Study Guide

Reservoir Dogs Pop Culture References

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Pop Culture References

If you've ever taken an extended break from mainstream entertainment media and tried living under a rock, then you know that coming back into reality can be difficult. One minute everyone is obsessed with what color the dress is and, when you return, nobody remembers having made any sort of fuss over any sort of dress.

Our point? It's twofold. First of all, that dress was definitely blue. Second of all is that you don't have to understand all the pop culture references Tarantino throws at you. Even in the present day of the film it's not like people are referring to what's new. These criminals aren't up to date; their references are outdated even by '90s standards.

That doesn't mean they don't add to the vibe of the film. Let's take a look at a few; we'll start with the actors.

First on our list is Marlon Brando. Holdaway tells Freddie he's gonna need to be like Brando in order to pull off the interview for the heist job. Brando was a mega-superstar film and stage actor in the '50s and onward; Holdaway's using "Brando" as a synonym for "totally great actor."

Then there's Lee Marvin. Blonde tells White, "Wow. That was really exciting. I bet you're a big Lee Marvin fan, aren't you?" Lee Marvin's an actor from 1950s to '80s known for his tough-guy personality and for often being cast in the role of villain or soldier.

Then there's Charles Bronson, who Brown references when trying to explain the sex life of the protagonist of "Like a Virgin." Bronson starred in The Great Escape where he played Danny Valinksi, a "tunnel king" responsible for—surprise—digging tunnels. (Interesting sexual metaphor there.)

And we can't forget the John Holmes reference—Holmes was a mega-porn star from the '70s and '80s.

You get the point. We could also go on about all the pop music references but we'll save some of that for K-Billy's section. Plus, we'd hate to make you watch a video of Tony DeFranco and the DeFranco Family. Seriously, don't click on that; the choreography combined with the old TV music video set is just too much to handle.

The point is that pop culture references add authenticity to the film, while giving characters and viewers unique avenues of thinking about different people. Do understanding Brown's references make you perceive him or his story differently? What about comparing Mr. White (or even Harvey Keitel for that matter) to Lee Marvin? Pop culture is, by definition, the most transient and indelible kind of culture there is, and the motif of pop culture saturates Tarantino's films.

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