Monday, November 23, 2009

"If they hadn't done what I told 'em not to do, they'd still be alive"--Reservoir Dogs, film review

Reservoir Dogs, a film by Quentin Tarantino (1992), is about five men that are strangers to one another, are hired to do a simple diamond robbery, but when the police show up in the middle of the job, they all scatter, and things get messy. The opening scene of Reservoir Dogs shows all the guys hired for the job in suits and ties, as well as the man that hired them, Joe Cabot, and his son Eddie, all having breakfast at a simple diner, talking about Madonna’s song “Like a Virgin.” In this scene you get a feel for some of the characters, and frequent cussing occurs right from the beginning. All of these men are tough, “bad ass” looking guys that scream “masculine.” Throughout the entire movie intense language is used. When referring to a black person, “nigger” is used, whenever referring to a womyn, “bitch” is used, and when referring to anything that is not “masculine,” for example Steve Buscemi’s character goes by “Mr. Pink,” and he wants to trade that name for another one, but they tell him that he gets “Mr. Pink,” because “he’s a faggot.” It’s fairly obvious throughout the entire movie that the white, male dominates, and they all try to see who can be cooler and better over the others. There are a total of four womyn in this movie—a waitress at the diner in the background during the opening scene, but she’s pretty blurred out, the second womyn gets pulled out of her car by her hair by Steve Buscemi when he is running from the cops, and he hijacks her car, the next womyn is a completely blurred silhouette off into the distance, and when they are discussing where that random womyn will be during the robbery, Tim Roth says, “her ass will be in my lap on my dick,” and the last womyn is the womyn that shot Tim Roth in the gut, which is a very significant part of the plot line, when she was also getting her car hijacked by Tim Roth and Harvey Keitel. These four womyn were either serving men, or being assaulted by men, and called nothing but “bitches” throughout the entire film. When the men had to show their masculinity and dominance that is when they put down other people with harsh language and racial/homophobic slurs. I felt that class was definitely another issue to touch on, because these were all professional killers and robbers, and do this for a living, so that they can make a lot of money. These men seemed like they came from rough backgrounds, and would do anything they could to survive in this world, without working for pennies and having a miserable job. The character of Michael Madsen even did time already for a robbery that he actually did not do, but was accused of and currently on parole for, but was still doing this job. He led the gruesome scene of cutting off the ear of a police officer, and poured gasoline all over him, and was ready to set the officer on fire to burn alive. The violence portrayed in this movie was extremely bloody and intense, all while having a nice, easy-going soundtrack to go with it. These men were meant to be “killing machines” that were supposed to care for themselves and one another through the job, and that’s it. No one else mattered, and whatever they had to do to live, they did it. As the audience, you want these men to live and get the job done, even though they are criminals and treat anyone “less” then them horribly, and with no respect.

            A movie like Reservoir Dogs makes it seem cool to be like this type of person. A “bad ass” criminal that doesn’t care to give respect to anyone, and can do whatever they want to people. This portrays masculinity in a stereotypical way, in the way that they can hug each other and look out for one another, but only because they have already proven themselves to be able to rob and kill, and they aren’t a “faggot.” For example, Michael Madsen and Chris Penn characters haven’t seen each other in a few years, and so they hug and then start wrestling to show their affection towards one another. But after they wrestle a little bit, Penn makes jokes toward Madsen for supposedly being gay, and wanting to f**k him. Since these men hugged, then they had to wrestle to prove that they weren't gay, and then also make homophobic jokes towards one another, to try to prove once again that they are straight. 

 This movie is the same mob/gangster and tough attitude that was addressed awhile back in our class, with the documentaries on “Beyond Beats and Rhymes” as well as “Tough Guise.” In “Tough Guise,” Jackson Katz says, “The media constructs violent masculinity as a cultural norm,” and where “being a man equals violence.” This is evident in Reservoir Dogs, these men kill and torture, and this is supposedly what true men are. The sad thing is, is that we help to perpetuate this terrible outlook, and it needs to stop. Society watches a film like this and assumes this is normal behavior, because men are “tough, strong, independent, dominant, powerful,” and apparently “bad ass.” Men are supposed to enjoy films like this for the violence and blood, and then also pick up tips along the way to be a more of a “man’s man.” The parallelism between Reservoir Dogs and the video game, Grand Theft Auto, is extremely close in resemblance, with the hijacking of cars, and the shooting and killing. So if both of these outlets are entertainment mediums, then this is what is being watched recreationally. Young kids through adulthood are playing this video game, and then seeing movies like this, and see all of this violence and dominance normal, and what is expected of young boys and men. This violent, disrespectful, homophobic, racist, sexist attitude will never change if the faults of these views are not examined and brought to the surface. 

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