5 Lessons from Mr. Pink from Reservoir Dogs
From the first time I experienced the iconic, tarantinoesque, famous ‘Tipping Scene’ of Reservoir Dogs, which introduces the anti-heroes of the film, namely a Mr. White, a Mr. Orange, a Mr. Blonde, a Mr. Blue, a Mr. Brown… I’m thinking, the last thing I expected was that my favourite character from the get-go would be a Mr. Pink.
You may call that a bad sense of gender-stereotyping gone good, I’m thinking i’ll call it my God-given right to have colour preferences. Or at least that’s the kind of flexible thinking that falls in line with the character of the peculiar – RESRVOIR underDOG – Mr. Pink (brilliantly portrayed by Steve Buscemi and marvelously written by Quentin Tarantino). And I’m thinking, it is this idea of ‘Flexible Thinking’ that makes Mr. Pink so interesting and gives you so much to learn about how to deal with people.
So who is Mr. Pink and what is flexible thinking?
I’m thinking, for example, if you’re someone who takes pride in unreasonably expensive branded products, Mr. Pink may call you cheap for bargaining for loose change with street vendors. If you’re telling your kid that their cellphones are bad for them, I’m thinking Mr.Pink would ask you to stop being so glued to yours. And I’m thinking, if you believe tipping is just “good practice” and not an optional act of gratitude, Mr. Pink would think you stupid, superficial or another one of society’s drones.
To describe him, Mr. Pink is the skinniest, least cool-looking and least intimidating villain among a more archetypal bunch of tough-guys. But easily the most intelligent. And this intelligence, I’m thinking, is due to the great flexibility he practices in his thought and action. Notice how I keep using the word “flexible” as opposed to just “logical” or “pragmatic”. Now you can be an unimaginative logician, or a thick-headed pragmatist, but being a flexible thinker means leaving your logic subject to change. I’m thinking, it also means being prepared to deal with the fact that most people always want you to play by rules, which they somehow don’t believe apply to themselves. And in a situation where the rules are always subject to change, nothing prepares you for the unexpected – like flexible thought (insert famous Bruce Lee quote about water).
So based on that, here’s a few valuable lessons that I’m thinking one can learn from the character of Mr. Pink, which may help you adapt to and confront real-life scenarios. Especially if, God forbid, life decides to throw you in the middle of a Mexican standoff.
The Mr. Pink Lesson 1: Being cool is cool, but being smart is smarter.
Mr. White: “Who cares what your name is?
Mr. Pink: “Yea that’s easy for you to say. You’re Mr. White. You have a cool sounding name. Alright look, if it’s no big deal to be Mr. Pink, you want to trade?…”
Joe: “…There’s two ways you can go on this job. My way or the highway. Now what’s it going to be MR. PINK?”
Mr. Pink: “Jesus Christ Joe, fucking forget about it. It’s beneath me, you know . I’m Mr. Pink. Let’s move on…”
You see? Mr.Pink understands what’s fair and what’s unfair and he prefers to deal with the former, but I’m thinking, he doesn’t mind swallowing the latter, if the loss is negligible. But that being said, he’ll sure as hell still try negotiating for the negligible gain, before leaving it be. Most stereotypical heroes or villains: you brush them off the wrong way, and you can be completely unrelated to their objective, but I’m thinking they’ll risk it all to prove to you that they have the bigger balls.
But not Mr. Pink. No. He’s a professional. Sure, he’ll entertain an argument and he’ll never let up a chance to make one. But, I’m thinking, if it’s getting out of hand, he’ll gracefully bow out or come to a compromise to get the best that he can from a situation. Mr. Pink realizes that it’s more important to get what he wants, than it is to make a point… But that being said, he’ll never leave his point unstated.
The Teaching: People will label you or make assessments about you to satisfy their egos. Argue it, but it’s beneath you to let it sidetrack you from where you want to get to.
The Mr. Pink Lesson 2: Compromise until you Can’t.
Mr. Pink: “We ain’t taking him to a hospital”
Mr. White: “If we don’t, he dies”
Mr. Pink: “I’m sad about that, but some fellas are lucky and some ain’t… I didn’t create this situation, I’m dealing with it. You’re acting like a first year thief, I’m acting like a professional! They get him, they get you, they get you, they get closer to me and that can’t happen. You’re looking at me like it’s my fault! I didn’t tell him my name or where I was from!”
Mr. Pink compromises a lot, which is the whole point of being flexible, but get him in a spot where there’s zero benefit and certain loss from the compromise, and suddenly he’s as rigid as a rock. He understands, I’m thinking, that Damage Control is about chinning-up and being prepared to take a loss, or to allow somebody else to take a loss for a greater gain.
Like, if Leonidas didn’t march 300 Spartans to their deaths at the Hot Gates of Thermopylae, would the Greeks have survived the Persian Invasion to have a version of history written, which we could then make a movie about thousands of years later? Or for a more recent example, think – Avengers Infinity War, when that one superhero has to make that 1 choice out of 14 million alternatives.
