Why I love her, why she’s a nicely-created character, why she’s a heroine of mine, etcetera. I’ve mentioned how much I love Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) of Inglourious Basterds before on multiple occasions. She was on my ancient list of ass-kicking badass ladies even. And I am so affectionate toward her she has a nickname. Because it totally works and is normal to call her Shosh, even if it’s not canon. So I think it is long past time for this list.
5. Shosh kicks ass, but not professionally.
I love the professional assassins of Kill Bill with their depth and interesting qualities accompanying their ass-kickery, but I also love that Shosanna can do gun battles, but not because she does gun battles professionally. She’s a dairy farm girl-turned-runaway-turned-cinema operator, she is not inherently a fighter. She doesn’t really fight people on the regular. Her plan of ultimate destruction is badass, but it’s not “I’m gonna shoot each Nazi individually,” it’s “let’s burn this place.” But get d-bag Zoller (Daniel Brühl) being a d-bag to her, and she’s got no problem with shooting guns. She can threaten people with axes, no big.
4. Shosh is in love, but it is never a source of plot drama.
Also, she’s in love with the projectionist at her cinema, Marcel (Jacky Ido), who is, as Landa (Christoph Waltz) points out repeatedly, not of her same race. He’s of African descent, which Landa makes a thing about only because of “oh we can’t have the black guy running the Nazi movie, Hitler wouldn’t like it,” but there is never once an “oh we are of different racial backgrounds, ours is a love that cannot be.” It is never once discussed. And the romance itself is handled exceptionally refreshingly: they’re not really shown doing ~lovey~ things, though they do drop “my love” and “my dear” and things like that in conversation. It’s not like they’re just in it for the sex or anything. They clearly respect the hell out of each other, have been together for an indeterminate amount of time that’s probably a reasonable amount also, and they’re going to do anything for each other, but they’re not being mushy about it. It’s not a plot point, it’s just a fact of their characters. It doesn’t define her.
3. Shosh can and does stand up to men whose attention she does not want.
She isn’t interested in Zoller because he’s a Nazi, and also because she seems to find him many negative things. It’s never presented as a potential love triangle, which is awesome, it’s just that he is paying attention to her and she is already in a relationship (one that he doesn’t know about). He is quick to be politely snarky about her not wanting to know him because he’s a Nazi, and he himself does not really know how to leave her alone, but she knows how to tell him to leave her alone. Also politely, at first; I love the scene in the café, when her strategy is “compliment, accept your thanks, now please leave me alone.” It’s so straightforward. It’s so assertive and good.
2. Shosh is clearly a very intelligent woman.
I can’t imagine she had a whole lot of education growing up; being the daughter of dairy farmers in the countryside probably didn’t afford her many opportunities, and being Jewish when the occupation started probably eliminated that more. But in the years between her family’s murder and the majority of the film’s action, she clearly does learn some English, likely self-taught. She picks up the cinema operator trade very effectively, she can deal with people and with projectors alike and with savvy, she seems to spend at least some of her free time just reading books.
1. Shosh is people-smart and and adaptable without being emotionless.
The internet-maligned but still-used archetype of the “strong woman” in film can be a pain. Sure, she kicks ass, she takes names, she’s probably attractive while doing so, but somehow in order to do that, she doesn’t have much of a personality. Shosanna has a personality. Shosanna has her strengths and her weaknesses like anybody; she can sit through a conversation with Landa without breaking her cover at all, without betraying any sign of what’s really going on, but he leaves and yes, she freaks out a little bit. She’s upset, and with reason. At the end, she and Marcel have a very brief moment before their flamey plan is about to go into action. She’s sarcastic toward a lot of the characters, perhaps as a defense mechanism slightly, but that’s just because that is who she is, she’s not gregarious. Shosanna is a bit of an introvert at times, I’d think; she doesn’t share a lot of things, both because of safety and her cover and because she just doesn’t want to, and not everyone wants to so that’s okay.
–your fangirl heroine.