‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ Reminds Us That Hippies Are Gross

 

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino’s latest flick, hit the big screen on Friday. The film’s message can be summed up in one short, and crass, line delivered by protagonist Rick Dalton (Leonardo Dicaprio): “dirty [expletive] hippies.”

While Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is nominally the story of Dalton, a washed-up actor struggling to remain relevant, it is just as much about hippies and, as the quote from Dalton indicates, how awful they were. It is, essentially, a two-hour, 45-minute middle finger to hippies.

The countercultural movement often gets viewed through rose-colored lenses. Its themes of peace and love do seem appealing, and the notion that swaths of the country dedicated themselves to promoting those ideals does sound nice. In theory. The actual movement was fairly, for lack of a better word, gross. Tarantino brings this oft-unexplored aspect of hippiedom to the forefront of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and doesn’t shy away from depicting the nasty reality of the bohemian life.

The Manson Family serves as the film’s window into hippies, and while they are obviously not representative of the movement in general (the Manson Family were, on the whole, a bit more murdery than the average hippie), certain elements of the Manson lifestyle depicted in the film were common to the hippie experience. Things like communal living and promiscuous sex, which Tarantino presents in a strongly negative light.

As viewers of the film, we are introduced to the Manson Family through a girl named Pussycat, a hitchhiker who catches the eye of Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as he drives through LA. He offers her a ride and, in return, she offers to fellate him as he drives her back to her commune at Spahn Ranch. Her seductive behavior may strike some as harmless youthful free-spiritedness; hopefully less so, however, after we find out her free-spiritedness is a bit too youthful when Booth asks her age and she admits she isn’t 18 as she initially tried to tell him.

Pussycat invites Cliff to look around the commune and meet her friends and, as Cliff walks around, we’re shown how repellent their communal life is. The ranch is rundown, the buildings are dingy, and the residents are far from clean. We find that Pussycat’s unrestrained sexuality is shared by her fellow residents of Spahn Ranch. The Manson Family was able to maintain residence on the ranch in large part thanks to the fact that many of the young women in the group were having sex with the 80-year-old owner, something the movie makes mention of but, thankfully, does not depict. The term “free love” brings to mind new-agey thoughts of love without restrictions. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood points out that truly unrestricted sex means things like ephebophilia and group sex with an octogenarian.

The far-too-loose attitudes surrounding sex depicted in the film make it no wonder that the Sexual Revolution was soon followed by the AIDS crisis, a general rise in occurrences of STDs, and out-of-control, out-of-wedlock births that consigned untold numbers to lives of poverty and hardship. Maybe, just maybe, some restrictions are in order?

The anti-hippie attitude of the film spills into the extreme at times. Take the climax, for example, a gratuitously violent scene, the details of which i’ll avoid to prevent spoilers.

But even with those few uncomfortably vicious moments it remains about as accurate a portrayal of hippies as Hollywood has yet produced. Yes, Tarantino’s portrayal of violence is disgusting. But, as the film shows, so too are hippies.

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  1. Erin Inactive
    Erin
    @ErinGoBoro

     

    The anti-hippie attitude of the film spills into the extreme at times. Take the climax, for example, a gratuitously violent scene, the details of which i’ll avoid to prevent spoilers.

     

    Not surprised… it’s Tarantino after all. And my boomer dad always says, “The 60s should’ve been forgotten,” and I can see why… 

    …but how was the movie overall?

    • #1
  2. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Tarantino is a repulsive man.  This is why Hollywood likes him.  It is also why I won’t watch his movies.

    • #2
  3. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    Hippies were a necessary evil. 

    Astonishing to me (!) is how short-lived and ill-defined every micro-era is. 

    ‘Hippies’ lasted about three or four years.

    I was in it.

    And why wouldn’t a society, rapidly advancing into technology and alienation,  not experience a significant back-to-nature movement?

    There was no dominating strain of anything. It was a general rebellion against the status quo, but it was dozens of separate rebellions. The nature hippies, the druggie hippies ( my crowd called themselves “freaks” ), the political hippies,  the music fans and more.

    Yet it’s depicted in retrospect as a distinct movement or fashion, which fails to represent the time. And  we tend to forget how temporal these social reactions are. We even compress them and label them.

    The next micro-era was disco. The opposite. Clean, perfumed and responsible.

    There is a polarity to social changes in a similar way to fashion trends.

