Grindhouse and the Tarantino Ban

A good friend of mine has banned all Quentin Tarantino related projects from his personal sphere.  The inspiring occasion for this ban, I believe, was the rape scene in “Pulp Fiction” (1994) where Ving Rhames’ character is sodomized by a couple of good ol’ boys, Deliverance style.  He believes, and perhaps rightly, that America derived a too much pleasure from this hyper-sexualized fantasy scene.  Perhaps this scene catapulted Tarantino to the top of the American psyche because it allowed all of those AWM’s (Angry White Men) to conquer their fears of being robbed, beaten, butchered or murdered by an ABM (Angry Black Man).

It could have been much more than this.  After all, I’ve been told by my friend that Tarantino has a clear, blatant antipathy to black folk and his movies tend to glorify that bias.  I don’t suppose films like Reservior Dogs helped either.

Others have suggested that the real MO behind QT’s movies is to reveal a broader American contempt for Blacks through characters that are contemptible (and fully human) on a number of fronts.  Whatever your take on QT’s past, present and future in filmmaking, I gotta say, “Big Up” to Rolling Stone for coming correct with the magazine cover.

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 The double-feature flick Grindhouse featuring Rosario and Rose (seen above) is receiving a great deal of fan fare.  I suppose my friend won’t see it until around 2030 when he’s writing a retrospective about American film of the past half-century.  Tarantino’s legacy, whatever it becomes, will always be viewed, in part, through the prism of “race,” racism and identity because the characters which brought him to prominence inhabit a world few Americans know and most openly rue.

9 comments

  1. All movies generally ask viewers to suspend belief. Good to great movies almost imperceptively have us wading into the waters of suspended belief before we know it, leaving moviegoers to ponder later, at length, at exactly which plot point or cinematic moment did the celluloid sleight of hand enable fantasy to supplant reality. In other words, when do things cease being, real, logical, or true to life experience?

    How do those of us Black men who have fearlessly stared down, or sucessfully bullrushed, violently assaulting sure and certain death; how do we—having also witnessed our peers be literally blown away before our eyes because they defiantly refused to give up their Air Jordans, or their coats or their jewels (read: “bling”)— suspend our belief that Ving Rhames character (representing immense physical strength replete with prison tats suggesting ‘tough enough’ and ‘nothing to lose’)would willingly allow himself to be first tied up and then sodomized when, quickly sizing up or assessing the situation, he logically could have expected death, anyway?

    How do those of us who personally know stone cold, hardened scary killers, mercenaries or psychos—who may be our parents, friends, neighbors, students or people we know, but scare the beejesus out of us, nonetheless—suspend belief that Samuel Jackson’s character would endure the verbal emasculation/castration of both spittle and the the n-word some 50 odd times? I don’t think so.

    Pulp Fiction was such a gross, slanderous departure from reality that it can only be compared with D.W. Griffith’s “A Birth of a Nation” and, to a good extent, Cooper & Schoedsack’s King Kong (the original version).

  2. Three obviously anti-Black flicks…all in a bunch…all legends. I would not have thought to link those three movies, but I feel where you’re going with this. The bottom line is that you’re not the intended audience – and by extension, you don’t bring the intended critique. Non-blacks can look at Pulp Fiction from the perspective of cinematography as a ruse to mask the psychological satisfaction the movie delivers – but only in conversations with those who don’t know any better. Once you know better, and you see things as they are, you tend to avoid the B.S. altogether.

    I’m not as opposed to seeing his stuff as my friend, but that’s perhaps because I look at him much the way I would look at Griffith if he were still alive. Thanks…that was right on point.

  3. Sadly, I’ve heard a few Black folk say that they really liked Pulp Fiction and, I’m more than sure that there would be many more had I the stomach to informally poll folk. With all the non-Black Folk whom I’ve heard say that they really liked the movie, I’m totally surprised that none of them have commented, as of yet. I mean, aren’t you curious to hear from someone who says that they actually liked the movie?

    I know that I would certainly love to hear from either Ving Rhames or Samuel Jackson as to why they took the roles and whether they felt that the role were roughly authentic and generally true to life? I mean, don’t actors generally wax upon how important authenticity is for them to take a role and whether they feel they can believeably pull it off?

  4. First off, hello Temple 3. I like your site quite a bit.
    Second off, sicne Axe2Grind says he wants to hear from someone who liked “Pulp Fiction”, I figure I might as well step into the hot water and ‘fess up. I loved the movie, and I’m not just saying that to be contrary. I thought the writing was great, and I loved the dialogue.

    About the Ving Rhames rape scene? It’s no surprise a lot of brothers got way bent on that one. A couple of crackers sodomizing a hard core brother like Ving? We don’t even want to contemplate such a thing. But then, didn’t Ving get medieval on their asses in the end? Just to pull a quote. As to whether this is clear proof Tarantino hates black folks, I think I need more than that. Was it shocking? Sure. So was the scene where Ving’s girlfriend gets a hypo slammed into her chest.

    About blacks being despicable characters in Tarantino movies. Well, I’d have to say that in Pulp Fiction I honestly didn’t see not one character I’d want to bring home to mother. Travolta was as murderous as Sam, and Tarantino’s brief appearance was not to lovable either.

