Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Vincent Vega and Huck Finn

Last night I cracked open of my favorite books of ALL times, Huck Finn. Once again I was struck with the memory of the short-lived controversy surrounding this great and hilarious work of literature. Then, once again, my Christian-double-standard-o-meter went off and I asked this here question. "So what is the difference between reading and enjoying, guilt-free, Huck Finn, which happens to be chalked full of the "N" word, and watching and enjoying Pulp Ficton, chalked full of the "F" word?" Both the "N' word and "F" word are considered offensive and we discourage and shun the use of them both but somehow we find ourselves A-Okay with reading Huck Finn and not so "A-Okay" with watching Pulp Fiction. Both works of fiction are true to the vernacular of the environment. I say this because this is how we justify reading Huckleberry Finn and allowing it in the public school curriculum or in the privacy of our homes.- Vernacular and environment. Could we not say the same for Pulp Fiction? Pulp Fiction is about Gangsters and whatever goes along with being gangster and Huck Finn was written about a time when Black People were considered property. Horrible but true. And if you read Huck Finn, you find that the only really GOOD person in the whole book is Jim, and Twain was doing everything BUT condoning slavery. If you watch Pulp Fiction I think you will find the same kind of "Moral to the Story" In that there is a good and bad. -Being gangster Bad. End up Dead. Be like Cain and walk the earth doing good deeds with a wallet that says Bad ... well, you've seen it.

Personally I love both Huck Finn and Pulp Fiction. I have many Christian friends and family members (*cough* mysister *cough*) who think that Pulp Fiction came from the Devil's back pocket but they love and adore Huck Finn.

So why is one okay and not the other?


Seth Ward said...

Well, maybe Tarentino does make being a Gangster look a little fun, but hey, Twain made pestering and torturing Jim at the end one of the side-splitting funniest things ever. I mean, pet snake? Watering a plant with his tears?

Anonymous said...

"So why is one okay and not the other?"

Because Samuel L. Jackson isn't in one of them.

Anonymous said...

Kidding. You're preaching to the choir on this one, friend. I'll let someone else disagree with you before I start chiming in for real.

Stephen said...

Another choir member reporting in.

Douglas_Coombs said...

"Parents should be concerned about the film's glorification of violence, drug use, and sexual themes. Gunplay, robbery, swearing, drug use, drug dealing, lying, cheating, violence, male rape, sadomasochism, and driving under the influence are featured in this film. A character is shot in the face and it's played for jokes. In one extremely graphic scene (one that supposedly incited seizures in some epileptic audience members), a character plunges a syringe into a woman's chest to save her from experiencing a heroin overdose. The director seems to mock product placement by featuring original brands created for the film"

Really makes ME want to watch Pulp Fiction. I don't think it is merely the use of the F word that turns people off. It is the immersement in filth that one must undergo to watch the film. How many negative elements must pile up before one says, OK, this film isn't for me.

Also, when Huck Finn presents negative elements, that was the status quo of society at the time. I don't think that the negative elements in Pulp Fiction represent the status quo of our time. That makes Huck Finn a more effective social critique, in my book.


Douglas_Coombs said...

whatever happened to the post on the recital at your church? Did you end up going to another venue?

Susanne said...

I'm with Doug on this one. I didn't see much of Pulp Fiction...not because of the language, but because of the violence that turned my stomach. I think Mark Twain would've gotten sick to his stomach too if he'd had to watch a Tarentino film.

euphrony said...

What I have to say sounds a bit cliché, but "You are what you eat."

Spiritually, this is very true. I agree with Doug, that I do not want to support the glorification or the commonization (is that a word?) of such a lifestyle. I also do not want to be influenced or deadened to such things. I may feast on a wonderful spiritual diet of scripture and prayer, but when my dessert is fatty, sugary, nonsense then I will still get pudgy and unhealthy. Do I want to give residence in my mind to both God and the world?

Not to say that we all need to retreat to monasteries - that is a bit ridiculous - but I must ask why am I partaking in something. Do I seek historical knowledge? Am I trying to gain perspective on an aspect of the world? Am I seeking to entertain myself? I must conclude that my entertainment must be of a higher standard than Pulp Fiction (since you used that example). What would Jesus watch? (Okay, I'm full of clichés today!) Some may have the perspective that Jesus was taciturn, always serious and teaching, or that he was a "right jolly ol'" Jew - both somewhat skewed views; but I feel sure that he had his campfire moments with his buds around, just chatting and eating hummus (kinda like Blazing Saddles, but not quite).

I've previously discussed my feelings on profanity, so I won't go back into that. But more than simple language, what are we trying to fill our lives with? And, yes, I've avoided answering the question of why Huck Finn is okay but not Pulp Fiction; I'll leave it at the last question I posed and let others answer for themselves.