     

     

     

    • #3
  4. Steve C. Member
    Steve C.
    @user_531302

    I think this is an appropriate time to insert my grandmother’s favorite joke, as told to her family on nearly every social occasion back in those days.

    Two hippies walking down the street pass a nun with her arm in a cast.

    One hippie says, “Sister, how did you break your arm?”

    The nun replies, “I slipped in the bath tub.”

    The hippies continue down the street and one says to the other, “Hey man, what’s a bathtub?”

    The other says, “How should I know, I ain’t Catholic.”

     

    • #4
  5. Jon1979 Lincoln
    Jon1979
    @Jon1979

    Between ‘Forest Gump’ and Cartman on ‘South Park’ the reputation of hippies has gone quite a bit downhill over the past 25 years, compared to the previous 25 when they were often portrayed in the media as a higher, if unkempt, moral form of humanity.

    • #5
  6. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    Some of the scenes of Manson’s “family”are amazing. The hippie chick hitch hiker who you first see flirting and communicating through pantomime with Brad Pit’s character is enchanting until her voice and words reveal that she’s depraved, and mentally sick, and then frightening. When you first see him, Tex glows through the grubby skank of his appearance with all the beauty of youth. The women who come out of the buildings, when Brad Pit’s character arrives with the hippie chick hitch hiker, remind you of cats you’ve sometimes seen gathering on the rickety porch of the house of some demented person who’s become a pet hoarder.

    • #6
  7. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Any movement that doesn’t focus on human evil fails. 

    • #7
  8. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

     

    The movie seems to say that these particular murders wouldn’t have happened if people hadn’t been seduced away, first by lies, then by mind altering chemicals, from looking out for each other.

    We’re left thinking that, in reality, the self worship of the people around them cost this beautiful woman and her unborn child their lives.

    • #8
  9. Suspira Member
    Suspira
    @Suspira

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Tarantino is a repulsive man. This is why Hollywood likes him. It is also why I won’t watch his movies.

    I don’t watch Tarantino’s movies not because he’s repulsive—aren’t most denizens of Hollywood?—but because the movies are repulsive. I just don’t want to watch violence porn.

    • #9
  10. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Suspira (View Comment):
    I don’t watch Tarantino’s movies not because he’s repulsive—aren’t most denizens of Hollywood?—but because the movies are repulsive. I just don’t want to watch violence porn.

    To me, it’s not that there is violence.  It’s not even the absurdity of the violence.  It’s the philosophy behind the violence that repulses me.  I think Tarantino is the clearest example of post-modern nihilism there is in movies.  I put his philosophy right down with Paul Auster for literature in that regard.  Tarantino is much more graphic and violent than Auster, who is just listless.

    For example, in “Pulp Fiction,” the point of the movie is that no matter how base and depraved one person might be, and how proud they are to be so base and depraved, there is always someone else more base and depraved.  The whole move descends deeper and deeper into depravity trying to teach us that all mankind is debased and depraved and for each person it’s only a matter of degree of horrors.  It’s not the violence that bothers me, it’s that message.  He’s repulsive, and his movies reflect that repulsiveness.

    • #10
  11. Jim Kearney Contributor
    Jim Kearney
    @JimKearney

    Franco (View Comment):

    Hippies were a necessary evil.

    Astonishing to me (!) is how short-lived and ill-defined every micro-era is.

    ‘Hippies’ lasted about three or four years.

    I was in it.

    And why wouldn’t a society, rapidly advancing into technology and alienation, not experience a significant back-to-nature movement?

    There was no dominating strain of anything. It was a general rebellion against the status quo, but it was dozens of separate rebellions. The nature hippies, the druggie hippies ( my crowd called themselves “freaks” ), the political hippies, the music fans and more.

    Yet it’s depicted in retrospect as a distinct movement or fashion, which fails to represent the time. And we tend to forget how temporal these social reactions are. We even compress them and label them.

    The next micro-era was disco. The opposite. Clean, perfumed and responsible.

    There is a polarity to social changes in a similar way to fashion trends.

    A very insightful post. The yet unwritten great history or story of the time might well be called “Mistakes Were Made.” I will quibble with a couple of points, for quibbling’s sake.

