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March 1995, Week 2


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"Edward R. O'Neill" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 13 Mar 1995 13:12:10 CST
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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Actually, while I probably agree that True Romance is disgusting, I find that
my horror doesn't override my interest in what makes it frightful.  First,
I think its play with race, while deeply phobic, is nevertheless very
revealing.  Second, the Slater character's trajectory from 'I would fuck
Elvis' to heterosexuality by way of paranoia is not simply awful but again
symptomatic.  Third, the film participates in the whole white-trasho-o-philia
that I see as gripping the media at the moment, most visible in these young
couples on the run films.  My reading would be as follows:  the white lower
middle or working class, feeling itself squeezed out by nonwhites and gays,
demonizes these groups in order to bolster its own marginal position.  This
movement is quite legible in a politics which conquers by dividing and by
setting one group against  another.  True Romance is part of an attempt to
make lower middle class white existence seem powerful and sexy, a kind
of trumped up version of Married with Children, which eases the bitter pill
of decreasing income with bathetic humor.
This is a very short version of a paper I am currently writing  on this topic.
The fact that homophobia/homophilia is a sort of lynchpin here, as well as,
of course, in Pulp Fiction, makes the brew, while heady and even stinky,
all the more powerful for me.
I thank the readers for their indulgence for these very condensed remarks.
Yours truly,
Edward R. O'Neill, UCLA
> ----------------------------Original message----------------------------
> "True Romance" was an awful movie. I see a deep and significant difference
> between it and "Reservoir Dogs." -- or another similar film, David Lynch's
> "Wild at Heart." In "Dogs," the violence serves no purpose and solves no
> problem. TR, on the other hand, glorifies and wallows in typical, reeking,
> "righteous" violence. Like Slater's manly execution of the drug dealer Gary
> Oldman (at the urging of Elvis no less! -- what an abomination!). And oh how
> we thrill to Patricia Arquette's killing of the hit man. And Christopher
> Walken's lingering sadism over Dennis Hopper. Typical violence as
> titillation, e.g. part of the problem, pornography. Not to mention the
> couple's happily-ever-after ending made possible by a suitcase full of
> cocaine. Sick, macho, amoral, pro-violence mythology.
> Very different is "Wild at Heart." Sailor and Lula try to escape their
> violent pasts with only a few dollars in their jeans. No manly vengeance
> first, no drug money. Pure love and innocence on a wing and a prayer.
> Sailor's one relapse -- the armed robbery -- results in sickening, pointless
> violence and a five-year setback of their dreams. As soon as he becomes
> tempted in Big Tuna by the sadistic, emotionally-crippled Bobby Peru, the
> innocence and hope of their road trip starts to leak away. In the end, pure
> love, hope, innocence and untarnished forgiveness win out (and elevated by an
> untarnished memory of Elvis, evoked through Sailor's singing of "Love Me
> Tender.")
> For me, a significant failing of "Forrest Newt" is the reliance on FG's
> lucking into a huge fortune. I guess the writers couldn't figure out any
> convincing way for the good-hearted half-wit to take care of his aging mother
> and AIDS-victim girlfriend without scoring an unholy pile of cash. Too bad
> for all the real good-hearted half-wits out there, slaving away at their
> sub-poverty minimum wage jobs. Watching their real aging mothers and
> AIDS-victim friends disappearingx. What a pathetic film.
> Thanks for listening.