Comics, about which I can claim very little knowledge, are particularly slippery and remarkable in their narrative overdetermination… It would be worth exploring their peculiar capacity to draw forth a sense of combined and uneven worlds, with the sense of events that are both mutually existent and mutually exclusive. This results largely from the structure of comic book publishing and the creation of publishing house “universes” in which all the different story-lines and micro-worlds bleed into one another… Events happen that are not registered fully in other parts of the universe, massive internal contradictions emerge. However, unlike capitalism, comic books negotiate these crises of legitimacy with far more sophistication: reloading universes, creating parellel histories, rewrite the past, raising the dead. Or, we should specify, they do the same things capitalism does. They just admit to it more openly
- Evan Calder Williams, Combined and Uneven Apocalypse (pg 249)
But the key point is this: those who admire the deceased public figure (and their politics) aren’t silent at all. They are aggressively exploiting the emotions generated by the person’s death to create hagiography. Typifying these highly dubious claims about Thatcher was this (appropriately diplomatic) statement from President Obama: “The world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend.” Those gushing depictions can be quite consequential, as it was for the week-long tidal wave of unbroken reverence that was heaped on Ronald Reagan upon his death, an episode that to this day shapes how Americans view him and the political ideas he symbolized. Demanding that no criticisms be voiced to counter that hagiography is to enable false history and a propagandistic whitewashing of bad acts, distortions that become quickly ossified and then endure by virtue of no opposition and the powerful emotions created by death. When a political leader dies, it is irresponsible in the extreme to demand that only praise be permitted but not criticisms.
The reason for the appearance of a mustache-twirling cliched role (despite some admittedly funny, witty lines and a great performance by Sam Jackson) is, as I suggested above, the heroic-revenge generic structure. It requires a personalized villain of sorts, not a structural evil with which even “good” citizens are complicit. And what’s more personalized than the evil doppelgänger? For once, genre constraints have gotten the better of Tarantino. Thus, the film is an abysmal failure at addressing the other ensemble of questions Wilderson delineates, the prescriptive: “How does one become free of suffering? [Those] questions concerning the turning of the gratuitous violence that structures and positions the Black against not just the police but civil society writ large.” [p. 126] By giving the story a revenge motive, Tarantino reduced the suffering to a personal level, a subjective violence that one person might do to another — kill the oppressor, stop the oppression. This is a “failure,” because it applies a subjective resolution to a structural problem that was fundamentally the negation of subjectivity; “abysmal” because it achieved the biggest cathartic thrill with the killing of a black slave instead of any number of plantation owners in the film.