    First of all, you’re far too kind to the disco cretins. Their women, gold-diggers all, wore “Charlie” a cheap, low class splash which barely qualifies as perfume. If teetering around on platform shoes while committing innumerable crimes against fashion is responsible, well, surely turning back the clock twenty years on music wasn’t. Also remember, these are the folks who invented the disco doorman, a sort of reverse-evolutionary gatekeeper whose job it was to exclude anything resembling a straight-arrow day person from their heathen caves.  But you’re right, it was a true micro-trend, and vanished suddenly in the summer of 1980 during the Reagan campaign. Lacoste shirts arrived, tube tops vanished, Blondie hit the airwaves, and evolution resumed.

    Now on the matter of hippiedom itself being a 3-4 year micro-era, would that you were right. Consider Burning Man, Grateful Dead, the long march toward pot legalization, the political continuum from the Weather Underground to the Obama years, and all the former Woodstock Nation residents long squirreled away in the fortified redoubts of academia and journalism.

    Even after communism came crashing down 30 years ago, teachers, parents and grandparents are teaching kids that socialists are misguided idealists, so let’s all give it another try. Well those old fools, still trying to relive the ’60’s in their ’60s, are the same geniuses who offered you a joint at Woodstock, or a ride to Chicago in the summer of 1968. They shower now, and the wild hair is down to the bald pate-plus-ponytail look, but they still smile wistfully when they hear that Black Panther is the name of a hit movie. 

    That said, hippiedom in its purest, most idealistic form, did only last a few years, as you say. It took just that long for the Diggers, and the San Francisco sound to be drowned out by bad acid, hard rock, and Altamont. Smart counterculture figures like Digger Peter Coyote realized it was dumb to try to reinvent farming, and wiser to build a career in the creative arts. So there was a cultural migration, but the underlying bohemian impulse lives on.

    You’re also right about hippiedom being in part a response to technological change. Back-to-nature primitivism became Mother Earth News, the Whole Earth Catalogue and eventually Whole Foods. Within a decade, it was hard to tell hippie stragglers from the founders of tech empires

    Of the cornerstones of the counterculture, the “separate rebellions”, I won’t argue against women in the workplace; the impulse to challenge certain entrenched establishments; birth control and responsible sexual freedom; and the music of the mid-1960’s. In the “mistakes were made” category I’d list drug abuse and left wing politics as the most destructive. A general disdain for 9-5 jobs, the work ethic, long term thinking, two parent families, and law & order were also destructive byproducts of the “hippie” era.

    • #11
  12. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    Re: 11

    I won’t necessarily argue against women in the workplace. I will argue against both parents, full time, in the workplace. One parent focused more on home and family, and employed only part time or not at all, can give more time to questioning and supplementing what the couple’s kids are learning in school. That’s only seeming more and more important to me.

    • #12
  13. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Alec Dent: The anti-hippie attitude of the film spills into the extreme at times. Take the climax, for example, a gratuitously violent scene, the details of which I’ll avoid to prevent spoilers.

    You already said it was a Tarantino film.

    • #13
  14. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Franco (View Comment):
    There is a polarity to social changes in a similar way to fashion trends.

    True, just as poetry went from Chaucer to Skelton to Shakespeare.

    • #14
  15. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    @jimkearney, you forgot to add, “You kids get off my lawn!”

    Or perhaps you’d like something fresher, such as, “I came not to praise hippies and disco, but to bury it.”

    😉

     

    • #15
  16. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Skyler (View Comment):
    For example, in “Pulp Fiction,” the point of the movie is that no matter how base and depraved one person might be, and how proud they are to be so base and depraved, there is always someone else more base and depraved.

    But in the end, the man who survived is the one who abandoned a life of violence and tried to be a better person. Furthermore, Bruce Willis didn’t need to save the gangster but he chose to anyway and he too was spared. It is actually the least nihilistic Tarantino movie. 

    • #16
  17. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):
    For example, in “Pulp Fiction,” the point of the movie is that no matter how base and depraved one person might be, and how proud they are to be so base and depraved, there is always someone else more base and depraved.

    But in the end, the man who survived is the one who abandoned a life of violence and tried to be a better person. Furthermore, Bruce Willis didn’t need to save the gangster but he chose to anyway and he too was spared. It is actually the least nihilistic Tarantino movie.

    I’m not going to watch it again to confirm your statement.  I’m not sure any of them were good.  

     

    • #17
  18. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):
    For example, in “Pulp Fiction,” the point of the movie is that no matter how base and depraved one person might be, and how proud they are to be so base and depraved, there is always someone else more base and depraved.

    But in the end, the man who survived is the one who abandoned a life of violence and tried to be a better person. Furthermore, Bruce Willis didn’t need to save the gangster but he chose to anyway and he too was spared. It is actually the least nihilistic Tarantino movie.

