A Pulp Fiction Christmas

On Christmas Eve, I felt blessed to be surrounded by friends and family, all of us hardcore fans of Pulp Fiction. Unbeknownst to my husband, the entire 4-set collection of Pulp Fiction Action Figures was wrapped and waiting for him under the tree. The plan was to watch the movie and shout out our favorite lines of dialogue.

If you don’t care about Pulp Fiction, this is a good time for you to stop reading.

If you do: Achtung!

Having commented to my nephew, Russell, that The Gimp sequence was always hard for me to take, I settled into the action as Butch and Marcellus were trapped by the Racist Hillbillies in the back of the pawnshop. Becca, a beautiful young girl sitting on the floor near the TV, chided me for not knowing more about ball gags.

As Bruce Willis pauses at the door of the pawn shop, splattered with blood and about to escape, he stops and reconsiders. When he heads back into the lunacy of the back room, I am always moved by his heroism. I turned to my nephew and said, for pointless emphasis, “That’s character!”

“No it isn’t,” Russell replied, with a hint of annoyance at my stupidity. “Butch goes back to save his own ass. You can see the wheels turning in his head as he stands by the door! He’s thinking, if he leaves, he will always be a hunted man. Marcellus has given the order to kill him. If he saves Marcellus, the hit could be called off.”

I was astonished by this interpretation. This is one of my favorite Pulp Fiction moments, and Russell was daring to fuck it up.

“No, it’s pure selfless courage!” I insisted. “Butch can’t bear to leave Marcellus to his fate. The idea sickens him! It’s moral outrage! He’s standing right in front of the Confederate flag for Christsake! It represents racism and hillbillies! He even chooses a samurai sword as his weapon!”

Everyone else agreed with Russell, who tried to soften the blow by saying he was touched by my innocent, benevolent interpretation. I scolded him for being a cynic. And for denying that as always, the subject was The Love Between Men (see a post on that elsewhere at godammit.)

I have discussed this controversy with my experts, and the smartest among them supports my argument. He pointed out that the entire movie is about honor. It is brought up constantly, and explicitly. The watch scene; the statement that you don’t scratch another man’s car; Vince’s determination to put loyalty before lust. Even when Jules lets Ringo go, it’s a point of honor as a newly religious man. Hmph!

Okay then. Comments? Arguments? Pulp Fiction scholars and/or critics, please speak up.

Let me just add that it was a lovely Christmas Eve by any standard. Our friend Mishelle gave out lottery tickets and my kid won $70! Plus, my SweetSpot gifts were a big hit, resulting in a delighted scream of: “I LOVE VAGINA WIPES!”

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20 Responses to “A Pulp Fiction Christmas”

  1. WendyB Says:

    Sorry, luv, but I’m with Russell!

  2. Aja Says:

    Yeah, I never thought about it that way. Damn that Russell! My favourite line (which is used in my every day speech pattern) “Bitch, be cool. . . be cool bitch”.

  3. Max Says:

    Tarantino’s screenplay for Pulp Fiction spells out Butch’s motive for saving Marsellus:

    “Butch decides for the life of him, he can’t leave anybody in a situation like that”

    For elaboration, see:

    “Shepherding the weak: The ethics of redemption in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction”

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3768/is_199801/ai_n8758347/print?tag=artBody;col1

  4. JK Says:

    Now I’m not pissing on the Pulp Party (and I’ll use English this time-as admonished to) but you seem to lump “hillbillies” as necessarily racist.

    Say it ain’t so Sister Wolf!

    JK is from Arkansas. Specifically the Ozarks Mountain region of Arkansas. JK has a corncob pipe, an African American brother-in-law, an Indian (the country, not the indigenous aborigine variety) former brother-in-law, and two Yankee ex wives.

    The Yankee ex’s alone should suffice for proof that not all hillbillies are racist.

  5. Iheartfashion Says:

    I’m with you Sister. I always thought he went back out of the goodness of his heart, without calculation.

  6. Skye Says:

    It’s obvious that he goes back because he feels morally obliged to – you can see it in his kind of exasperated/resigned expression when he goes back in to the shop. And the whole “Zed’s dead.” thing is just part of that too.

    I’m with you SW, the Marcellus thing is just a side effect.

  7. Nephew Wolf Says:

    “Vince’s determination to put loyalty before lust”? More like his determination not to be defenestrated like the last guy who touched Marcellus’s wife.

    Again, let me just say that your faith in the fundamental human decency of movie gangsters is touching.

  8. Sister Wolf Says:

    Yes, but while you are touched, what do you say to QT himself on the matter of Butch’s motive in the pawn shop?

  9. Ann Says:

    I don’t care what anyone says – Butch went back to save Marsellus because it was the right thing to do. Call me naïve, but I want to believe there are precious few people in the world who would leave a fellow human in such a predicament.

    That being said, I do believe Vincent didn’t sleep with Mia because he was scared of his possible fate, not out of some sense of loyalty. I feel Butch has more character (and more intellect) than Vincent.

