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‘“Pulp Fiction’ is a perfect example of a postmodern text”

Postmodern texts ‘make no attempt to pretend they are realist and deliberately
expose their nature as constructed texts’. Strinati also describes
postmodernism as "Coming to terms with and understanding a media-
saturated society. The mass media, for example, were once thought of as
holding up a mirror to, and thereby reflecting, a wider social reality. Now that
reality is only definable in terms of surface reflection of the mirror" (1995).

‘Pulp Fiction’ is a perfect example of a postmodern text as it uses many


intertextual references which ‘seek to represent media reality’. One of the
most noticeable of these is when Jules uses a quote from the bible, similar to
Robert Mitchum’s character in ‘Night of the Hunter’. The quote he uses is
Ezekiel 25:17, which he recites to a man just before he kills him. This could be
seen as unfamiliar in a crime film with gangster characters, you don’t typically
see this kind of character reciting religious quotes to their targets. This is one
postmodern element to the film. Another example of intertextuality in ’Pulp
Fiction’ is Mia’s haircut, which is reminiscent of Louise Brooks in Pandora’s
Box. I think the reason Quentin Tarantino, the director, uses these text
references is for the benefit of the audience who notices them. It makes them
feel more involved in the film because they know or have noticed something
that a different viewer may not have. Another intertextual reference is when
Butch chooses which weapon to use when he saves Marsellus. Links to ‘The
Toolbox Murders’, ‘The Untouchables’, ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ and
‘Seven Samurai’ are shown in this scene when Butch picks up a hammer, a
baseball bat, then a chainsaw, and finally a samurai sword. This choosing of
the weapon can be seen as comic as he picks up a variety of weapons, but I
don’t think many people would make the link to the referenced films.

The most obvious element of postmodernism in Tarantino’s film is the mix


up of scenes. The first time you watch the film it confuses you about why
Tarantino has done this and isn’t very easy to follow the story line. However
when you watch it a few more times you see that he put the scenes in a non-
chronological order so that the film wasn’t overly realistic. This is one of the
main criteria of a postmodern text, not being realistic to the extent that people
could actually believe it is happening or happened, but that it’s there to watch
for entertainment. Other unrealistic elements of the film include when Mia
draws a square on the screen with her fingers, using special effects, this is a
very random and unexpected aspect of the film but makes you realise that this
isn’t a conventional film. Also when Butch gets in the taxi after his fight, the
background backdrop is the kind that would be used in a black and white
1950’s film, not conventional for a ‘noughties’ film. This postmodern element
of the film would be apparent to any type of audience watching.

However, some people argue that the amount of postmodern elements of


‘Pulp Fiction’ make it too unrealistic and unenjoyable. The film got many good
reviews but also a few bad, one of them being, from James Wood for The
Guardian, "Tarantino represents the final triumph of postmodernism, which is
to empty the artwork of all content, thus avoiding its capacity to do anything
except helplessly represent our agonies.... Only in this age could a writer as
talented as Tarantino produce artworks so vacuous, so entirely stripped of
any politics, metaphysics, or moral interest."

I agree with the statement that “‘Pulp Fiction’ is a perfect example of a


postmodern text” because after watching the film, seeing how it fits into the
description of postmodernism with intertextual references and an
unconventional structure, I found it very different to any film I’ve watched
before which shows to me that it is postmodern.

Lauren Harrison

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