The cultural impact of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994) is unquestionably impressive and far-reaching. References, tributes and homages to the movie can be found everywhere from countless “Pulp Fiction Wedding First Dance” videos on Youtube, to Harvey Keitel (oh, Harvey) turning up as Winston Wolf in, of all things, a Direct Line (2014) advert:
On a personal level, I own the soundtrack on vinyl, I can quote plenty of the dialogue and a few years back, my partner even dressed as Uma Thurman’s character Mrs Mia Wallace at a fancy dress party:
Taking all of that into account, it is with great trepidation and embarrassment that I must own up to something: until approximately 3 hours ago, I’d never seen Pulp Fiction. I’ve owned it on DVD for at least a decade, so how this travesty has occurred is beyond me. It’s lucky it’s not one of the greatest films of all time or anything!
The last thing the World Wide Web needs is another review of Pulp Fiction, so instead, I’d just like to mention a few aspects of the movie that resonated with me the most.
A lot is made of hyperreality in Quentin Tarantino’s movies, especially in his more recent films such as Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Django Unchained (2012). A curious bi-product of watching Pulp Fiction 20 years too late is that a number of its key scenes actually become hyperreal. If we take the aforementioned example of Winston Wolf and the Direct Line advert, seeing the original Winston appear in Pulp Fiction feels like the embodiment of simulacrum (Baudrillard, 1981): he is essentially a copy without an original.
The same can be said for when Honey Bunny (played by Amanda Plummer) shouts “any of you fucking pricks move, and I ‘ll execute every mother fucking last one of ya!” As John Storey (2012, p. 193) explains, “in the realm of the hyperreal, the distinction between simulation and ‘the real’ implodes.” Having heard Honey Bunny’s quote innumerable times on the soundtrack, hearing it in its original context felt more than real.
In addition to hyperreality, further postmodern elements can be found throughout, most notably in the scene where Mia takes Vincent (played by John Travolta) to a diner called Jack Rabbit Slims. The diner seems to be a pastiche of American pop-culture, with a Buddy Holly waiter (played by Steve Buscemi) and a Marilyn Monroe hostess. And then there’s *that* dance scene. We’re all familiar with John Travolta’s history of dancing – even I’ve seen Saturday Night Fever (1978) – which helps to create a textbook example of intertextuality. That said, despite Travolta’s illustrious dancing credentials, the scene was apparently based on Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 (1963).
Anyway, there’s a reason why Pulp Fiction is currently ranked as the fifth best film of all time on IMDB. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid watching it up to this point, stop what you’re doing and load up Netflix.
8 1/2 (1963) Directed by Federico Fellini [Film]. Culver City: Columbia.
Baudrillard, J. (1981) Simulacra and Simulation. Michigan: The University Of Michigan Press.
Curt Harting (2010) Pulp Fiction Wedding First Dance. Available at: http://youtu.be/v9aTkHEpcl4 (Accessed: 30 November 2014).
Direct Line (2014) Direct Line Home Insurance TV Advert. Available at: http://youtu.be/ir791xwvOP4 (Accessed: 30 November 2014).
Django Unchained (2012) Directed by Quentin Tarantino [Film]. New York City: The Weinstein Company.
Hyland, R. (2011) Pulp Fiction Fancy Dress. Available at: www.facebook.com (Downloaded: 30 November 2014).
IMDB (2000) Pulp Fiction. Available at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110912/ (Accessed: 30 November 2014).
Inglourious Basterds (2009) Directed by Quentin Tarantino [Film]. New York City: The Weinstein Company.
Miramax. (1994) Pulp-Fiction1. Available at: http://www.miramax.com/movie/pulp-fiction/ (Downloaded: 30 November 2014).
MrMcMar (2009) Reservoir Dogs & Pulp Fiction – Scooby Snacks. Available at: http://youtu.be/RRle7XUsHoI (Accessed: 30 November 2014).
Pulp Fiction (1994) Directed by Quentin Tarantino [Film]. New York City: Miramax.
Saturday Night Fever (1978) Directed by John Badham [Film]. Hollywood: Miramax.
Storey, J. (2012) Cultural Theory and Popular Culture. 6th edn. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.