Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pulp Fiction analysis - part 14: Further exploration of the gold watch scene


In part 11 of the analysis, it was stated that the meaning of the gold watch being handed (metaphorically speaking) down to the Pulp Fiction audience, is that we have had shit handed down to us by a previous generation. To identify who the specific metaphorical 'handing' and 'receiving' generations would have been in the year of Pulp Fiction's release (1994), i.e., to determine what year spans their birth years fall into, let's start out by examining the scene in the young Butch's home. Instead of trying to guess the year of the flashback scene from the home furnishings, dress of the characters, etc., it is easier to start out by simply looking at the screenplay, which is available at the Internet Movie Script Database. The portion of the screenplay we're interested in begins by saying, 'BUTCH'S POV', and then describes the setting:

"We're in the living room of a modest two bedroom house in Alhambra, California, in the year 1972. BUTCH'S MOTHER, 35ish, stands in the doorway leading into the living room. Next to her is a man dressed in the uniform of an American Air Force officer. The CAMERA is the perspective of a five-year old boy." (capitalization in original).

The problem with this is that Butch's facial appearance places him at significantly older than five; in fact, he physically looks eight or nine years old (as shown in the screencap of the young Butch below).

Above left: The scene described in the fragment of screenplay quoted above. Above right: Butch's facial appearance places him at eight or nine years old in the watch flashback scene, not five.

The implication of this is that the five-year old referred to in the screenplay is not Butch. In fact, the 'five-year olds' are the members of the (1994) Pulp Fiction audience, who are effectively the persons Koons is addressing during the latter portion of his monologue (as discussed in part 11 of the analysis, Koons is addressing the audience during this part of his monologue).

Now let us examine Koons' monologue itself. He tells Butch that his (Butch's) father was an infant near the end of the Battle of Wake Island. This battle occurred in the year 1941, so we can take Butch's father as being born in the same year. Taking Butch as either eight or nine years old in 1972, the year of the watch handing scene, he was born in 1963. Therefore, Butch's father was in his early twenties when Butch was born. This seems reasonable, especially considering that he would have been in his early thirties in 1972 (if he was still alive), which is close to the age of the mother (around 35 in this year, as indicated in the fragment of screenplay quoted above). Note that Butch's father was born prior to 1946; 1946 is commonly considered to be the first year of the baby boom. Koons is a Captain, and Butch's father was a Major, which is one rank higher than Captain, so Koons is a few years younger than Butch's father would be if he were still alive. In fact, based on the rank difference, Koons would have been born in 1946 or 1947, making him a 'leading-edge' baby boomer. Thus, it is some subset of leading-edge baby boomers who are the metaphorical 'handers of shit'.[a]

The specific metaphorical 'receiving audience' for the watch was five years old in 1994, the year of Pulp Fiction's release, so was born in the late 1980's and thus consists of members of Generation Y. Members of this generation are sometimes called echo boomers, due to the significant increase in birth rates through the 1980s and into the 1990s, and because many of them are children of baby boomers. They are also often called millenials.[b]

Above left: The small hand reaching into the lower left of the movie frame to grab the watch from Koons, although it can be taken to be Butch's hand, is also the 'audience's hand'. Therefore, the underlying message is that some sub-group of leading-edge baby boomers has handed down shit to their children's generation (as represented by the audience), and by implication, has left all of us with this. In this context, Koons' name corresponds to the word 'goons', i.e., the subset of the leading-edge boomers represented by Koons, are to be considered to be goons. Above right: One of the film's minor characters (played by the film's producer, Lawrence Bender) is billed in the closing credits as "Long Hair Yuppie-Scum". Noting that historically, a yuppie is an aging hippie, this billing is a hint that it is the hippies/yuppies who are the group that has handed down shit to us.


The reader of this analysis might be wondering how we, the Pulp Fiction audience members, are supposed to know that the year is 1972 during the watch flashback scene, and how we are to know that the camera perspective is that of a five-year old boy, without having to look at the screenplay. It would seem that we are to deduce the year of the flashback by the dress of the characters and the furnishings and decor of the Coolidge home. How we are to deduce that we are looking at Koons from the perspective of a five-year old boy, is by noticing that when we see Butch's face, his (Butch's) eyes are only directed upward by a small amount, because Koons has knelt down in front of the nine-year old Butch such that his eyes are at almost the same level as Butch's. On the other hand, when the camera is on Koons' face, while he is speaking to the audience, it is evident that we are viewing it from a lower height than Butch is, i.e., we need to look upward more than Butch does to look into Koons' eyes. Ultimately, we're supposed to realize that we're looking upward through the angle that a typical five-year old boy, when sitting, would have to look up through to look into Koons' eyes.

Butch's eyes are directed upward by only a small amount while Koons is speaking to him, because Koons has knelt down in front of him. (Butch is sitting on the floor).

Above left: Captain Koons talking to Butch. Above right: Koons speaking to the audience. Note that he looks further downward to address us, than he does when speaking to Butch.

a. The leading-edge baby boomers are generally considered to be those Americans born during the years 1946-1955.
b. Wikipedia, 'Millennials'. Web, n.d. URL = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennials.


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