Compare and Contrast of Pulp Fiction References in Family Guy and The Simpsons
Pulp Fiction is a 1994 Quinton Tarentino film centered on the characters Jules and Vincent. They are two hit men whose mission it is to obtain a suitcase that was stolen from their boss Marsellus Wallace. The plot thickens when Wallace has Vincent take out his wife to entertain her when he is out of time. The plot is about people’s lives intersecting in an unlikely way. As the film Pulp Fiction has now become a cult classic and is partly responsible for launching the career of Tarentino, pop culture has parodied aspects of the plot of the film. This essay compares and contrasts the parody of Pulp Fiction as found in the cartoon sitcom Family Guy and the Simpsons.
The Simpsons parodies Pulp Fiction in Season 7, Episode 21 “22 Short Films About Springfield.” This episode parodies the plot structure of Pulp Fiction. Pulp fiction uses what’s called a series of vignettes to tell its story. One of the most hallmark features of the film is that it departs from a linear progression of the narrative in favor of these short vignettes. This was a novel form when Pulp Fiction came out, with some viewers not understanding how to follow the film because of its departure from the more common linear way to tell stories through film. As the title implies, the episode features 22 short episodes that unfold after Bart wonders if anything interesting happens to citizens in Springfield. These parodies are a clear not to Pulp Fiction. Most notable, Mr. Smithers suffers and allergic reaction to a bee sting while he is with Mr. Burns. Instead of taking him to a hospital, he is taken inside, which recreates a similar scene in Pulp Fiction.
The plot for the Family Guy Episode of “A Fish out of Water” is as follows. Peter becomes extremely obese after a two-week period of joblessness causes him to do nothing but eat. He then decides to lose weight and become a fisherman. He buys a boat and the plot continues to unfold. The scene it parodies is a scene from Pulp Fiction where Vincent kills a rapist with a katana ninja sword. In Family Guy, this parody is remembered in a flashback when Quagmire recalls the time that Peter “save the guys’ asses” by doing the same thing. This is the only part of the episode the parodies Pulp Fiction.
The both The Family Guy and The Simpsons, what is inherently stated by their parodies is how engrained Pulp Fiction is in our culture’s pop culture. In both instances the writers know that most viewers will instantly “get the joke” that is going on with the Pulp Fiction references.
The allusions occur in very different ways in both contexts. The Simpsons parodies the narrative form and structure, while Family Guy Parodies a memorable scene. The Simpsons offer a more complete parody with many vignettes that not only parody the form, but also have frequent nods to elements of the movie. In contrast, The Family Guy follows it boilerplate plot form and sprinkles in the Pulp Fiction Cultural references in the middle of the episode. Both The Family guy and the Simpsons are often compared, are viewed by a similar demographic and have both used parody of Pulp Fiction.
The Simpsons “22 Short Films About Springfield”: Season 7, Episode 21 1996
Family Guy “Fish out of Water”: Season 3, Episode 10. 2001