The Fortuitous Rise of an Underdog in True Romance
“If there’s one thing this last week has taught me, it’s better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.”
“How can this man breath the same air as me?” This was the question that kept on ringing inside of Clarence Worley’s head as he made his way to Alabama’s former workplace. Clarence (played by Christian Slater) can simply be described as a newlywed whose clear thinking and judgement has been clouded from being madly in love. Up until getting married to former call girl Alabama (played by Patricia Arquette), who he has known for less than two days now, Clarence was honestly a nobody. He worked at a video store, had little to no friends, and had no plans or direction for his life. He was legitimately just living life for the sole purpose of living it. That all changed on Clarence’s birthday night, however, when he met Alabama. Hired by Clarence’s boss, Alabama, an upbeat, energetic, all around entertaining girl, was supposed to serve as his call girl for the night. However, the couple ended up falling in love and quickly got married. Clarence, now seeing that Alabama needed her belongings, offered to go to where she left them last, the prostitute house where her overbearing boss, Drexl (played by Gary Oldman), resided. As he drove there, his original plan deemed simple: get to the prostitute house, grab Alabama’s things, and be on his way. His tenacity was admirable and his eagerness made his original instant proposal even more engaging. However, the image above captures the exact moment that Clarence Worley realizes that he may have presumably acted too quickly. Upon arriving at the prostitute house, which was located in a dark, run down part of town, (or as the script puts it, “what Bel Air would be like if the crime rate got so bad that people just said ‘fuck it’ and left. The dealers, pimps, and filth of the world have taken over.”), Clarence is immediately drawn to the loud music and many women who crowd the house. From getting a first hand look of what this place actually looked like, as in comparison to what he may have originally imagined, Clarence, from this point, knows that his intended plans have become skewed. However, instead of turning around, heading safely back to the comfort of his home, he decided to follow through with the intent of getting Alabama’s belongings as he proceeds on trying to get inside the house. After knocking on the door, Clarence waits nervously to be greeted inside the house. When Marty, who seems to be another pimp that works there,answers the door, Clarence, with assertion, demands to speak with Drexl. From the audience’s perspective, we are well aware that at this moment in particular, Clarence’s blood is running cold. From Marty’s perspective, on the contrary, he sees Clarence as this assertive individual. Nevertheless, it seems as if Clarence is trying the psychological terminology of “fake it ‘till you make it.” By pretending that he has the world of confidence and carries no fears, he is not only trying to prove to Marty (and a moment later Drexl) of his strengths, but convince himself as well.
Clarence walked into Drexel’s drug-filled house alone, unprepared, and unaware of the challenges he would be facing. The chances of him actually making it out of there unbeaten or even alive were quite slim given the men he was going up against, again unassisted. Clarence, from what the audience can infer, has little history in the life of crime. At this point, he portrays himself as the type of man that does not even know how to use a gun. He comes into this situation essentially vulnerable, impotent, and unplanned . If he had the slightest idea of what he was getting himself into, what he carried with him would be different. For instance, Clarence would not walk around with ID in his pocket. In the event that the situation were to get out of hand, he would not want to risk the possibility of leaving behind any clues that would connect him to the scene of the crime. Furthermore, he would have backup to help defend him as needed. Drexl, alternatively, is the man that deserves to have all the confidence that his ego is able to hold. This is a man that carries himself in such an egoistic manner that he illustrates himself as a fearless, audacious man that you would not want to cross paths with. For instance, in this situation, Clarence has everything to lose- he could either become a murderer or become murdered in an second. Drexl, on the other hand, has nothing to lose. This is a man that has lived the life of crime for years and it is clear to him that if this conversation with Clarence does not go as he planned, he could have him killed within seconds. Killing, as we have become aware of, has not been a problem for Drexl in the past. In the beginning of the movie, we saw Drexl wipe out two of his cocaine smoking friends, Floyd and Big D, after a conversation between the three turned sour. Ridding himself a complete stranger, of a man that has been in his life for less than five minutes, would not agonize him, rather, it would actually seem to accelerate him. Additionally, from getting a good analysis of Drexl, it is clear that he tries to portray himself as the type of gangster that likes to pretend that the image he projects is his own, original creation when infact he gets his stylistic inspiration from someone like Snoop Dog. The fake accent and glass eye that Drexl sports ups his street credit and position in the thug life profession as well.
When Clarence and Drexl meet for the first time, tension is built almost immediately. It heightens even more when Clarence chooses not to comply with Drexl when he invites him to eat Chinese food by saying,“ grab yourself an egg roll. We got got everything here from a didle-eyed joe to a damned- if- I know”. Instead, Clarence put himself in this quickly created authoritative role and and play tricks with Drexl head by handing him an empty money envelope. There is hidden symbolism in this scene. Clarence is trying to take on the role as the “bad-boy”, attempting to knock the crown off of Drexel’s head. By handing him a worthless envelope, his message is almost irony to the unscholarly pimp. It is as if Clarence is trying to tell him that he is worth less than the girls that work for him. Drexl, alternatively, angered and bewildered, will not play his game and tries to insult Clarence by saying, “Marty, you know what we got here? Motherfuckin’ Charlie Bronson. Is that who you supposed to be, Mr. Majestyk?” By saying this, Drexl is referring to the 1974 movie, Mr. Majestyk, in which Charles Bronson played a farmer that battles crimes and hit men who are set to kill him. He is basically trying to compare Clarence to the character Vince Majesty (Bronson) and himself to the powerful hit men. In his eyes, Clarence is trying to act a lot tougher and cooler than he his by challenging him. Nonetheless, this is also the moment he realized that Clarence will not devalue himself and bow down to his commands. Drexl completely loses his temper at this point. With tensions running high, he flips a tiny food table in an attempt to pin Clarence to the ground, trying to prove of his power. Within in matter of seconds, Clarence is on the ground with Drexl and Marty each having their grip of him from both sides of his body. Both Drexl and Marty portray themselves as these heavy set gym going guys, who combined, have ten times the amount of strength as Clarence. Clarence at this point begins to react with the psychology of “flight or flight”. After Marty takes a blow to the head by a punch from Clarence, Drexl literally starts to beat Clarence to the pulp.
