The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Pulp Fiction, part 2

Written by: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer

Kill Bill as thematic sequel to Pulp Fiction 

Kill Bill is a de facto sequel to Pulp Fiction, because both movies feature protagonists who begin the story as killers but who abandon their professions for more normal and benevolent lives. But in Pulp, we don’t get to see what becomes of Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) after he leaves that North Hollywood diner. Tarantino gives us an idea of what would happen to him through Kill Bill’s Bride.

And in case you’re hesitating to call Kill Bill a thematic sequel to Pulp, compare the diner showdown between Pumkin (Tim Roth) and Jules to the flashback at the end of Kill Bill where Beatrix finds out she’s pregnant. Tarantino goes to the same wells a lot in his movies – guns, violence, pop-culture references – but seldom does he echo the tone, theme and intention of a scene than in these two scenes. In both scenes we see a killer not only trying to leave their old life behind, but also talking their way out of a potentially deadly situation.

Tarantino actually writes a more successful version of this scene in Kill Bill, because in Pulp, Jules has already decided to abandon his killin’ ways, and he quickly gets the upper hand in his confrontation with Pumpkin.

The Bride, by contrast, is staying in a hotel when a home pregnancy test tells her she’s expecting – and moments later an assassin blows a hole in her door with a shotgun. Tarantino threatens the Bride’s life while she is in the very act of making a life-changing decision. The Bride manages to draw her weapon and turn the scene into a Mexican standoff, but she’s still scared shitless. Jules has a gun aimed at Pumpkin the whole scene, neutralizing the threat from the scatterbrained Honey-Bunny (Amanda Plummer), who has Jules in her sights. Jules’ relaxed manner – he drapes an arm over the back of his seat for much of the scene – reflects this.

Beatrix could quite possibly die in her scene, and she knows it. Jules, who knows he’s in no real danger, methodically and calmly persuades Pumpkin to back off (a sequence that gives us the movie’s coda), but Beatrix has to beg her assassin (Helen Kim) to look at the pregnancy test she dropped on the floor – and it works.

 “Congratulations,” her assassin says through the hole in the door right before she leaves. It’s one of Tarantino’s best moments yet.

Tarantino explores the same territory, yes, but he ups the stakes so persuasively that we don’t mind. I for one have grown weary of cutesy references to Red Apple cigarettes – we already know these characters inhabit the same universe as the ones in Pulp – but I love it when Tarantino mines his material and amplifies it in such an effective manner.

Beatrix, unlike Jules, also suddenly finds herself a potential mother, and the theme of family joins with the Greek/Homeric/Euripidean mode and propels Kill Bill with a velocity that Pulp simply lacks.violent action defines and powers Kill Bill. Roger Ebert called revenge this movie’s story engine, and he’s right on the money, because while the themes explored in Pulp – loyalty, betrayal, redemption, spirituality – are contemporary and complicated, revenge and justice stand at the center of Kill Bill … until the very end, when the Bride has fully inherited the proud mantle of Troy’s valiant Hector and that pesky, complicated theme of family fully asserts itself.