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November 1994, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 10 Nov 1994 20:24:45 CST
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<comments regarding use of the "n" word in Pulp Fiction>
I disagree....I think Tarantino used the word appropriately because it was
totally contextual....If you notice, *all* the characters, black and white, use
the "n" word for particular situations ... it's a "mobster" word, a "term of
art" of the underworld.  There are so many instances that show this, imo.  For
instance, early on when Travolta's character is at Marsellus Wallace's bar,
Marsellus (a black man), says, "Vincent Vega's in the house.  My main 'n'."
The banter between Jules [Samuel L. Jackson] and Vince [Travolta] makes regular
use of the "n" word -- by both parties.  It is a word used to describe someone
close to them, to the organization.  Note in particular the conversation
between Jules and Marsellus when they're trying to fix the situation with
Marvin [dead body minus a head].  The "n" word is used copiously by both black
men, then Jules says, after Marsellus has said he's sending "the Wolf" to solve
the problem, "Well, why didn't you say so, *Negro* [his emphasis] ..."  Yet
*another* use of the word, here meaning something slightly different ...
Now, to the point raised earlier, when Jules and Vince go to see the Tarantino
[QT] character, QT goes on at some length about, "*Is* there a sign outside my
house that says, 'dead "n" storage'?" .... then [more emphatically], "*IS*
there a sign outside my house that says, 'dead "n" storage'?"  And he asks
Now, *that* scene is funny because the question is so ludicrous, not because
it's "racist."  These guys (Jules and Vincent) aren't "racist" -- after all,
they both work for a black man, and one is black [Jackson] and another white
[Travolta].  BTW, it would *not* have been even remotely funny, imo, if the QT
character had just asked, "Is there a sign outside my house that says 'dead
body storage'?"  That is most definitely NOT funny.  Again, in "Pulp Fiction,"
"n" has a special meaning.
This is in contrast to "Reservoir Dogs," imo, where the all-white cast *is*
racist, and the racism card is played very well because it gives an
additional insight into these tough guys.  In "Pulp Fiction," the "n" word
is not "racist" because it doesn't *mean* the same thing it does in
"Reservoir Dogs."