Another lesson to learn from Mr. Pink here, I’m thinking, is that the best way to function in a group is to view the value of the individual as equal to the value of the entire group. And so if the group is beyond repair, then the need of the individual becomes the greater good. Similarly, if an individual in a group was irreparably detrimental to the group, then the group would take precedence over the individual. Simple and flexible.
The Teaching: It’s better to use both – Utilitarianism & Deontology – as tools, as opposed to embodying either as a belief (Stay tuned for my Avengers Infinity blog about Stephen Strange and Steve Rogers, to explain this idea)
The Mr. Pink Lesson 3: Don’t do shit just cause your peer group says so.
Nice Guy Eddie: “Let me just get this straight. You don’t ever tip, huh?”
Mr. Pink: “I don’t tip because society says I have to. Alright, I’ll tip if somebody really deserves a tip. If they really put forth the effort, i’ll give ‘em something, but this tipping automatically is for the birds. As far as I’m concerned they’re just doing their jobs…”
Mr. White: “… You don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. These people bust their ass. This is a hard job”
Mr. Pink: “So’s working at McDonald’s, but you don’t feel the need to tip them, do you? But why not? They’re serving you food. But no, society says “Don’t tip these guys here, but tip these guys here”. That’s bullshit.”
(Let me go fourth wall a bit and say, it speaks highly of the sheer genius of Tarantino for imagining this amazing ironical scene i.e. a bunch of bank robbers philosophically discussing the merits or demerits of tipping. What’s more is, this entire scene is from the perspective of Mr. Orange, who throughout the entire movie is confronted with meaningful instances that really show you the human side of thieves. That is – A human side that makes these particular Dogs – even scarier – when they go animal.)
So what’s the lesson here? I’m thinking, apart from the sound argument made by the character himself, the important idea here is to always question your situation… especially when you’re in a peer group. I’m thinking, after an hour of hanging out and cracking jokes and sharing camaraderie in a group, somebody asks you to grab a drag of a smoke, a swig of some alcohol, or asks you to trade a sick joke or laugh at one… And the big high you get from feeling a part of the group is too much to resist. It’s just so easy to play along. At such a point, to break away from the peer group, and to say NO, and to stay grounded in what you believe is right, even if it means souring the mood, I’m thinking, is kind of like breaking away from the Imperious Curse (#HarryPotterReference).
But the lesson of the aforementioned scene comes at its conclusion, where Mr. Pink teaches you how to hold on to your beliefs, while being flexible with it. Best real life example: non-religious vegetarians that don’t mind having the curry of the chicken curry.
Scene Conclusion –
Joe: “Wait a minute, who didn’t throw in?”
Mr. Orange: “Mr. Pink…. He don’t tip… He don’t believe in it”
Joe: “… What do you mean you don’t believe in it? Come on you! Cough up a buck you you cheap bastard. I paid for your goddamn breakfast”
Mr. Pink: “Alright, since you paid for the breakfast, i’ll put in, but normally, I would never do this”.
The Teaching: If you’re a flexible thinker, it’s important to explain to people why you’re compromising or why you can’t, so that they don’t take your compromising nature for granted.
The Mr. Pink Lesson 4: Keep your hand on your gun
Mr. White throws Mr. Pink to the floor and is hammering the shit out of him. Mr. Pink pulls out a gun on Mr. White, which he’d already cocked and loaded beforehand, and easily levels the playing field.
It’s important to trust and be loyal to your group. But I’m thinking it’s also important to understand your strengths, weakness and standings in a group. This, so if – God forbid – the group turns on you, you’re not entirely helpless. Trust is important to maintain a group, but blind trust more often destroys a group. One of the coolest things about Batman in the Justice League (not the movie), is that he’s a true team player that’s always prepared to go to solo, if the situation turns on him. And so while the one thing that he’d rather die-than-do is betray his group, he still has a playbook on how to take down every member of the Justice League (especially Superman), i.e. if the group betrays its purpose (an aspect that Rorschach from Watchmen pays dearly for lacking).
The Teaching: Trust and teamwork are important, but be prepared to stand alone for your ideals, when push comes to shove.
The Mr. Pink Lesson 5: Always play fair, but expect stupid.
The plot of Reservoir Dogs is a ‘Whodunnitt’ about a diamond-heist gone south. And the thieves are trying to figure out what/who screwed them over. Mr. Pink is the only one from all the Reservoir Dogs that gets a hold of the diamonds that they’re trying to steal. He still comes back to the safe house like the group has planned to, instead of skedaddling with the diamonds… But he first makes sure that he safely stashes away the diamonds, until he figures out who he can or cannot trust.
The Teaching: Watch or rewatch the end of Reservoir Dogs to refresh your memories about how that goes for him, and to get the point I’m trying to make with all of the above.
Credit for the image used in the thumbnail in this blog is owed to the following link – https://sp4c3m0nk3y.deviantart.com/art/Mr-Pink-331997866