Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and Baudrillard’s Perfect Crime

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The theme of hyperreality is common throughout the popular American cinema of the 1990s, but Pulp Fiction stands apart for the unique approach it takes to the subject. Movies such as The Truman Show, The Matrix, and Fight Club associate the hyperreal condition with anxiety and suspicion. The madcap tone of Pulp Fiction, however, defuses these fears, replacing dread with a mood of carnivalesque celebration that is magically invulnerable to death. In Tarantino’s masterpiece, hyperreality is fun! If it is true that the hyperreal condition is awash in meaningless violence, at least it means that the accidental shooting of someone in the back seat of your car is purged of its moral dimensions and reinvented as a kind of game. If it is true that hyperreal existence is subtended by a fundamental suspicion that lived experience may be unreal, the kind of reality that remains behind is a site of mystery and miracle, answering in many ways to the dream of a Christian cosmos. If hyperreal identity can be an acute source of anxiety for those who hang on to a nostalgic Enlightenment ideal of subjectivity, for people at home in the hyperreal image-scape, salvation requires nothing more than crossing over into a new pulp fictional genre, as Jules sets out to do at the end of Pulp Fiction.