    About whether a true gangster like the on played by Sam Jackson would let a white guy call him nigger a whole lot. Well, I confess I don’t know a ton of gangsters, so I won’t front. But it didn’t seem out of bounds to me that since they were ALL thugs with a previously established relationship (they didn’t just meet) then slinging ugly terms back and forth wasn’t exactly hard to believe. Plus, if I remember correctly, Tarantino’s character was one or two boss levels above Jackson’s character, so in the gangland hierarchy of things he could probably say whatever he wanted. And Jackson figures so long as he’s getting paid, fuck it.

    I could go on, but hey. It’s just a movie. But I did want to toss in my few cents.

    Easy.

  5. Thanks for the props.

    You make some solid points with respect to that flick. That final scene where Sam Jackson is going through his whole Bible piece really has some transferable value – and I don’t how much it was understood at the time.

    I recall a lot of emphasis on the rape scene – and also about the use of the word nigger. In some respects, Jackson’s speech reminded me of Ossie Davis’ speech in Jungle Fever and his famous ending line, “I don’t eat with whoremongers.”

    Ruby Dee expresses shock and dismay: “You invited them. You knew they was comin’.”

    Both scenes have an element of finality about them that is seldom achieved with the spoken word sans anger. Crystal-clear level-headed and terminal. That’s a beautiful thing – and it’s the type of thing that FATHERS bring to families that is the cornerstone of discipline, character and integrity (when done properly). There is no negotiation…there is a statement of certainty – of truth that only rings hollow with the fool who has yet to learn the lesson.

  6. Ultimately, the rape scene was shocking because the movie reviewers as well as the MPAA absolutely colluded with Tarantino in that there was no prior warning in any movie review that I had read that such was going to transpire. Had I read a review that stated that there was a man being raped and that there was gratuitous, protracted use of the N-word, I surely wouldn’t have wasted my money nor my time. It’s been said that, at a party in Hollywood, Denzel Washington had to be physically restrained from attacking Tarantino shortly after this movie came out. My actions wouldn’t have been much different than Denzel’s, either.

    It’s not about not “contemplating” such a thing as rape, but rather the context. Men in the joint bigger than Ving’s size get raped, but it takes upward of 15 to 20 men to do it because there is a huge fight, herculean struggle, or tremendous brawl.
    The reality of black men from which Ving’s character is alleged to hail is one of death and violence. I hail from that world and have stared down the barrel of a gun on a couple of occasions and, more importantly, have looked into the eyes of the gun wielders. I can assure you that when you know that there is no doubt that the person is going to shoot you, anyway, fear passes pretty quickly and you resign yourself to being shot or dying. In so doing, you free yourself—believe it or not—to fight or survive or at the very least, as I was thinking in those moments, “that I can at least die with dignity and show no fear.” I refused to give those people the satisfaction of taking the lone thing a man truly has, which—in that moment—is his manhood (which was simply showing fear, crying, or begging, etc). For me, I’ve discovered—by the aforementioned experiences—that my manhood is something (obviously not the only thing) worth dying for and, dignity in death is very important. Pardon the digression, but Saddam Hussein proved that, as well, and don’t think for a moment that it hasn’t shored up the resolve of his people for a protracted fight.

    Lastly, gangsters and killers are two different creatures and I’ve known quite a few of both. Regardless, of stature, one wouldn’t talk to killers that way because, well, they kill or can kill not only for money, but the slightest provocation without a problem. That’s why they often have handlers and middlemen or intermediaries, as they’re not generally the social type. Some use drugs, as they are true sociopaths, in order to do their jobs to minimize any residual remorse. To be disrespected in such a way as to what they do in their craft—and not to mention that Sam’s character might have had a tiny tinge of remorse for the accidental killing that caused the whole thing? Yeah, right. Tarantino’s character would have been vaporized right there.

    No offense, but only a people who have been enslaved, sadly, I’d argue could cotton to not only having their humanity/identity/manhood/masculinity distorted and denied, but also in the case of the actors, be active and willing participants in their own debasement.

  7. The Arab world nor any other group that I can think of would tolerate such a characterization of their men. For certainly it would casus belli.

  8. Tarantino movies highlight our sickness to cottoning to our own degradation and, I am not immune. I generally found that I liked “True Romance”, wherein Dennis Hopper’s character proceeds to tell Chris Walken’s character that, “sicilians were spawned by n—as.” He then tells the story of Hannibal crossing the Alps. The thing is, Hopper’s character knew he was gonna buy it. He could have cowered and wimpered but he chose to verbally assault those that would kill him with a racial slur. Heck, he was dead, anyway, and he knew it would haunt those guys for the rest of their bigoted days, too. Oh, and Sam “retread” Jackson’s in this one too, but gets killed off really early.

    For sure, Tarantino is sick and certainly has a thing for Sodomy. I stumbled across this flick entitled “Killing Zoe”, with Eric Stolz. While Tarantino paints a vivid, ultra surreal picture, Pulp Fiction doesn’t for me ring true no more than Oliver Stone’s “Platoon” rang true/authentic where all the brothers in that flick were cowards and punks, save for one, King (Keith David’s character).

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