confused travolta original acmi.jpg
Have you seen my keys? Vince Vega (John Travolta) in Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, Miramax Films, 1994)
Stories & Ideas

Wed 09 Dec 2020

Pulp Fiction – Confused Travolta

Edit Line Internet culture Pop culture
Matt Millikan
Matt Millikan

Senior Writer & Editor

You know you’ve made it in the meme world when you’ve been incorporated into a Drake “Hotline Bling” meme.

Almost as iconic as the rapper’s weird dance in the music video is John Travolta’s confused slink through a lounge room in Pulp Fiction. Before a date with crime boss Marcel Wallace’s wife Mia (Uma Thurman), Vincent Vega (John Travolta) high on heroin, is in a lackadaisical trance that makes finding Mia’s voice on the intercom an almost insurmountable task. It’s the beginning of a sequence that sees the hitman and Mia take to Jack Rabbit Slims for a conversation on vanilla shakes before their iconic dance floor shaking, which culminates in Vega plunging a syringe of adrenaline into Mia’s heart after she mistakes Vega’s heroin for cocaine.

Thanks to greenscreen technology and internet user ILikeToWonkaMyWilly, Vega was cut out of the original living room scene and reborn as the Confused Travolta meme, which was remixed into other iconic movies, film clips, news footage and everyday occurrences. Wondering why a European parliament is fighting? So is Confused Travolta. Looking for a toy doll? Confused Travolta is with you in the aisle. Wondering where Fred and George Weasley disappear to in Harry Potter? So is Confused Travolta. Looking for your car in a parking lot? So is Confused Travolta.

The applications really are endless. As if Pulp Fiction wasn’t popular enough, this scene bred new online virality into the groundbreaking crime drama once the internet got hold of it.

After user karmafrappuccino used the original scene as a reaction on Imgur, ILikeToWonkaMyWilly posted a Confused Travolta GIF in the toy aisle that reached over 2.8 million views in just 10 days, along with 370 comments. Proving the egalitarian nature of the internet, they then made the green screen version, which prompted user danoone to use it in an empty classroom with the caption, "MRW no one tells me the class is canceled".

A few days later, the /r/ConfusedTravolta subreddit was born, which highlighted ingenious remixes of the footage, which had the bewildered hitman stumbling through The Shining’s Overlook Hotel, replacing Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman, running for the Republican presidential nomination, and even Frank Scorpio’s lair in The Simpsons. There are so many Confused Travoltas out there that not even the internet could contain them.

The meme even broke the boundaries of the internet to appear in the real world and was mentioned to Tarantino in a BBC 1 interview.

Without Tarantino’s masterful filmmaking, which includes resurrecting Travolta’s career and leaning into his has-been status to create the memorable Vincent Vega character, the internet wouldn’t have got one of its most enduring memes.

– Matt Millikan

This essay was written for Edit Line

The Edit Line at ACMI (image credit: Gareth Sobey)

Create your own iconic film and TV moments in real time with Edit Line, an interactive experience in The Story of the Moving Image exhibition at ACMI.

Move physical blocks around to create a story from selected clips. Save your mini masterpiece with your Lens device and take it home with you.

You might also like