I’m working on a post about Rorshach, and it reminded me of a thought I had during my seventh or eighth viewing of Pulp Fiction. Jules (Samuel Jackson) tells us that fearsome Biblical quote he uses is just a badass thing to say, a tool of the trade. But there’s no business reason for him to use it. When he’s terrorizing those boys early in the movie, there’s nothing he wants them to do, no lesson he wants to engrave on their minds. Vincent (John Travolta) has found the stolen briefcase and now there’s nothing to do but execute the boys and let their bodies rot. Why torment them? If you think about it, Jules is not a just a thug but a sadist. But we don’t think about it. That’s because he’s going thru the whole rigamarole for our sakes. We enjoy aiming that gun and browbeating that pasty-faced little squirrel. People don’t dream so much about being violent, more about having the complete upper hand and seeing their advantage played out in the face of their opponent.
Personally, I think this fact is a byproduct of office life. On the frontier you might have the opportunity to hit someone but not the guts. We still don’t have the guts, but nowadays hitting isn’t the point; you just want to see the other guy blink. Consider all the perfectly innocent witnesses on Law and Order and CSI who are morally one-upped by the cops and then look at their shoes or try to swallow their lips. Considering that we have to find a killer, who cares if some guy used a fake name on a date? We do because it gives us a chance to see the guy’s face crumple.