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October 1994


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Denis Henry Hennelly <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 20 Oct 1994 09:32:10 EWT
text/plain (40 lines)
Regarding Troy War's post on violence.
I was also disturbed by the raucous laughter through some scenes of
P.F.  I disagree, however, that scenes such as Marvin getting his head
shot off was made to elicit laughter.  Laughter can only come in that
situation if Marvin's existence as a human is ignored, if he is not
seen as a person.  It could be argued that the film encourages this
view.  I would say that the film does not portray Marvin as a non-entity,
but neither does it go out of its way to say to the viewer, "hey, this
is someone you should care about," as films typically do if they
want the viewer to sympathize with a character.  I say, why should a film
have to do this in order to get us to recognize someone's morality.
(change morality to humanity and add a question mark).
Marvin's life means nothing to Vincent and Jules, and they treat the
situation as a nuisance.  You can bet the incident meant a hell of a lot
to Marvin and his unseen friends and family.  If Marvin's life
means nothing to us, the viewer, than we have identified with the killers
too much.  Does the film encourage this by making the killers such
attractive individuals?  I don't think so... I think it makes the killers
human, it shows that they are at the base not so different than us.
But their choices are very different than the average citizens.  I believe
that running through the entire Bonnie Situation episode, the viewer should
be uncomfortable laughing because to do so means that the viewer is
treating the situation (i.e. Marvin's death) as trivially as the
individuals on screen who are throwing out quick one-liners about it.
I believe the film wants to make us feel this way, so I would say
if the viewer does not feel uncomfortable laughing at these parts,
if the laughter is not stifled by a paralleling sense of revulsion,
it is not the film which is at fault, it is the audience's lack
of natural compassion.  I couldn't laugh during this part, my body
wouldn't let me.  Yes, its just a film.  But film's strength as
a cultural text, as our society's mythology, springs from the fact
that it represents what we know as reality, our conceptions of
who and what we are as a people.  It portrays events which happen.
If we lived in a totally peaceful society, Pulp Fiction could be seen
as a total farce or disgusting exercise.  It is neither.  It is art,
and in that it is insightful.