    I’m not going to watch it again to confirm your statement. I’m not sure any of them were good.

     

    That’s fine. I still don’t think that Pulp Fiction was nihilistic. 

    • #18
  19. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    Jim Kearney (View Comment):

    Franco (View Comment):

     

     

    A very insightful post. The yet unwritten great history or story of the time might well be called “Mistakes Were Made.” I will quibble with a couple of points, for quibbling’s sake.

    First of all, you’re far too kind to the disco cretins. Their women, gold-diggers all, wore “Charlie” a cheap, low class splash which barely qualifies as perfume. If teetering around on platform shoes while committing innumerable crimes against fashion is responsible, well, surely turning back the clock twenty years on music wasn’t. Also remember, these are the folks who invented the disco doorman, a sort of reverse-evolutionary gatekeeper whose job it was to exclude anything resembling a straight-arrow day person from their heathen caves. But you’re right, it was a true micro-trend, and vanished suddenly in the summer of 1980 during the Reagan campaign. Lacoste shirts arrived, tube tops vanished, Blondie hit the airwaves, and evolution resumed.

    Now on the matter of hippiedom itself being a 3-4 year micro-era, would that you were right. Consider Burning Man, Grateful Dead, the long march toward pot legalization, the political continuum from the Weather Underground to the Obama years, and all the former Woodstock Nation residents long squirreled away in the fortified redoubts of academia and journalism.

    Even after communism came crashing down 30 years ago, teachers, parents and grandparents are teaching kids that socialists are misguided idealists, so let’s all give it another try. Well those old fools, still trying to relive the ’60’s in their ’60s, are the same geniuses who offered you a joint at Woodstock, or a ride to Chicago in the summer of 1968. They shower now, and the wild hair is down to the bald pate-plus-ponytail look, but they still smile wistfully when they hear that Black Panther is the name of a hit movie.

    That said, hippiedom in its purest, most idealistic form, did only last a few years, as you say. It took just that long for the Diggers, and the San Francisco sound to be drowned out by bad acid, hard rock, and Altamont. Smart counterculture figures like Digger Peter Coyote realized it was dumb to try to reinvent farming, and wiser to build a career in the creative arts. So there was a cultural migration, but the underlying bohemian impulse lives on.

    You’re also right about hippiedom being in part a response to technological change. Back-to-nature primitivism became Mother Earth News, the Whole Earth Catalogue and eventually Whole Foods. Within a decade, it was hard to tell hippie stragglers from

     

    I agree with much, and the attacks on disco are hilarious, but I see it a bit differently. The hippie era fractured, and the legacy effects weren’t entirely attributable to this ‘movement’. It’s like George Washington’s axe. The handle was replaced in 1843, and the metal part was replaced in 1890. 

    • #19
  20. Jim Kearney Contributor
    Jim Kearney
    @JimKearney

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Franco (View Comment):
    There is a polarity to social changes in a similar way to fashion trends.

    True, just as poetry went from Chaucer to Skelton to Shakespeare.

    Ah yes, Gertrude and Heathcliff, such timeless poetry, and so influential.

    • #20
  21. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Jim Kearney (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Franco (View Comment):
    There is a polarity to social changes in a similar way to fashion trends.

    True, just as poetry went from Chaucer to Skelton to Shakespeare.

    Ah yes, Gertrude and Heathcliff, such timeless poetry, and so influential.

    Uh, the other one.

    • #21
  22. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Franco (View Comment):
    It’s like George Washington’s axe. The handle was replaced in 1843, and the metal part was replaced in 1890. 

    Or Theseus’ ship.

    • #22
  23. Misthiocracy secretly Member
    Misthiocracy secretly
    @Misthiocracy

    The punks seemed to have the hippies’ number.  The Dead Kennedys made fun of the hippies.  The Dead Milkmen made fun of the hippies.  The Judy’s made fun of the hippies.  Etc.

    I’m not enough of a Vandals aficionado to know whether they made fun of the hippies.  Maybe @joeescalante can fill us in?

