In Pulp Fiction, directed by Quentin Tarantino, Tarantino uses quirky dialogue, vivid visuals, and nihilism to mirror postmodern pop culture in western society in the early 1990’s. The film artfully portrays the 1990’s as a time where action granted meaning instead of performing moral actions; where there was a social hierarchy held by mob bosses to control those who attempted to search for meaning through action, doing outrageously violent and horrible things without the slightest scruples.
Pulp Fiction contains specifically existential nihilism, which is the belief that life has no true purpose or value. Expressed through the nihilism held by the characters, they involve themselves in situations with a degree of egotism, only considering their own personal interest and demonstrate complete neglect and disregard for the interests or lives of others. For example, in one scene, Jules (one of the henchmen) kills three of his boss’s former business partners with the hope that completing this task will put him on the track for his much-desired retirement. Jules accomplishes this task with seemingly no hesitation, demonstrating his nihilistic character by not valuing the lives of any of these men, and even putting himself in danger.
Nihilism is further portrayed in Pulp Fiction through religion because the scientific revolution made man interpret life with a different perspective, one potentially without a divine being. Throughout the movie, Jules preaches a Bible passage to his victims before he murders them without having any idea what it truly means. It is ironic because this passage, Ezekiel 25:17, “refers to a system of values and meaning by which one could lead one’s life and make moral decisions.” However, Jules life does not contain anything even close to resembling that system of values, making the passage worthless. Jules even states “I just thought it was some cold blooded shit to say to a motherfucker before I popped a cap in his ass.” (Philosophynow.org). The characters in Pulp Fiction lack a foundation for making value judgments, have an absence of a bigger meaning in their lives, and lack a divine moral code leaving them in a pit of nihilism. This pushes them to fall into a hierarchy of power in their lives putting Marcellus Wallace at the top and his henchmen directly below him. Jules and Vincent are devoid of a moral value system and act similar to a mindless zombie; taking orders in a way that they follow directions from Marcellus Wallace without question. Jules and Vincent also place value on the missions that are given to them simply because their boss placed the importance on it. In their minds, the most important thing to do is to obey their boss, Marcellus Wallace, so they can earn his respect and attempt to find a sense of purpose in their own lives.
Nihilism causes man to seek for a deeper meaning in life. Existentialism on the other hand prompts for man to have angst and make life simply a product of action because the...