And, Seth, keep your hands off my lawn deer! Was that your car I saw slowing down and eying them last night, then speeding off when they saw me?

Seth Ward said...

"Also, when Huck Finn presents negative elements, that was the status quo of society at the time. I don't think that the negative elements in Pulp Fiction represent the status quo of our time. That makes Huck Finn a more effective social critique, in my book."

I believe that Pulp Fiction presents an accurate depiction of the status quo of the life of a Gangster, therefore an accurate depiction of a facet of society, just as Huck Finn did. Gangsters kill people, Gangsters do drugs and Gangsters cuss. I think both vehicles of artistic expression were equally effective in presenting effective social critiques. The shot in the face scene, contrary to popular opinion, was not played for a joke. Like "ha ha funny funny I shot him in the face." They didn't laugh one time about it in the movie. If it was funny then blame the one who laughs. I thought it was funny. I also thought it was horrible. As a matter of fact this strange no-mans-land that Tarentino created between laughter and disgust is part of the genius of this film. You mostly laugh at the ridiculousness of the scenario. You are simultaneously, equally repulsed by the accidental shot in the face. I also do not think that Pulp Fiction is any more violent than The Matrix, The Godfather, or Saving Private Ryan. They all present violence and I don't believe any of them are meant to glorify violence. That includes Pulp Fiction. Pulp Fiction presents the environment as - is, with a perspective that amplifies the ridiculousness of the scenarios, thus the humor. I actually prefer it to say, the more Nihilistic cinematic approaches found in Training Day or The Departed (although a great movie)

I totally respect a person’s decision to NOT see any of these movies. However, I think the double standard is still clear.

I maybe a bit guilty of going over the top with my comparison. I had originally used Good Will Hunting as the Movie for comparison. However, I think, if I understand correctly here, it is the violence, not the "f" word that keeps people from seeing that movie. Now, if that is the case then ask yourself why ARE you okay with seeing The Matrix, which displays countless kill after kill and not okay with the 5-6 deaths found in Pulp Fiction?

Still, in the end, I am unclear why people have no problem with the "N" word in Huck Finn and yet have a problem with the "F" word in Pulp Fiction.

Euphrony, that was my decoy. You have to go to sleep sometime...

Seth Ward said...

There is a reason for this post. I don't want anyone to think that I am slapping this up for the fun of arguing. I am working on a documentary. In this documentary there are characters who cuss. I would prefer NOT to bleep out there cussing. However, I understand that people are offended by cussing. I do not desire to offend. Therefore, by talking some of these issues out using this scnerio, I am able expand my perspective and make a better decision.

In the very first interview, the man asked if he could cuss, I was busy trying to make sure the camera was on and didn't answer him, he took my silence as a cue to cuss. I didn't stop him. It might have ruined the moment and ruined the opportunity.

Susanne said...

For the record, I got sick to my stomach watching The Matrix as well. Not sure if it was the killing, killing, and more killing, though, or just because there was too much going on at once and it made my head spin! :)

Also, I don't like the "n" word any more than I like the "f" word. I always cringe when I hear the "n" word used as a slur. However, that word was simply an adjective to my grandparents and other people of their era. I'm glad that that word is no longer an everyday word in most households in our country. I think one reason that it's not used as much now is because writers and screenwriters took some responsibility and started treating black people more respectfully in their books/movies. I think it would help today if screenwriters and authors would tame their language a bit. I think that America would soon follow.

I know it would be censorship and all, but I wonder why the publishing companies don't replace the "n" word used in Huck Finn with something like "nigra" or "negro?" Those terms were also used in that era, but they wouldn't have such a negative connotation today. Just wondering here.

Susanne said...

Oh...I forgot about your other question. I don't know if I see a problem with cursing in your documentary. I don't condone it, and I might have to fast forward through it, but a documentary is real life.

Douglas_Coombs said...

There is a big difference between cussing in a documentary and cussing in entertainment. For one, documentaries are an attempt to realistically describe people/events. Entertainment has very little to do with realism.

At the same time, I don't know that most curse words add much meaning (or any meaning) to a given sentence. It seems to me that just as much meaning can often be conveyed by bleeping the words out. Most people have creative enough imaginations to fill in the blanks given the context of the sentence, and it avoids offending those who might be offended.

What you decide to do might be based on your audience. Would kids possibly see it? Is the audience primarily evangelical Christian or secular? Is the audience primarily young adults, boomers, the elderly, all of the above?

I'm sure you'll make a good decision, whichever way you go. At least you care enough to ask yourself the question.


Lexie Ward said...

Don't know which sister you're referring to, but I've never seen Pulp Fiction and don't know anything about it really, so...