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November 1994, Week 2


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Wed, 9 Nov 1994 09:57:32 CST
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> I for one *did* feel some guilt reveling/laughing at the violence (especially
> Marvin's surreptitious speed-bump splash) - and was initially affected
> by the various slurs - though by then end of the movie both seemed normal.
> What's *really* scary is that after the film I smoked and drank - and normally
> I smoke only under duress and drink on rare occasions. . .and furthermore
> my speech was peppered with various curse words - though not racial epithets.
By now, we've all had time to contemplate the racist/homophobic/violent
leanings of Mr. Tarantino, which are all so aptly demonstrated  in *Pulp
Fiction.*  Although I had problems with all three of these aspects of the film,
I'll limit my screen-l response to the question of racism-inspired guilt.
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