Typically when we think about what a monster is it is usually seen as scary on the outside and inflicts its abnormal appearances and actions to cause fear or hurt to someone. Yet this monster is half American half Japanese female who wears a kimono with a floral samurai sword holstered in her hip. Doesn’t seem all scary but this monster also happens to be the queen of the underground yakuza called the crazy 88s who rule all of Tokyo. In addition this monster has had her history of inflicting its own type of fears from to being a part of a assination squad called the deadly viper squad to being head of the yakuza . Her name is O ren ishi and although the media may portray her actions to be horrifying it seems she represents more than just her part in deadly killings. We are going to evaluate her as she embodies motives in which she rebels against oppression like race, gender and breaks societal standards that are placed on women.
To get a better understanding of our monster we first have to take a look at how the monster was created. O ren ish was born on a military base as a Japanese, Chinese and American girl which she lived a fairly normal life. It wasn’t till she was 9 in which she witnessed the muder of both her parents at the hands of a yakuza boss. However the boss was a pedophile and at the age of 11 she was able to redeem her revenge by stabbing her boss with a katana. Flash years later O ren is now 20 years old and is one of the most popular female assassins in the world then killing a government leader of a corrupt government. She then would partake in the deadly viper assaination squad as her code name as cottonmouth named after the deadly snake. Finally at the age of 29 she claimed her throne as the queen of the underworld being in charge of the crazy 88 yakuza with personal bodyguards who admire her and are just as deadly as O ren.
Now that we understand her background I want to focus on one particular scene in Kill Bill as it illustrates how our monster theories apply to O ren and her dominant female character. The scene begins with the yakuza bosses having a council meeting meeting and one of the bosses questions her roles as a leader and physical appearance. Then the other bosses chime as they try to argue back with him as they see he was disrespecting her. She then allows him to express his thoughts with no interruption yet he then again disrespects her . O ren hops on the lengthy table to run towards the boss and cuts his head off. She then gives a speech in english to the Japanese bosses to prove her point as the dead boss had mentioned her race and gender. However what exactly did boss Tanaka say to the yakuza queen, to make her act out in this monstrous action, coming from the movie kill Bill Tanaka says “ By making a chinese Jap-american half breed bitch its leader”(Tarantino & Tarantino “Kill Bill vol. 1”). We can tell that O rens reason to why she cut boss Tanaka’s head off was that she was establishing that she doesn’t stand for racial and derogatory remarks that are made towards women. As it states in theory 4: The monster dwells at the gates of difference it says “For the most part monstrous difference tends to be cultural, political, economic, racial and sexual”(cohen). By this it tells us why to others she may be seen as a monster in other people’s perspective yet this can also show her fight against oppression. Oren’s gender is tied into why she may dwell on differences also since not only is she female but she runs a complex yakuza crime organization. This is not seen as often since there are very few women that are in power of large organizations especially Japanese cultures. In another article it talks about breaking a stereotype saying “ It seems necessary to dismantle a stereotype widespread in the west that sees Japanese women as submissive in situations of inferiority with respect to men and regulated to a domestic role”(Otomo 1970) . With stereotypes like this that are placed on to Japanese women it also shows that Oren stands for the women who want to be in charge of any power. The scene represents Orens reason for standing up for women although the situation at hand isn’t the most positive it still gets the point across that any woman can be in charge just as men are.
Yet gender wasn’t the only thing brought up by Boss Tanaka; he also mentioned her race as she’s Chinese, Japanese American. This also serves to the point of theory four as this further drives her difference to what deemed as not the norm especially in Japanese values and beliefs. One article talks about the values and beliefs of Japanese society and it says”Cooperation within a group also is often focused on competition between that group and a parallel one, whether the issue is one of educational success or market share. Symbols such as uniforms, names, banners, and songs identify the group as distinct from others both to outsiders and to those within the group ( U.S library of congress/Japan – VALUES AND BELIEFS,). Oren is seen as an outsider to Tanaka so based on the values and beliefs of the Japanese people Tanaka sees her as competition and not worthy of that group since she does not appear to be like the rest of the council Yet again she proves that no boundaries can hold her back and it’s shown through her montous actions as they are a direct result of being different.
Although their monstrous actions may scare people others seem to desire her type of traits as she’s accompanied by a handeleted group of individuals to protect her. As we see Oren touching on another monster theory one of desire. Theory three says “The Monster may symbolize what we see in ourselves, the simultaneous admiration and disgust being a common struggle for some. (This simultaneous admiration and disgust may also be the attractive combination to sensationalize a Monster.)’(cohen). The closest higher ranking yakuza member that protects her also happens to be women which could symbolize a unity of strong women. However one girl in particular seemed to desire Oren, is her personal bodyguard 17 year old GoGo Yubari who not only is a top assassin as well but doesn’t stand for discrimation towards women also . One article from fandom says “she offers herself to a drunken Tokyo Business Man in a bar and then disembowels him, gleefully recalling a disturbing pun in the act”(Gogo Yubari fandom). The pun was refuring the scene where she asks if he would like to have sex her as he replied yes she then impaies him with a knife and says it seems as though I penitraded you first . This is an important scene because it shows a comparison to Oren as both have violent actions towards men who disrespect women. By this we could see how she would admire Oren and would easily fit in with the values and beliefs she brings to the Yakuza.
Overall it’s true to say don’t judge a book by its cover as it shows that on the outside Oren may seem like just your regular japanese woman yet her actions prove to be montoures. However these actions portray Orens ways of rebellion of gender and race as she strides to be free. This can represent the empowerment of women as they are always depicted in typical gender roles this breaks boundaries and embodies the true force women can have.
Cohen, J Jeffrey. “Monster Culture (Seven Thesis)” Monster Theory: Reading Culture, 1996 pp. 3-20
“Gogo Yubari.” Kill Bill Wiki, killbill.fandom.com/wiki/Gogo_Yubari.
Japan – VALUES AND BELIEFS, countrystudies.us/japan/58.htm.
Tarantino, Quentin, director. Kill Bill Vol. 1.
Otomo, Ryu. “Women in Organized Crime in Japan.” SpringerLink, Springer, New York, NY, 1 Jan. 1970, link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-0-387-36542-8_13.