Pulp Fiction, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino in 1994, is regarded as one of the best films of the twentieth century due to its intelligent direction which transforms fictional stories into a larger, more complex plot that uses the interrelation of the various characters in the narratives to communicate deeper sociopolitical themes.
Masculinity is one such theme that is heavily discussed in the film, with the director both depicting the conventional perception of masculinity while at the same time criticizing certain aspects and values often related to masculinity such as sexuality and social hierarchy.
The presentation of the different chapters of the film, which represent different but related narratives, forms the basis of the divergent themes of masculinity, with the unified plot of the film revealing Tarantino’s satirical take on conventional masculinity through the various character arcs.
Theory of Foucault
Marcellus Wallace as A Critique of Modern Masculinity
Representation of the Past and Character Redemption
The homosocial relationship between Jules and Vincent does not occur in a vacuum, however, as the larger context in which the two characters demonstrate the homosociality of their relationship reveals the director’s take on the power dynamics which exist between the characters.
For instance, Jules is perceived as being more masculine than Vega, as indicated by his Victorian stance which conforms his character to certain behaviors and responses (Short 84).
When Vincent asks if he would give a man a foot massage, he pointedly refuses, threatening to end the conversation, despite his earlier stance that a foot massage is not a sexual enough act to warrant being thrown off a window (Kazakeviciute 10).
His position indicates his conformity to masculinity as constructed within the Pulp Fiction universe, as well as the presence of Foucault’s theory of the repression of sexual behavior which does not conform to the procreative norms of the Victorian regime.
This paradoxical stance reveals Tarantino’s critique of the modern conception of masculinity, as it highlights both Jules’ conformity to Victorian values of sexuality by approving of Tony Rocky Horror’s punishment for giving Mia a foot massage, yet at the same time, he argues that a foot massage is not inherently erotic.