WEIRDLAND: Transgressive as hell: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Hippie Trip

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Transgressive as hell: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Hippie Trip

There's no way the LSD-drug culture of the hippies in the 60s didn't lead to the cultural downfall in the U.S. Prior to that, there was still a sense of innocence and self control, for the most part, but the hippie 60s counterculture brought hallucinogens and crazy people like Manson and his flower children druggies into the mix, and what Tarantino is basically saying in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is that he's blaming them for the end of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Rick Dalton feels depressed when he's saddled with playing the bad guy in random cameos for TV westerns. Dalton has reached a crossroads in his career in tandem with American culture itself. A pushy talent agent (Al Pacino, in a fleeting caricature) urges him to consider the ramifications: “It’s gonna have a psychological effect on how people see you,” he says. There’s a sincerity to The Wrecking Crew scene that suggests Tarantino’s affection for Sharon Tate runs deep. The dark cloud of history lingers over even the lighter scenes, and generates an intriguing suspense. Tarantino plays with intricate set pieces propelled by extreme unpredictability. Cliff follows Pussycat to the abandoned Spahn Ranch, which Manson’s satanic commune has transformed into its menacing lair. There’s even a late monologue from one of the Manson killers about the fetishization of murder and violence in entertainment that registers as Tarantino reducing his most conservative critics to the worst possible caricatures. Tarantino is most fascinated by the fact that Manson ultimately wound up in Hollywood and not some other place. The factors that might drive girls to follow a man like Manson might also be linked to what caused Rick Dalton’s star to start fading. Tarantino is showing us how old and new Hollywood could have combined together peacefully and naturally by showing Rick and Sharon’s meeting at the very end. In Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Tarantino argues that the highest duty of masculinity, as epitomized by Pitt’s character, is the defense of femininity, as epitomized by Robbie’s. Source: www.indiewire.com

Sharon Tate—cipher, beauty, Texas pageant girl, and Euro sophisticate—was a character Tarantino could have invented. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood teaches us that Charles Manson and his Family should in no way be glorified. They were not intelligent, not kind, and they had no coherent message or critique. They were just evil, just Nazis beneath their Hippie aesthetics and it seems clear from the climax of the film what Tarantino thinks they deserve. On August 8, 1969, Tate was two weeks from giving birth and had dined at her favorite restaurant, El Coyote Cafe, with Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, and Abigail Folger, returning at about 10:30 p.m to Cielo Drive. In their shock and confusion, the victims offered money to the Manson Family intruders, begging them not to hurt anyone. Sebring protested that Tate was pregnant and tried to defend her, but Watson shot him twice, puncturing a lung. Sebring crumpled onto the zebra-skin rug by the fireplace. Susan Atkins murdered Tate's baby, stabbing him in front of her dying eyes. Sharon Tate was the last to die, still bound by the neck to the dead body of her former lover, Jay Sebring.

Quentin Tarantino: "I questioned whether I wanted to let the Manson family into my head that much. I came close to abandoning this entire project because I didn’t know if I wanted it in my life. It bums me out that the younger viewers don’t know more than they do. On the other hand, they’re almost too quick to look up everything. Whenever I give my film writing to a millennial to read, they can never get through it because they want to Google every name I mention. I mean, you don’t have to know everybody I’m talking about here. Every film book I ever read, I expected the guy to know more than me."

What’s really got these critics worked up, however, isn’t the violence or the nostalgia factor. What’s rattling them more than they realize is that this movie is transgressive as hell. Only Tarantino would have the balls to make something like it, something that embraces values that people don’t want anymore. We can’t have a movie like this. It affirms things the culture wants killed. If men aren’t encouraged to cry in public, where will we end up? And the bottom line is: Audiences don’t want to see this kind of thing anymore. The audience wants the kind of movies the justice critics want. But the audience gave Once Upon a Time in Hollywood the biggest opening of Tarantino’s career. This sort of praise for the old days of Hollywood may feel outdated. Is Tarantino making a reactionary statement or simply imparting historical justice? For the Manson clan to kill someone was tantamount to “breaking off a minute piece of some cosmic cookie,” as Squeaky Fromme later put it.

Dr. Lewis Yablonsky, a sociologist who’d written a book called The Hippie Trip, argued that many hippies were “alienated people”: "Even when they act as if they love, they can be totally devoid of true compassion. That is the reason why they can kill so matter-of-factly… Many hippies are socially almost dead inside. Some require massive emotions to feel anything at all. They need bizarre, intensive acts to feel alive—sexual acts, acts of violence, nudity, every kind of Dionysian thrill." In 1969 the underground press in L.A. had a swell of sympathy for Manson. Bernardine Dohrn, of the Weather Underground (a faction of Students for a Democratic Society, founded on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan) put it most outrageously: “Offing those rich pigs with their own forks and knives, and then eating a meal in the same room, far out! The Weathermen dig Charles Manson.” After the murders, the media had blamed Hollywood’s “unreality and hedonism,” as the New York Times’s Stephen Roberts put it, for having fostered 'a freaky atmosphere'. Roberts, then Los Angeles bureau chief of the Times, talked to a lot of Hollywood people. Bugliosi quoted him in Helter Skelter: “All the stories had a common thread: That somehow the victims had brought the murders on themselves. The attitude was summed up in the epigram: ‘Live freaky, die freaky.’” In the last 50 years since the murders, the members of the Manson family have been denied parole over 100 times. Lynette 'Squeaky' Fromme, now 70, is still not sorry about what happened: "It's hard to be sorry when you're going by your heart." Source: www.theatlantic.com

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