The Father/Son Bond in Reservoir Dogs
Mr. White and Mr. Orange share a unique bond that is not experienced by any of the other suit-clad criminals in Reservoir Dogs. In a subtle way, director Quentin Tarantino creates a father/son relationship between Mr. White and Mr. Orange. There are several parts of the movie where Mr. White is presented as the mature caregiver, while Mr. Orange is displays a youthful, inexperienced persona.
The most obvious representation of this relationship occurs after the opening credits. Mr. Orange is panicking in the back of Mr. White’s car after suffering a bullet wound. Mr. White is holding Mr. Orange’s hand, telling him that everything will be okay. Here, Mr. White is displaying responsibility, level-headedness, and encouragement, as surrogate father figures in literature often do. Mr. Orange elicits sympathy from Mr. White when he expresses how terrified he is about being shot.
The pre-heist and post-heist scenes in Reservoir Dogs are shown out of order, but it is clear to see that, over the course of the events leading up to the heist, Mr. Orange and Mr. White form a friendship. They are seen sitting next to each other during the film’s breakfast scene. Mr. White speaks out against Mr. Pink’s anti-tipping speech, while Mr. Orange says Mr. Pink’s speech is convincing. Mr. White is displaying mature skepticism, but Mr. Orange, like a child, absorbs whatever he hears. Mr. Orange is also in Mr. White’s car when they are scoping out the diamond store. Here, Mr. White is coaching Mr. Orange in criminal activity. Mr. White is acting as the didactic father figure, and Mr. Orange is his figurative student.
How do we understand the age difference between the two characters? Mr. White displays experience as a criminal because, as evidenced from his conversations with the other characters, he has had a career in crime. Mr. Orange, on the other hand, is the only one in the group who has not participated in criminal activity before. Mr. Orange, who is really an undercover cop, has had experience dealing with criminals before, but he is labeled as new and inexperienced by the other criminals in the gang. Furthermore, Mr. Orange’s ardent love of comic books and superheroes shows that he is the “kid” of the group. When Mr. Orange is looking at himself in the mirror, encouraging himself before going out with the gang, he is close to a poster of Silver Surfer. This helps us see him as a younger character who is a metaphorical “son.”
What is the significance of these character types in the film? Why would Quentin Tarantino seek to create a relationship between the two characters? First of all, Mr. Orange’s attachment to Mr. White increases his level of guilt when he must admit that he is really an undercover cop. Also, Mr. White sticks up for Mr. Orange throughout the entire film due to the relationship they have formed. Characters express their paranoid skepticism about Mr. Orange being a traitor, but Mr. White states that he trusts Mr. Orange. When Mr. White learns that Mr. Orange has betrayed the group, his status as a caregiver to Mr. Orange makes the betrayal all the more painful. We get the sense that the respect between the two, while strong, is also superficial at some level due to Mr. Orange’s need to fulfill his duty as a cop.
These ending events shake the characters’ faith in a relationship that has grown over the short period of time. The relationship ultimately serves to heighten the drama and to complicate Mr. Orange’s loyalty to the man that has consistently supported him.
Tarantino, Quentin. Reservoir Dogs. Miramax, 1992. Film.
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