It seems everyone is talking about the new Hitman trailer, because, well, Agent 47 slaughters a troop of scantily clad ladies. With guns.
It could be argued that the reason for any discussion at all is because it is a trailer that, in itself, is entirely out of context. The events that happen in the trailer are completely random and without explanation. Who are these 'nuns'? If we saw the whole piece would we care that they're dispatched in the manner they are dispatched?
When it comes to violence in entertainment everything comes down to the establishment of justification. I'm going to refer to the following as the justification of violence system, because it is casually thrown into our regular entertainment, whether it be television, video games, movies or books.
For example, if you see what Rambo does to a bunch of soldiers in the fourth movie without having seen what the soldiers do to the civilians at the start of the movie, you'd question why on earth this level of violence was happening on-screen; because we do see that, we find the disembowelment of the main bad dude to be pretty damn awesome - not disgusting, horrendous violence.
So many 'texts' do this. How many of us hate the lawyer in Jurassic Park? Why? Sure, he's a money-grubber, but is he a bad enough person to deserve death?! We experience only fear, disgust and awe when he is ripped apart by the T-Rex, not sadness or sympathy. All this justified by throw-away comments about law suits, ticket prices and "making a fortune" out of the park.
Often in disaster movies you'll see a passing moment where a background character does something mildly annoying, which makes you associate them with negativity. When they get hit by an asteroid, tsunami or shot by a terrorist you don't care, because they're a bad person and that makes them dying in this context okay. But are they bad? And is it okay, really? Most of this is done to keep PG ratings in the US, I think. If the people who die are negative archetypes then it's okay to kill them in cool and funny ways.
In terms of style and portrayals of sexuality and violence, there's been some references to director Quentin Tarantino in this debate and I think that Tarantino is an inherently flawed focal point, because the morals and values he expresses in his body of work are contradictory, flexible and not in any way a standard he maintains. Why is this? Context. His films stand on their own (when you take Kill Bill as a single piece) and the treatment of women within them is dependent on the reality of the narrative. Commentators could pick one and stick with it, but not his body of work as a generalised whole.
Look how Lance treats his wife in Pulp Fiction, a film which is rife with pieces of shit who treat each other horribly, but there's no reprieve here. No lesson learned. Despite his best attempts to control his anger issues, look how Butch treats Fabienne; her character is portrayed as seemingly weak and impotent. Ignorant to the realities of their situation by virtue of Butch's lies. Her life and the life of the other women in the movie are dictated and defined by the men in their lives, despite Mia's delusion that she is independent.
Do we care when The Bride lops off O-Ren Ishii's skull? No. Why? Context.
Kill Bill is a great example for either side of the argument, because it features prominent actresses from the 80s and 90s who we love, who we have found sexy in and out of the cinema; and we enjoy them fighting it out. Ripping eyes out, even. They're strong female roles, but are also exploited.
Death Proof is an exploitation film as part of the Grindhouse release, which further demonstrates how context is key to his work.
Tarantino isn't Joss Whedon and doesn't share his trend of having established, core values when it comes to gender roles. They change piece to piece. Look at how the justification of violence system is used in Inglorious Basterds to allow Shoshanna to murder an entire cinema of Nazis and Nazi sympathisers. She is strong, overcomes obstacles and has her violent revenge without becoming sexualised or undermined by her gender. Neither does she fall into the trap of becoming an unappealing butch stereotype. I don't think this can be said of The Bride who, although strong, is most certainly an object of sexual fantasy. While it can be said Shoshanna exploits her own sexuality in an attempt to complete her plan, she isn't sexualised for the audience. It's a fine line and one that is often tripped over by storytellers.