Samurai Swords, Sexism and Skin-Tight Yellow Jumpsuits

Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill proves to stand as a cultural and enigmatic cult film series, acting as a feminist flick influencing our Halloween costumes, code names, and our outlook on fashion and beauty.

A lifeline for women everywhere, Uma Thurman stated Kill Bill “helped [women] in their lives, whether they were feeling oppressed or struggling or had a bad boyfriend or felt badly about themselves, that that film released in them some survival energy that was helpful.” 

Thurman’s character, “The Bride,” abandons her life as a hired assassin for the “Deadly Viper Assassination Squad” (DVAS). Her code name while working for DVAS was Black Mamba. Notably, the Black Mamba can be seen to symbolize great wisdom and a sharp mind, matching the nature of Thurman’s character. It is a unique reptile that only forms for individuals who show a special kind of mind. In many cultures, snakes are revered for their ability to shed skin, an act of rebirth. This is a testament to how Thurman’s character survives, and perhaps what reached out to so many women internationally and through the screen. 

The movie’s exploration and experience of feminism, however, didn’t extend behind the screen, with Thurman and Tarantino’s relationship moving into more volatile waters as time passed. Thurman has articulated her experience whilst filming the cult hit, drawing attention to the power imbalance and sexism found to be infused behind the silver screen. From the car accident which Thurman did not want to film but was made to, leaving her with long-term injuries, to claims Tarantino spat on her and choked her, it has been made clear that an arguably “feminist” film has a much more sinister backstory and creation, commenting on the impact of unresolved societal curses. 

According to Thurman, she felt that she was being dehumanized to the point of death following the accident during filming, which exposed Tarantino’s abusive directorial approach and undermining of equal power dynamics. This only comments on how unresolved societal curses are responsible for perpetuating toxic narratives. Once this power imbalance was established, the series lost momentum, along with the corruption of their work relationship. 

Ultimately, Tarantino’s actions removed from Thurman the one thing needed to create a feminist flick, equality. Despite this, fans should not turn their back on “Kill Bill.”

Whilst its director may have called feminist values into question, other creatives, including costume designers, did not fall short. The famous yellow jumpsuit immovably marks the top of the list for the most renowned “looks” in cinema, let alone the Kill Bill movies themselves. Forever proving to be a cultural reset, the bright yellow piece translated across the realms of fashion and beauty. The jumpsuit is bold in color, confident and sleek. It remains coordinated, with the use of black lines down the sides relaying a sense of unity and form within the look, it becomes somewhat loosely structured. This in turn allows Thurman’s character to easily convey control and domination within her presence when entering a room full of her enemies. The slinky, body-hugging material and or fit of the clothes allows the fashion statement to remain rooted in a forever elegant and feminine energy. Ultimately, this all culminates to create a feminist statement, one of strength. 

Her unapologetic use of color offsets the dark tones donning many of her opponents. Intentionally, the spectator’s eye is drawn to Thurman’s character, her suit marking her as the focal point and powerhouse in any scene. 

In a room dominated by an imbalance of power and a clear feeling of male imposition, Thurman stands strong, bold, and free-flowing, elements which work well with her outfit and what she intends to do whilst wearing it:

We are also introduced to another character, that of Gogo Yubari. Played by Chiaki Kuriyama, the audience is able to witness yet another whirlwind female. Interestingly, she seems to be wearing the outfit of a schoolgirl. Visually, this presents an expected male fetish, however, the sexualized and submissive woman tied to this dark and unsettling view is not found within Kuriyama’s character, with her aggression, skill, and brutality reclaiming an aesthetic previously used to oppress.

Maternity is shown to define Thurman’s character, with her loss proving to catalyze the plot, weaponizing her pain, and allowing her to seek vengeance to even out the scales. Motherhood, and or the way it alters a person, is not only isolated to Thurman’s character but also with Vernita Green (Vivica A.Fox) also proving to be an assassin who becomes a mother. The infamous scene where Black Mamba and Vernita Green fight, only relays this code of respect within motherhood no matter the context, with both characters attempting to protect Vernita Green’s child from witnessing their altercation. 

All of the characters are marked by their aesthetics, a tool which Tarantino utilizes to offset one from the other, but also to individualize the varying personalities and energies of each character, externalizing their individuality. 

The female archetypes within the series are all remarkably strong and armed with individual and iconic styles, However “Bill” enjoys placing women in competition.

Elle Driver, (Daryl Hannah) proves to be another character within the flick who dons a signature look. Her eyepatch marks her character, offsetting her otherwise “alluring” appearance. This motif signifies a sinister nature to the audience as soon as she is introduced.

Certain sexist critics have attempted to undermine and belittle the impact of the film and what it incites discourse around. Apparently, the “inversion of traditional gender roles, particularly as they relate to the execution of extreme violence, strikes a ready chord with…the feminist sensibilities of a good many women”