Printed on cheap “pulp” paper, the pages of the ten-cent magazines that came to be called pulp fiction were filled with vivacious woman in trouble and strong-jawed men working to save them. For the hard working youth of America in the early nineteen hundreds, they provided a quick escape into places, people, and experiences otherwise inaccessible to them. For a dime, they could be swept up into a world of crime, romance, and intrigue.
In the late nineteen hundreds Quentin Tarantino brought his version of pulp fiction to Hollywood. And while you had to scrounge together a few more dimes to gain access to his stories, they no less provided a cheap escape for the youth of America.
As a young adult myself at the time, I saw Pulp Fiction in the theaters at least five times. When it hit VHS and later DVD, I lost count of how many times I watched the film. But why?
Lacing his violence with comedy, Tarantino produced the quintessential post-modern movie. Rather than delivering us funny detached from vengeance, or tragedy separate from comedy, Tarantino wove together a story that keeps asking: Is this funny? Will you laugh at this? Do you have lines separating things in your life that aren’t real?
Tarantino brought to the screen a non-linear world filled with Bible quoting assassins, dancing mobsters, five dollar milk shakes [which was expensive at that time], Royal With Cheeses, Choppers, and a briefcase filled with a treasure that’s value cannot be measured, it can only be wondered about it. He filled the mouths of his eclectic cast of characters with dialog so sharp that every moment, every conversation, feels like an existential discourse on the way the universe works.
For those of us waking up in the mid-90’s to the reality that the world was a darker, stranger, more violent and complex place than we had been raised to experience, Pulp Fiction stands as a window into reality through a trip into fantasy. While many seek this film out to find a cheap escape, Tarantino brilliantly provides that and invites you to look inside yourself. Pulp Fiction continues to invite us to ask life’s deeper questions about who we are, where we’re going and what it takes to get there, it just does it with a few hundred f-bombs, a couple of hand guns, and an adrenalin shot to the heart.