Bastardized History: How Inglourious Basterds Breaks Through American Screen Memory

Arden Henley
Friday 8 December 2023

Setka, Stella. Jewish Film & New Media volume 3 no. 2 (Fall 2015), pp. 141-169.

This article details how Inglourious Basterds (2009) examines political art and its relationship to history and historiography. Stella Setka writes that screen memory, a term first coined by Sigmund Freud, has in the late 20th century memorialized the Holocaust through American World War II films. Inglourious Basterds, she argues, plays on inverted tropes and genre conventions to call attention to historical injustice in film. By making Jewish Americans active resistors to their own oppression, depicting solidarity between Jewish, Native American, and black characters, and playing on audience expectations about Hollywood’s World War II films and Westerns, Inglourious Basterds reinvents cinematic memory of World War II and the Holocaust and gives power to the oppressed to take revenge on their oppressors.

Memory and peace are deeply intertwined–memory of past injustice has the power to create violence, and memory of past resistance informs future resistance to violence and warfare. By creating a narrative which acknowledges issues such as racism and Jewish martyrdom, Inglourious Basterds brings some form of justice to both individual and collective memory. Narrative informs both memory and future action. Peace, in a very basic sense, means an end to genocide, and brings to mind the post-Holocaust call to action “never again”. Inglourious Basterds tells us in no uncertain terms that this­­–resistance, solidarity, and defiance–is what “never again” looks like.


Posted in

Related topics

Share this story

Leave a reply

By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.