Sunday, February 1, 2015

Race and The Postmodern Spectacle in Early Tarantino

I googled my name yesterday to see what lies the internet is spreading about me, and the first result was a link to my Master's Thesis from Central Connecticut State University.

Click this link if you'd like to read it.

Just as a warning, it took me almost 2 years to write it, and it may take you just as long to read it.

This was definitely one of the most difficult things I've ever done and is one of my proudest accomplishments (the thesis itself and getting my Master's).

I worked on it as I was substitute teaching and then while I was an assistant teacher at Head Start. It was an odd experience going from 8 hours interacting with 3-5 year olds then going home to write about violence and racism in Tarantino movies, but its a good reflection of the duality of my nature. Thug love the kids.

The paper focused on Tarantino's first four films in the 90s: True Romance, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Jackie Brown. I included True Romance because he wrote it and was satisfied with Tony Scott's direction (despite the drastic change to the ending). I didn't include Natural Born Killers because Tarantino hated what Oliver Stone did with his script and has publicly distanced himself from the final movie.

I hadn't thought much about the thesis until Django Unchained came out. Django is the logical conclusion to the arc that Tarantino created in the 4 movies I focus on. It is the championing of a black man reclaiming history, and his story, from the white culture that has brutalized him and appropriated his culture, while using . I gotta say, I was pretty proud of myself after seeing the movie because it represented so much of what I said in the thesis.

Here's the abstract to help you decide if you want to invest a few hours in reading the whole thing.

Tarantino: Exposing the Spectacle of the Post-Modern Condition

Quentin Tarantino's four films of the 1990s (True Romance, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Jackie Brown) look at the complexities of cultural and racial identity in post-modern American society. The films illustrate the ways in which identity is constructed in the society of the image, a society defined by excessive consumption, globalization, and a reliance on images to process reality. Identity is created through a visual process of identification with the images we are presented every day. Many of thee images have been, and continue to be, racist in nature. This paper looks at these four films and examines the ways in which Tarantino attempts to expose the spectacle of the postmodern condition.

The four films represent a progressive arc in Tarantino's career. True Romance serves as a denouncement of the white fantasy of postmodern society. This film and Reservoir Dogs serve to deconstruct white identity in the society of the image. The characters of Reservoir Dogs construct their identity in relation to the "Other" of black culture. The film itself illustrates the ways in which mainstream white culture consciously and unconsciously appropriates black culture. His next film, Pul Fiction, focuses on the way individuals play a part in society and how blacks construct their identity in the same manner as whites. Pulp Fiction starts t erode the idea of black culture symbolizing authenticity. Jackie Brown openly and directly appropriates from black culture and illustrates how black culture is a part of the same spectacle as white culture.

There has been much criticism focusing on the use f violence and racist language in Tarantino's films, most notably Henry Giroux, and this thesis deals with many of those criticisms. I assert that Tarantino's use of racist dialogue and violence is a comment on the society which produced these films and the characters in them. There have also been many who applaud Tarantino's aesthetics and his critique of postmodern society, such as Stanley Crouch, and I extend their analyses of Tarantino's work. This thesis examines all four of Tarantino's films from the 90s and scholarly works regarding Tarantio, as well as texts regarding postmodern culture and the society of the image, the construction of identity, and race relations in postmodern American culture.

Again, here's the link if you'd like to read the whole thing.

I Love You All...Class Dismissed.

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