drives Tarantino nuts about Jewish perspectives on Jewish violence is the “hand-wringing,” the mishegas over whether or not taking a life—even if it’s a Nazi life—is morally defensible. Having not seen Ed Zwick’s Defiance, about a group of East European Jewish resistance fighters during World War II, Tarantino rightly guessed that there’d be trigger pulling, following by hair-pulling, over the righteousness of fighting back.
This is an old quandary that Goldberg doesn’t attempt to answer, but one that reminds me of something Moshe Dayan once told his students at an Israeli military academy. Having war-gamed the beginning of an IDF confrontation with Arab armies in the Middle East, Dayan asked for the students’ tactical gambits. “And I want no Jewish solutions here,” he said, meaning no agonized thinking that would paralyze quick, decisive actions. Looking at Israel today, one wonders if Jewish solutions still exist outside of Hollywood production companies.
Hollywood’s Jewish Avenger [Atlantic]