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March 1995, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 8 Mar 1995 19:35:02 CST
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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
I'm responding to two separate posts in one message.  Replies
to D. Hunter are first, replies to Gene Stavis second.
D. Hunter said:
How can one write that the films of Q.T. have no message and then
state that
they provide
"The best view of the meaningless and arbitrary world that we all
live in.  I
think he's touched the pulse of the 'Letterman generation' which can
find humor in almost anything simply because of the realization that
everything is, indeed, a joke with no meaning beyond that which we
decide to give it."
If this is not a message or better yet a moral stance I do not know
what is!
        Evidently not. :)
        I believe Tarantino's films have shown us a very interesting
        slice of life, a life which fits the description I gave it as
        inherently 'meaningless and arbitrary.'  That doesn't
        mean there's an intentional _message_ involved.
        Say you were to witness a shark eat a bunch of smaller fish
        who were just swimming around harmlessly minding their
        own business.  That might just show you that the world can
        be pretty harsh and unfair but that doesn't mean any of the
        participants were attempting to convey a _message_ to you.
In fact the work of Q.T. can be seen as reprensenting a very strong
moral stance both in content and in structure.
        How?  You'd have to really be stretching.  You might impose
        YOUR OWN moral stance onto the events depicted in the film
        but don't go confusing that with some inherent property of
        the film itself.
You may agree with this moral
position(s) (as the  antithesis of a Forrest Gump for example) but this
should not be confused with the complete lack of a moral position.
Also don't you think that we should take terms such as "letterman
generation" or"20 something" or "gen - x" with more than a grain of
        Definitely.  I hate the term gen-x because I don't know what
        the hell it's supposed to mean.  It's also stupid to try and
        describe a group of people with one term simply because they
        all happen to about the same age.  That's why I put 'Letterman
        generation' in quotes.  I happen to like that term myself and I
        use because I consider Letterman to be one of the most
        influential forces in the shaping of modern popular culture
        but clearly that is useless as an umbrella term.
<stuff deleted>
 D. Hunter
Gene Stavis then said:
It's quite refreshing to hear someone exempt QT's "doting fondness
for the
'70's" from this new definition, but it's not very convincing.
<<There is no message.  I guess this is similar to what I said above
about no moralizing being forced in.  But Tarantino has simply made
Well, of course this is the nub of the problem. The problem is the
word "message". Obviously, Chris is referring to a didactic moral
message when heuses the term.
        Perhaps you're right.  The problem is with the specific
        terminology I used.  Substitute 'morality' for message
        though message works better for me - we obviously
        employ different definitions of the word.  I very
        definitely mean an intentional, conscious message on
        the part of the filmmaker rather than any message a
        viewer may draw from the filmmaker's work.
But this is a false premise. No matter how hard you try, a
film is incapable of not having a message. The very act of putting on
ethical or moral blinders conveys the message that such things have
no meaning. Even Michael Snow's minimalist films convey a meaning
by DENYING meaning. You can't defend Tarantino on this basis.
        I'm not trying to defend Tarantino on any basis. I'm
        just explaining why I like the movie.  Quentin doesn't
        need any defending as far as I am aware.
<<Tarantino has, to this date, provided us with the best view of
the meaningless and arbitrary world that we all live in.  I think he's
touched the pulse of the 'Letterman generation' which can find
humor in
almost anything simply because of the realization that everything is,
a joke with no meaning beyond that which we decide to give it.  I
I've been waiting for such a level-headed voice in film and I am
certain his acceptance reflects that others have as well and hopefully
means more will be coming along the way.  Maybe this means we'll
be saved
in the future from sentimental crap like The Wonder Years or Forrest
Gump. >>
First of all, using "The Wonder Years" or "Forrest Gump" or any other
film that you do not like to elevate Tarantino is senseless. It is
possible to dislike obvious commercial pap AND to dislike Tarantino
as well.
        Well, sure, that's true.  I don't believe I implied otherwise.
        I selected those examples because I see them as the best and
        most recent examples of what I believe to be extreme
        sentimentality in works of film or television and thus the
        sharpest contrast to the unsentimental, stripped down
The notion that "Lettermanizing" the world is a desirable or good
thing is preposterous.
        You say tomato, I say bananas.
Why on Earth, Chris, are you bothering to respond to my post if
everything is meaningless or arbitrary? Obviously, defending
Tarantino is not meaningless to you. And neither were my objections
arbitrary. You defeat your own premise.
        No, you're missing my point but that's probably my fault
        for being imprecise.  What I am saying is that my world-
        view and, imho, the world-view displayed in Tarantino's
        films acknowledges the _inherent_ meaninglessness and
        randomness of the world.  Therefore, the only meaning
        the events of the world around us can possibly are those
        which we decide to give them.  If you want a gross
        generalization and simplification, just take it as "There is
        no absolute truth."
        To give a specific example, look at Jules and Vince's
        alternate explanations for the bullets missing them.  Jules
        thinks it was an act of God, Vince thinks it was just blind
        luck.  Two men at the same place and the same time
        witnessing the same exact event yet coming up with two
        completely different interpretations.
Substituting a trendy neo-nihilism for balanced thought is the cop-
out of the decade.
        Here's where I get a little annoyed.  Why must you
        accuse me of being 'trendy' simply because you don't
        agree with me?  I believe what I believe.  I like what I
        like.  It's not your place to judge why I like that.  Just
        because we differ doesn't make me a mindless slave and
        you a glorious free thinker.
        And what's the cop out?  That I don't understand.
Like it or not, at some point you have to defend Tarantino on the
issues, not by saying that everything is meaningless and arbitrary.
        Again, why on earth would I be trying to defend him?  I'm
        just talkin' about what I like and why I like it.
Perhaps the world is less meaningful and more arbitrary than
traditional morality has allowed in the past, but that does not give
you (or Letterman or Tarantino) a pass to indulge in undergraduate
sophistry to justify your lack of curiosity and your philistine
rejection of everything.
        Huh?  You've obviously got a real grudge here and I
        dont think I have the patience to deal with it.  I feel
        no urge to justify anything to you or anyone else.  That's
        not intended as a rebellious statement - just a statement
        of fact.  You got your beliefs, I got mine.  Mine are better,
        of course, but I won't waste my time trying to convince
        anyone else of that. :)
This is just the re-emergence of the old art vs. entertainment
argument in jazzy deconstructionist clothes. I don't buy it.
        Don't buy what?  You'll have to expand on that point (if
        you want to) cause I'm not sure exactly what you're
        saying.  That the art vs. entertainment debate isn't
        valid at all?  That you already know the answer to it?
        I'd appreciate if you could elucidate.
Gene Stavis, School of Visual Arts - NYC