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November 1994, Week 2


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Scott Henderson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 13 Nov 1994 16:36:34 CST
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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
        It would seem that T's use of the 'N' word has as much to do with
class as it does race. In this sense then it may well be construed as
racist. Despite the nature of their 'business', all the central
characters of PF aspire to (Butch) or have acquired (Marcellus most
evidently) a 'higher' class status in the sense that they would certainly
equate class with money. Hence their use of the 'N' word, with its racist
connotations, is ,IMO, used to mark those class differences and to
provide these characters with a sense of self-assurance. In this way the
film actually seems to be echoing current (and ongoing) issues within
society where in harder economic times racism becomes more firmly
entrenched. Those who suffer often seem to place the blame on race as a
means of asserting some superiority. One only needs to consider the
success of Proposition 187 in California, or the rise of the
anti-immigration Reform party in Canada to suggest that this may be true.
        The characters in PF are not suffering economic hardship (Butch
excepted) but their status is extremely tenuous due to the nature of
their work. I was disturbed by the repeated use of 'nigger' within the
film but I would hesitate to label Tarantino racist as a result. He seems
too aware of the implications of using the word. In Reservoir Dogs it is
easier to identify the racism of the central characters. In Pulp Fiction it
would seem
more difficult. The characters think of themselves as 'better' because of
their possession of wealth and power (which at least from a Canadian
point-of-view works nicely as a metaphor for American society). Therefore
it seems to make sense, IMO, that the most redeeming/redeemed character
in the film is Samuel L. Jackson's, who is willing to walk the earth free
of worldly possessions.
                                        Scott Henderson
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