I’m 23 and I’ve never done it. Pretty much everyone I know got it over with years ago. They talk about it a lot- more than you’d expect- and at times it’s hard not to feel ostracised. When I revealed my embarrassing situation to a cute Canadian exchange student she gasped and drawled seductively, “You’ve so been missing out. One night we’re gonna grab a bottle of wine together and just do it! I’ll show you, it’s going to be amazing.”
Well, that never happened.
Another time I was lying on a couch with a girl who’d also never done it and we agreed that we should just get it over with there and then. We psyched ourselves up. We were ready. But then, after scouring the house, we couldn’t find the object we needed. The Pulp Fiction DVD was nowhere to be found.
Yes, it’s hard to confess but I’ve never ever seen Pulp Fiction. On the whole I like to think I’m a pretty culturally literate person. I’m not a complete Tarantino virgin- I’ve been to first base (Django Unchained), but somehow I’ve missed the magnum opus, and it’s really affecting my social life.
After last month’s Breaking Bad finale, Bret Easton Ellis took to Twitter to reveal that he stopped watching the show in the second season and thus had “never felt more alienated about not participating in a pop culture event”. Sure, the end of Breaking Bad caused a social media sensation, but Pulp Fiction is more than just an “event”. It’s a stalwart. Maybe one day Breaking Bad will assume such a status, or maybe we’ll fawn over it for a for a bit before all the hype goes away. But, trust me, Pulp Fiction never goes away.
I don’t have the hard data, but I’d say it’s the favourite film of approximately 40% of all my acquaintances. It wouldn’t be a stretch to state that it’s brought up in a conversation I’m having at least once a week. Unlike most films, it crosses gender, age and class barriers so I’m never safe. I’m pretty sure even my goddamn grandparents have seen Pulp Fiction. In the years I’ve been living in a share house I’ve had two different roommates adorn their walls with the movie’s poster. In two separate rooms of the house, Uma Thurman would gaze from beneath that black wig, cigarette in hand and red lips pouted, looking down disdainfully at me. “You’re the only one who hasn’t done it”.
Now more than ever, so much of how we see ourselves and other people is based on the things we consume- not just what we buy, but increasingly what we watch and listen to. When we meticulously perfect our list of “likes” on Facebook (42 of my friends “like” Pulp Fiction) we’re engaged in identity production.
Weirdly, having not seen Pulp Fiction has become a part of my identity, and the truth is that I kind of don’t even want to watch it anymore. There’s too much pressure and it feels a burden, like exercise or unfinished homework. It has a run time of two and half hours. I have an attention span that barely holds for thirty minutes of Friends. And what if, after all this, I don’t even like the movie? What if I hate it? I’d be like Elaine in that episode of Seinfeld where she loathes The English Patient.
Speaking of Seinfeld, I have one friend who’s never seen an episode. Not a single one. When this particular friend was showing me a photo of a top someone had made at design school, I retorted that it looked like “the puffy shirt that Jerry wore on Seinfeld”. This reference bore no reaction other than a blank stare. I guess “soup nazi”, “man hands” and “sponge worthy” also go straight over her head. How many everyday anecdotes is my friend missing out on simply because she hasn’t seen a show?!
I guess we’re all just missing a chromosome or two in our cultural DNA. There’s at least one pop cultural phenomenon we’ve somehow missed the boat on. Now I’ve sort of become okay with the fact I only know John Travolta as the possibly gay Scientologist who’s obsessed with Qantas planes. And, although I’ve got no idea of Pulp Fiction’s plot, I’ve seen so many Tumblr GIFS that I’m positive part of the action takes place in a diner and on a dancefloor. If I’m floundering in a party conversation looking like a Tarantino virgin at least I can bring that up! Or I can reference Seinfeld and pray to God they get it.