While Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has been generally positively reviewed, its portrayal of Sharon Tate remains controversial. Some have criticized the film for Tate’s minimal dialogue, with one critic saying, “Tarantino’s portrayal of Tate as a lifeless doll is proof he has lost his touch.” Another critic says, “The film reduces Tate to a mute sex object and bit player within her own story.” If someone only views the film through the lens of whether Tate pushes the plot forward, I could see how someone might draw these conclusions. However, the film’s nontraditional plot consists of small character moments that don’t necessarily impact the unexpected finale.
Personally, I take issue that a woman in a short skirt with minimal dialogue is automatically categorized as a sex object—especially when there’s extensive evidence of character depth. Despite the biting reviews and Tate’s few lines, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood depicts Sharon Tate as a whole person, rather than reducing her to a victim or object, as illustrated in her slice-of-life story and non-dialogue-driven characterization. The film challenges the viewer’s expectations. In particular, it challenges viewer assumptions about Tate’s role as victim in a gruesome murder that ultimately eclipsed her career, accomplishments, and personhood.