    Ann’s favorite line in the movie, spoken by The Wolf after the bloodied car has been cleaned and Jimmie admires the handiwork by Jules and Vincent: “Well, let’s not start sucking each other’s dick quite yet.”

  10. Sister Wolf Says:

    WendyB -Okay, but please explain!

    Aja -That’s a good line for everyday use.

    Max -Ha, well there you go! Thank god. Russell, now what?

    JK – Racists are not always hillbillies nor vice versa. It’s true the two are often lumped together. In Pulp Fiction, they are in fact racist hillbilly rapists.

    Iheartfashion – Of course, thank you!

    Skye -YES.

    Nephew Wolf -So, now you have moved your focus to Vince and Mia?? Fine, It is not pure loyalty, but also fear.

    Now, back to the original argument: Do you still insist on your interpretation as the intended one?

    Ann – I believe you are right. In fact, you are right. I LOVE that line too. I hope I get to use it today!

  11. fashion herald Says:

    Poor JK, because when I think hillbilly I think Deliverance! Tarantino was just taking it a couple steps further than James Dickey.
    Butch totally went back out of the goodness of his heart. But I cry at almost anything on TV.

  12. San Diego Farmgirl Says:

    I thought Vince didn’t sleep with Mia because she OD’d. He was trying to talk himself out of it in the bathroom, while she was out in the living room ODing on his stash. Moral crisis solved.

    Sister Wolf, you are right about Butch. Of course honor was the lesson for him, he threw the fight, remember. Your nephew needs to take a ding dang writing class and learn about symbolism and themes before he can start speaking with any authority! haha Besides, if he’s like most young men, he probably rates movies according to how many boobies and explosions they have. :)

  13. Nephew Wolf Says:

    Actually, if I recall correctly, during the conversation at SW’s house I acknowledged that films have themes and employ symbolism, but I pointed out that they also have plots, and characters with motivations and needs (such as the instinct for self-preservation), and that the characters’ attempts to satisfy those needs and deal with things and events that thwart them are generally what move plots forward. So while ignoring symbolism and theme entirely would be a mistake in analyzing a film, so would ignoring characters and plot–indeed, it might lead one to write things like “he threw the fight, remember” when in fact Butch was on the run because he did not throw the fight.

    I will leave the comment about boobies and explosions without rebuttal, because at this point I am always pleased to be mistaken for a young man.

  14. Sister Wolf Says:

    fashion herald – Me too. Is it hormonal or what??

    San Diego Farmgirl – Now you’ve got him all excited about being called ‘young!’

    Nephew Wolf – CORRECT, Butch did not throw the fight because….wait for it…it was a matter of HONOR! Just like when he went back to help Marcellus! You are conveniently ignoring our dispute over Butch’s motive, and the fact that you misread it, according to the actual screenplay no less.

    You may find it repugnant to admit you were mistaken, but your honor demands it, does it not?

  15. Nephew Wolf Says:

    Butch did not throw the fight because…wait for it…he had waited for word to spread that the fight was rigged and then had a partner place huge bets on him at long odds, spreading the action around among several bookies so as not to arouse suspicion. After winning the fight, as he had meant to do all along, he jumped into that cab, fully intending to make off with Marcellus’s money and collect on his own bets. In other words, he fucked Marcellus (as Jules would say, “like a bitch”). Weren’t you paying attention during the scene where he calls his partner from a pay phone? Or were you too busy trying to decide whether the phone booth represented the chivalric element of the superhero mythos, or just the alienation of modern electronic voice communication?

    See what I mean about taking note of what’s actually going on in the plot of a film?

  16. Sister Wolf Says:

    So, Butch didn’t throw the fight, Check. He wanted to make more money than what Marcellus offered him. Check. But would he have thrown the fight under any circumstances? Doubtful. He had too much pride as a fighter. And too much honor.

    If we could just address the ORIGINAL DISPUTE, Nephew Wolf? It makes us all sad that you can’t admit to being wrong. Are you George W. Bush?? Am I a nigger?? Are we in Inglewood??

  17. Nephew Wolf Says:

    Butch has all kinds of pride–too much–but precious little honor. You see it in just about every scene he is in. Remember, he is probably the one who keyed Vincent Vega’s car outside the strip club. That’s the reaction of a person whose pride has been wounded. You can maybe argue that Butch has an epiphany of some kind at the pawn shop, realizing that here at last is an opportunity to behave honorably, but even that would be a stretch.

    Butch is essentially a punk who happens to be able to fight.

  18. Sister Wolf Says:

    Well, tell that to Quentin Tarantino and that guy who cowrote the script.

  19. Nephew Wolf Says:

    I’d be happy to tell them that. This isn’t the revealed word of Jehovah we’re talking about, it’s just a frigging movie script.

  20. Joe Jamaica Says:

    I agree, Bruce Willis goes back to do the right thing as he has been doing all along, from the start when he doesn’t throw the fight, to going back to his apartment to save his family heirloom watch. It is about honor, though at the time I didn’t see it. He squares with Marcellus, but it is a reward he didn’t expect.

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