Wiggle Your Big Toe
There are days when it all seems too much.
Like when you wake up from a coma with no idea where you are or how you got there. You’ve got a raging desire for vengeance against your former employer, but first you have to slaughter two would-be assailants, find clothes, steal a car and manufacture your escape – all while paralysed from the waist down.
Days like that just suck, don’t they?
You can probably tell that I loves me some Quentin Tarantino.
As a progressive humanist, I ought to be appalled by the emptiness, disturbed by the violence, and shocked by the racism and homophobia that pepper so many of QT’s films.
But I’m not.
That might be because Tarantino deliberately creates characters that fail to engage us emotionally in order to deny us the panacea of fictional catharsis. At the same time, his extreme, amoral cinematic universe forces us to recognise the ease with which we witness actual cruelty and turn a blind eye to genuine horrors.
But that’s bull$#!t.
I like his movies because they’re a hill of fun. And, like Heavy Metal, they’re deep and you can get stuff out of them.*
Let me explain:
One of the best things about QT’s movies is that though the situations are exaggerated to the point of absurdity, his characters provide useful examples for dealing with real life.
You probably won’t ever have to dispose of “a corpse, minus a head, in the garage” like Vincent and Jules in Pulp Fiction. But you’ve definitely seen people challenge each other for dominance in a group. You’ve either witnessed or been directly involved in dozens of these little battles for authority. Winston Wolf’s handling of Vincent Vega’s passive aggression is an object-lesson for asserting control with strength and humour.
But lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about The Bride in Kill Bill.
Some friends of mine have been suffering the ol’ slings and arrows pretty bad this summer. One has been pilloried in the press and trolled on the internet despite a lifetime of public service. Another’s promotion was immediately followed by the discovery of the searing hot mess left by her predecessor. A third has had to shred his revenue forecasts after the devaluation of the yuan.
Each of them feels like they’ve just woken up from a coma with no idea where they are or how they got there.
They can all benefit from following the example of The Bride:
In this scene, The Bride has gotten herself out of immediate danger, and taken refuge in a stolen car. She’s frightened, disoriented and on the run, but she doesn’t panic or wallow in self-pity. Instead, she stays cool and remembers her ultimate goal: to kill Bill.
The Bride refuses to be discouraged by the innumerable obstacles that stand between her and retribution. Instead, she directs her attention to the ONE thing she needs to do first. She wiggles her big toe.
The Bride’s ability to overcome paralysis through sheer force of will is a powerful metaphor for what’s possible when we choose focused, deliberate action over hysteria or resignation.
So What’s the Point?
At one point or another, all of us will face seemingly insurmountable challenges and feel overwhelmed by forces beyond our control. It won’t be fair, it might not be our fault, but we’re gonna have to deal with it nonetheless.
When it happens, remember The Bride.
Rather than blame the world for what’s gone wrong or wail to the gods about the injustice of your plight, direct your attention to the outcome you want to achieve – and focus relentlessly on the ONE thing you need to do first to reach that goal.
Then go seek your revenge.