With blood gushing from his face, his body weakening, “flight or flight” beings to stimulate into his head. This terminology means that Clarence has to choose one of two options. Since Clarence has now found himself in imminent danger, he could choose to stay on the ground, and continue to get beat by Drexl or he can attempt to fight back. Since, at this point, he feels like he has little to lose, Clarence begins to fight Drexl back. When you find yourself in a “fight or flight” situation, and you choose to fight back, your blood pressure increases, as well as your heart rate, and blood sugar in order to supply your body with extra energy. One also experiences increased muscle tension in order to provide the body with extra speed and strength. Clarence obviously experienced this notion because, in an instant, he begins to toy with Drexel’s face, putting in as much effort as if he were painting a picture on canvas. Now experiencing pain himself, Marty loosens his grip on Clarence allowing him to get up. He would have been able to stay on his legs if this were a one man fight, however, since Marty now wants revenge for his potentially broken nose, he hits Clarence so that he is brought back down to the floor again. Drexl then grabs onto Clarence’s jacket and drags him until they are once again positioned where the fight began. With Clarence on the floor, Drexl, standing over him, picks up the famous swinging lamp and shines it directly in Clarence’s face. He then begins to use it as if it were an police interrogation light when he says “He must o’ thought it was white boy day. It ain’t white boy day, is it?” It is almost as if he is questioning Clarence on why he (a white boy) would even think to challenge a wannabe-black pimp in his workplace and believe he could get away with it. Furthermore, when he does this, the camera is at a low angle. The audience is meant to see this from Clarence’s perspective. By having the camera at a low angle, it makes Drexl look like the aggressive, dominant one while Clarence is supposed to feel weak and submissive in comparison to him. Nevertheless, once again, Drexl has him in this perfect position to kill him but it’s only until he finds Clarence’s identity and makes his “million dollar bet” that Alabama will be at the apartment, does Clarence really find this strength to overtake him. As Drexl gets caught up in being the victor, Clarence takes out a gun and shoots the pimp as well as Marty, without hesitation, eventually killing both of the men. As in the scene before, the camera is centered at a low angle, but this time, Clarence is seen as the supreme one while Drexl is meant to feel incapacitated.
Where did this unanticipated surge of revenge come from? Clarence didn’t expect things to end this way once he entered the broken house. Upon entering, the song “I Want Your Body” by Nymphomania was briefly playing. To a stretch, this song could have served as a stimulus. The psychology of the song playing may have partly tied into the intense rage of Clarence at this particular scene. It could relate to the sublimation of music in psychology or can even be used as far to say as the subconscious of psychology. Hearing the song, and briefly hearing the lyrics which literally repeat the line. “I want your body”, could have been on his mind, although he wasn’t showing it (hence subconscious). The lyrical part of the song was heard for a few moments and then the music just turned to instrumental throughout the entire fight scene. Sublimation is said to be best acquired through the use of lyricless music. Upon hearing what Drexl had planned to do with Alabama once Marty had brought her back, it must have triggered a connection in Clarence’s head, prompting him for complete revenge. Just thinking about what Drexl had done in the past to Alabama, for instance, using her and her body to pay for his drug addictions, bills, and weapons, (and in the original script, it showed the pimp even beating Alabama at one point), must have been what drove Clarence to attack Drexl. The music served as the mastermind behind stimulating the wrath of Clarence. It took control of him on the subconscious level and influenced his behavior. However, the stimulates only works if you had a previous urge to do what you did, which Clarence showed he did when prior to this, he claimed he does not feel like this man deserves to breath the same air as him. Clarence, to some extent, had always wanted to kill Drexl, and the music was the true motivator.
After deconstructing this entire scene, piece by piece, it is safe to say this is part of the movie that Clarence has gained his confidence. As the famous mythologist Joseph Campbell once said, “Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.” Clarence was able to find his greatest strength when it seemed like his life was basically over. This scene was also where his character and his personality were changed and built respectively. Clarence had just killed two men that were more experienced, stronger, prepared, and vicious than him. Without hesitation, he just wiped out two men that he felt were standing in his way of true happiness with his newlywed. He walked into this situation intimidated and doubtful and he was now walking out of this situation as a champion, as the real victor. In his point of view, if he was the underdog who rose above this whole situation, killing two men in the process, what else could he not do at this point? The confidence that Clarence obtained from this scene sets the actions and attitude of Clarence for the events that followed. He went from being this guy that merely two days ago did not have the ability to pick up a girl at the bar, to man whose self-regard was completely built up because this night had played out in his favor.
“Elements of Cinema.” Elements of Cinema. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2016.
“Fight or Flight.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.
“How Fight-or-flight Instincts Impact On Your Stress Levels.” Stress: Fight or Flight Response. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2016.
“Mr. Majestyk.” Mr. Majestyk. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2016.
“Music from True Romance the Movie.” Music from True Romance. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2016.
“Subliminal Messages: How They Work and How They Affect Us.” Visual Meditation. N.p., 08 Sept. 2014. Web. 09 Apr. 2016.
“The Truth About Subliminal Messages.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.