It was the mid-90s; we’re talking TFI Friday, The Big Breakfast, Oasis vs Blur, the Spice Girls, “New” Labour, and the cause of a million irritating ’90s kid’ memes plaguing every social network for the last half a decade or so.
I was at the tender age of 4 at the time. Although young, I was a precocious child, and thus collected a myriad of vivid memories during my early childhood – so much so that it’s an in-joke with several of my extended family (For example, my cousin and I often have a giggle every time we see one another, due to me repeatedly asking her: “When are you going to give me that Super Mario mug?”; a reference to a kind, albeit empty-gestured/offhanded “promise” about giving one to me when I was a toddler, after I asked her about a Super Mario 64 mug on her bedroom table, whilst I was playing Mario Kart 64 on her Nintendo 64. It never ceases to amaze her that I can still recall that memory. It is to be noted however that, a few years ago, the same cousin bought me a Super Mario Easter egg – simply because it came with a modern Super Mario mug. Sweet as that gesture certainly was, I’m completely and utterly serious in giving her this stern warning: your promise of a 90s Super Mario mug still stands, and I have no patience for people attempting to get away with pulling the proverbial “fast one”. In short, how dare you?)
One of those memories, as seemingly uneventful you’ll find it to be, involved me wandering into my older brother’s bedroom and immediately noticing a large cardboard movie cutout/display for Pulp Fiction in the corner of the room. It looked like a giant VHS case; about four foot tall, three foot wide, and just over half a foot thick. Being 4 at the time, I obviously had no clue what the display meant, what it was for, nor to what film it was referring. I do recall being utterly captivated by the now iconic image of Uma Thurman, lying on her front with a pillow on a bed, cigarette in hand, wearing a black dress, red lipstick, next to a magazine, cigarette pack, and a pistol.
Now, looking back, it could be said that that image was perhaps my sexual awakening. The only other contenders for the title of ‘Earliest Crush’ would be Jennifer Aniston from Friends, Amy Jo Johnson as the Pink Power Ranger from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and Lola Bunny from Space Jam* (Do not judge me for the last one; actor Eddie Redmayne admitted to fancying Nala from The Lion King when he was young during an episode of The Graham Norton Show – and there’s a Youtube video to prove it).
*(Now that I’ve mentioned it, I also realise that there’s a Pulp Fiction reference in Space Jam which, at the time in the cinema, I laughed at but was obviously too young to know the movie it was referencing)
That image of Uma Thurman just represented the definition of “cool” to me, and burned itself onto my brain – so much so that, when I became slightly older and more media savvy, I couldn’t wait until I was old enough when I could finally see it. I had spent a few years obsessed with that Pulp Fiction display – trying to decode and deconstruct every detail of display’s front and back**, trying to work out what the film could be about, who the characters in the pictures were, etc. Unfortunately, when my older brother moved to London when I was 5 or 6, the Pulp Fiction display disappeared; either taken away by him or lost in the cracks of space and time that are present in all household nooks and crannies – sucking away coins, receipts, car keys, and socks into oblivion.
Finally, I got round to seeing the film for the first time just as I got into college. Suffice to say, Pulp Fiction became my favourite film of all time.
Despite being a bit of a film nerd and seeing a lot of films, I have yet to come across another film wherein I look forward to every scene in the same way that I do for Pulp Fiction. As I’m watching and enjoying the opening Diner scene, I can’t wait for the following hamburger/foot massage/say what again/Ezekiel 25:17 speech scene. As I’m watching and enjoying that scene, I can’t wait for the next scene where Marcellus Wallace talks to Butch, who then has a confrontation with Vincent. As I’m watching and enjoying that scene, I can’t wait for the next scene where Vincent buys heroin, etc.
When I was asked to write this piece, I tried desperately to find an image of the same display. Alas, I couldn’t find it anywhere. Hopes fading fast, I mentioned to my Dad that I was writing a piece about “a Pulp Fiction display” we once had – assuming that he wouldn’t remember it. “It’s in the attic”, he said. “Really?”, I asked, my heart-rate going up. “Yeah – I’ll go get it for you”, he said, standing up from his armchair. And, sure enough, a few minutes later, the influential relic of my childhood – existing only in my memory for 20 years – was stood there, right in front of me, exactly as how I remembered it:
As I stood there in awe, it had occurred to me that I didn’t know what was inside the display once you open it – having assumed that there’d just be blank, white cardboard (**”trying to decode and deconstruct every detail of display’s front and back” and my child self didn’t bother having a quick peek to see what’s on the inside? What a dummy). Having this childhood treasure back in my grasp afforded me the unique opportunity to give my 4/5-year-old self another chance of re-investigating the details of a distant memory, of a long-lost childhood item, first-hand. And I was not disappointed:
For an early film poster/display/relic from your childhood to meet your expectations as an adult is one thing, but to completely and utterly exceed those expectations, after discovering more about it as an adult is something else.
It had a profound effect on me then and continues to have a profound effect on me now; to this day, I still can’t watch the film without craving a burger, a sprite, and/or a milkshake….oh, and it probably triggered my love of movies or whatever.