PRINT March 1995

Jeanne Silverthorne

Interior: a room of ambiguous dimensions and location—part surveillance center, part boudoir. UMA THURMAN sits in front of a monitor and a mike, flanked by a makeup mirror. Ignoring all this, she bends over a paperback. Enter PATRICIA ARQUETTE. Throughout the scene, the camera suffers from attention-deficiency syndrome, sporadically drifting off from the speaker. A radio is tuned to white noise.

PATRICIA [squinting at monitor]: Who’s out there?

UMA: Quentin. He got very excited about us changing places like this—me in here watching. Every once in a while I give him an order to keep him happy—you know, like “Keep your paw prints off the fetish figure or you’ll be stuffing rags up your furniture polish for a month.” That satisfies him for a while and he whimpers “Oh, Mr. Wolf! ” appreciatively.

By the way, why in heaven’s name are you dressed in that bleached-blonde white-trash mode?

PATRICIA: I’m a working girl. Jobs are hard to come by. My mantra is “I’m so cool I’m so cool I’m so cool.” Quentin thinks it’ll work.

UMA: Does it?

PATRICIA: Well, it’s a bit depressing, you know—I’m the consolation Marilyn for this clown Clarence, who, when this True Romance opens, is sitting at a bar, literally between twin peaks—Elvis, on TV, and another replicant Marilyn, who refuses to go out with him to see Sony Cheba’s The Streetfighter, mouthing demurely that it’s not her cup of tea. I mean, you know? She won’t go to a nasty flick with him but I get to meet cute as a prostitute in a movie house. I’m like third-generation-removed from Norma Jean—not my cup of simulacre tea—and I don’t even have the good taste and sense of the second ersatz Marilyn, whose brushoff nixes any screwball blessing. Meanwhile, I’m the Jane who doesn’t come between Tarzan and Cheba.

UMA: The buddy system has a long and distinguished history.

PATRICIA [pointing at UMA with extended forefinger and cocked thumb]: Pretend this is that fine centerfold bitch and you’re you. I know I’m pretty but I ain’t as pretty as her titties. Like a bunch of niggers—always talking about killing each other. Looks like she fell off the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. You’ll know what it feels like to be a woman. You wanna fuck me?

[Close-up of UMA’s face, looking like it’s been rhythmically kicked] UMA: What the hell are you doing?

PATRICIA: Running lines from the films.

UMA: Girl, who do you think you are? One of the guys?

PATRICIA: I just thought . . . maybe somebody gets sick, breaks a leg.

UMA: Forget it honey, it’ll never happen. Those characters don’t want to let us be; they want to be us.

PATRICIA: Yeah, funny isn’t it? That pietà with Mr. Orange and Mr. White dying? They are so divas-in-love.

UMA: Actually that was way cool, because it was so out of control.

PATRICIA: Mothers still loom large for Quentin.

UMA: Well, he’s only a teenager—what do you expect? He missed his chance to restructure masculine identity. I guess his stuff does point up some of the illusions of masculinity, but what is this male-adolescent habit of using brutality to get attention, and then when they get it—and they always do—they go all sentimental, full of redemption and grace? Soon Quentin will be trying to portray women “sensitively.”

PATRICIA: Well, maybe not. And what about the fact that Quentin has Clarence shot in the eye, leaving me as Jocasta?

UMA: Uh-oh. Look at that. [Into microphone] Okay, Quentin, leave Mommy’s handbag alone or someone will kiss you deadly for real. [Swiveling back] God, any portmanteau will do for Pandora Brown.

PATRICIA: You shouldn’t infantilize him like that. [The radio’s oceanic hiss drifts into the Stones: "She blew my nose and then she blew my mind”]

UMA: Only catering to his tastes, dear—look what he did to Maria Madeiras! At least I hope it wasn’t her idea to lisp like a baby, cower, and be grateful to Bruce “The Boxer” Willis. You just know Judge Ito’s gonna face another prior-spousal-abuse decision when Pulp Fiction comes to trial. She never has a clue.

PATRICIA: Yeah, at least in my True Romance I’m not as dumb as I look. I got my dignity, you know; I got a little agency. [Aretha warns: “You better think, think about what you’re tryin’ to do to me.”]

UMA: And what about Quentin’s wife in Pulp? She’s the mom-who’ll-make-the-boys-pay-for-this-mess-when-she-gets-home. He puts her in a uniform and makes her black, because, as one of the dogs in the reservoir puts it, “Black women aren’t the same as white women . . . black women won’t put up with as much.” And then he only shows us the back of her head. [Aretha crescendos into “O-o-oh freedom! fre-eedom!” The camera circles 360° around Patricia]

PATRICIA: So you’re saying that by making a black woman signify purity and righteous revenge, Quentin is resolving his guilt about his dialogue’s disgust with blacks and women? For their absence from his universe, black women get the compensation of sainthood? Like he makes Samuel Jackson the black killer turned evangelist. But at least Sam gets a prime part.

[Thoughtful pause]

But surely Quentin is only joking here.

UMA: And that’s the only time a woman of color appears—to make a joke about white guilt? It’s like the only women in Reservoir Dogs are the two drivers who get carjacked, so Tim Roth’s undercover cop has to shoot one of them and sully his innocence: it’s all the bitch’s fault.

PATRICIA: Don’t you love that word? Why isn’t there an equivalent one for men?
[Camera slowly pulls back until the two women can barely be seen]

UMA [in reverie]: To be fucked by Elvis—the greatest desire and the greatest fear.

PATRICIA: Give Quentin credit for knowing that at least.

UMA: But not for knowing what to do with it.

PATRICIA: He frames things nicely though, ever vigilant on that perimeter of self-reflexiveness. All the characters auditioning—Roth for his undercover role in Reservoir Dogs, Laurence Mason for a TV part in True Romance. I even think that business with the brains in the car is really a question of, How the hell can I write a tidy denouement for this vehicle?

UMA: Haha. So Mr. Wolf is the script doctor for Quentin as well as the deus ex machina for Sam and John Travolta.

PATRICIA: I do wonder, though, what all this recession and offstage business is about.

UMA: The elusive problem of sexuality, of course. He never really confronts it; it’s hedged against with what the French critics call “bavardage”—babbling, endless talk, always a denial of death.

[The women jitterbug to Little Eva’s "Do the Locomotion.” Cut to Quentins p.o.v., staring intently at a blank wall and straining to make sense of the feedback on the P.A. system. Eventually he hears—]

PATRICIA: Films are my seen, my primal scene.

UMA: That’s why everything is diverted, diversions—a Joke, an avoidance. [“Well I think you’ve got the knack,” sings Eva]

PATRICIA: Speaking of diversions, you know what line appears in 81 percent of all feature films between the ’50s and the ’80s?

UMA: ???

PATRICIA: “Let’s get outta here.”.

Jeanne Silverthorne is a writer and artist who lives in New York.