Study Guide

Reservoir Dogs Racism

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In 2012, Jason Reitman brought together an (almost) all black cast to do a reading of the very white Reservoir Dogs.

It featured Laurence Fishburne as White, Terrence Howard as Blonde, and plenty of other famous black actors playing white guys (and also Patton Oswalt playing Holdaway). Tarantino has always been a fan of genre movies. One genre in particular known as Blaxploitation, which was popular in the '70s, and influenced Reservoir Dogs.

In a way, this rendition (which probably due to copyright issues was unfortunately not recorded) hearkens back to the origins of the film.

Despite the whiteness of the original cast, ethnicity (particularly black ethnicity) is already a motif of the original product. Sometimes these references are very derogatory. When Pink has to break up Blonde and White before they start fighting, he says:

PINK: Hey, come on, back off! What, we in a playground here? Am I the only professional? F***ing guys are acting like a bunch of f***ing n*****s, man— you work with n*****s huh?—just like you two— always saying they're gonna kill each other.

This association of blackness with violence also comes up in other contexts, like when Eddie and Blonde are messing with each other and Eddie jokes:

EDDIE: Ain't that a sad sight, daddy? A man walks into prison a white man, walks out talking like a f***ing n*****.

All this dialogue once again put Tarantino on the spot—he had to defend his script choices as simply realistic dialogue that didn't imply racism on his part. While this language is totally disgusting, we have to say: All the criminals talk and joke in this racist manner, and the one black character in the movie is actually a commanding police officer. Also: All the racist scumbag criminals die, while the single black character is left standing at the end.

What to you think? Does realism justify the disgusting conversation? Is "that's just how these guys would talk" a legitimate explanation?

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