    • #23
  24. Joshua Bissey Coolidge
    Joshua Bissey
    @TheSockMonkey

    Alec Dent: (the Manson Family were, on the whole, a bit more murdery than the average hippie)

    On the whole…

    • #24
  25. Jeffery Shepherd Inactive
    Jeffery Shepherd
    @JefferyShepherd

    Antifa is the new hippie

    • #25
  26. Jon1979 Lincoln
    Jon1979
    @Jon1979

    Jeffery Shepherd (View Comment):

    Antifa is the new hippie

    More to the point, they’re analogous to the Yippies, mainly because the specter of 9/11, which denies the ability (as of now) to romanticize domestic terrorism as it was 50 years ago, prevents the angriest of Antifa from becoming the Weather Underground.

    • #26
  27. Jim Kearney Contributor
    Jim Kearney
    @JimKearney

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    Jeffery Shepherd (View Comment):

    Antifa is the new hippie

    More to the point, they’re analogous to the Yippies, mainly because the specter of 9/11, which denies the ability (as of now) to romanticize domestic terrorism as it was 50 years ago, prevents the angriest of Antifa from becoming the Weather Underground.

    Not the original Yippies. Do not equate the hardened, nasty violent wannabee guerilla warriors of the Weather Underground with the fun loving original Yippies, who preferred guerilla theater: throwing money from the balcony of the stock exchange; free music events with poetry and music by Alan Ginsburg and Phil Ochs; mischief-making on Bob Fass’ WBAI radio show; and subversive art in Paul Krassner’s humor magazine The Realist. They made a movie about nominating a pig for President in 1968, for heaven’s sake. While the violent faction of SDS was making bombs in basements, the Yippies were busy marketing cultural upheaval. Today they would be called “event planners.”

    By the 1980’s, Yippie co-founder Jerry Rubin was conducting business networking events and wearing a tie. Timothy Leary was jousting with Gordon Liddy on the lecture circuit. Abbie Hoffman was a gifted prankster, a kind of anarchistic Robin Williams. Before his famous portrayal of a railroaded defendant in the Chicago Conspiracy Trial, he accused his un-indicted co-conspirators of having “subpoenas envy.” His 1972 election year slogan, which made my mother laugh, was “don’t give me any of your George McGovernment, Teddy on the Bridge” politics.

    Although a second wave of “non-leaders” eventually ripped off the Yippie! brand, the original 1968 crew was clear on making “the revolution” (sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, make love not war, etc. ) entertaining, and thus appealing to a large, young audience. They were marketing wizards, and did it all on practically no budget, by co-opting the media. I haven’t seen that done so well since, until the Trump campaign.

    • #27
  28. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo…
    @GumbyMark

    The hard left – SDS and later the Weather Underground hated the hippies because they saw them as lazy and apolitical.  The only exception was the Manson Family which the Weather Underground celebrated, most notably Barack Obama’s friend, Bernadine Dohrn, who loved that the Manson girls stuck forks into their victims.

    • #28
  29. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    The  Preppies killed off the hippy movement where I grew up.

    • #29
  30. Unsk Member
    Unsk
    @Unsk

    Nammllit noD just had a post – “Echo in the Canyon” about the ‘hippie” scene in Laurel Canyon and the wonderful music that sprang from it.  Not mentioned by anyone in the various documentaries I think is the fact that the Manson murders killed that scene almost immediately. Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas was very vocal about it. All the rock stars got scared like right away. The free spirit and open doors of Laurel Canyon all of the sudden were shut. The Beach Boys were tangentially linked to Manson because he wanted some record produced somehow by them and part of the reason for the Tate/La Bianca murders was payback that it wasn’t.

    In Hollywood, at this time in the late 60’s there were two sets of Hippies – the ones on the Sunset Strip – the gentler “peace bro”  kind and the weird ones you didn’t want to mess with on Hollywood Boulevard. Hollywood Boulevard, between La Brea and Gower  until 1965 was the premiere shopping street in Los Angeles. ( there were few shopping malls then)  Some of  the best movie theaters, restaurants, Department Stores   and shops were there, and up until the late 50’s all the major networks had offices close by.  So you had a mix of celebrities, restaurants like the Brown Derby, the original Don the Beachcomber, Frank Sinatra’s Villa Capri and big clubs like the Palladium and the Palace.  Then the counterculture set in and for a while  things were okay, until the “good’ hippies decamped for the Sunset Strip around ’66 and left the bad ones on Hollywood Boulevard. Then things got strange very quickly. Many of the best shops abandoned Hollywood Boulevard and parts of it still have not recovered, over fifty years later.  Many of the so-called “hippies” of Hollywood Boulevard I never thought of as Hippies – just weird people attracted to the glamor of Hollywood.

    • #30

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