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November 1994, Week 2


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"Leroy, Marc" <[log in to unmask]>
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 11 Nov 1994 14:15:08 CST
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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
To pass on what Tarantino himself said about the scene, I paraphrase an
article on him from either Los Angeles Magazine or Entertainment Weekly.  He
said that he believed that any word that held such power as what you
referred to as the 'N' word (I cringe at violating your hypersensitivities)
should be shouted from the rooftops until it has lost that power.
I find reactionist tactics such as condemning a filmmaker as racist for
overusing a naughty word disgusting.  Look at what you have said.  Have you
examined the man before condemning him?  Or have you just reacted to
something that was obviously there to provoke a reaction in the first place?
 Viewing Tarantino's great relationship with Jackson off-screen and the
comments he has made regarding his agendas, it seems quite inaccurate to
label him a racist.  Rather, he is trying to stir up his audience and force
them to deal with these issues _in themselves_.    He has pushed your
buttons, and you reacted just like he probably expected.  If you have a
problem with that scene, maybe you should look at your own values before you
judge his.   I think this is his goal.
Another point:  Jackson's character is the only one in the film to have any
redeemable moral value, and racism was never an issue in inter-character
relationships.  They seem to have no trouble getting along (Jackson and
Travolta, the eventual reconciliation of Marcellus and Willis, Marcellus and
Travolta, Marcellus and Thurman, Marcellus and Keitel, Jackson and
Forwarded Message>>
One thing that lingers in my mind has to do with the scene
in which the car with the body is brought to the suburban house by
Samuel L. Jackson's and John Travolta's characters.  Tarantino, playing
the owner of the home -- and a drug dealer if I recall, insists on pushing
the racism issue by using the 'N' word repeatedly  (I'm censoring myself
here because *I* don't believe in fostering racism in any manner).
However, I think the scene would have been *more* funny, and less
likely to leave a bad taste in the viewer's mouth, if that word had simply
been replaced with the word, "body"  ("You can't bring a dead body here!
Do you see a sign out front saying 'Dead Bodies'?!").  The humor here
should be strictly situational.
But that wasn't good enough for the Boy Wonder, who not only had the
gall to have one of his characters throw the word around repeatedly, but
actually took it a step further by playing that character himself, thereby
foregrounding his racism in a way that very few filmmakers would have
chosen to do.  Tarantino is flaunting his racist tendencies and daring us
to question them.  His use of that word  (in that scene, at least) was
absolutely gratuitous and I find it appalling and sad that the film industry
has seemingly condoned this behavior by lauding the film and its director.
I don't care how wonderful other aspects of the film may be -- this type
of reckless filmmaking should not be encouranged.
Anyone who can laugh through that scene *without* feeling guilty
should question his or her own views on what constitutes humor.
Another (shorter) comment I have on *Pulp Fiction* is in regards to
the print ads for the film, in which the four main characters are shown --
Travolta, Jackson, Uma Thurman and Bruce Willis.  All four had
very distinct hair styles in the film, and they are shown in the ad
with those hair styles intact, EXCEPT for Mr. Jackson, whose long,
shiny curls have been replaced by a closely-cropped style.  Why?
Does the marketing department at Miramax want their African-Americans
to look less threatening for their predominantly white target audience?
This one really baffles me, and I'd like to invite anyone who's got a theory
to please post it.
Christopher White