Sixteen years ago Quentin Tarantino gave us one of the best movies of the 1990s – Pulp Fiction. It was fresh, clever, funny, and full of surprises and bizarre dialogues. It includes numerous references to movies and popular culture.

Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield

Besides cultural references Tarantino is known for his trademarks:

  • camera angles and shots (the use of black and white, the trunk & hood POV shot …);
  • recurring themes (foot fetish, close-ups on lips …);
  • recurring props (black and white suits, comic books …);
  • product placement – fake brands (Red Apple cigarettes, Big Kahuna burgers, Teriyaki donut …).

The second scene in the brilliant Pulp Fiction belongs to the conversation between Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson), who discuss differences among nations, namely cultural difference.

Vincent: “Well, in Amsterdam, you can buy beer in a movie theatre. And I don’t mean in a paper cup either. They give you a glass of beer, like in a bar. In Paris, you can buy beer at McDonald’s. Also, you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?
Jules: “They don’t call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?”
Vincent: “No, they got the metric system there; they wouldn’t know what the fuck a Quarter Pounder is.”
Jules: “What’d they call it?”
Vincent: “Royale with Cheese.”
Jules (repeating): “Royale with Cheese. What’d they call a Big Mac?”
Vincent: “Big Mac’s a Big Mac, but they call it Le Big Mac.”

The Quarter Pounder was invented in 1971, but in most markets unfamiliar with imperial measurements, the Quarter Pounder is known as the Hamburger Royale or McRoyal. There are some variants of it, including “Royale with Cheese”. For example, in Slovenia, Croatia and Romania, quarter pounder with cheese is called Royal Cheese.

Several scenes and images from the film achieved iconic status; in 2008, Entertainment Weekly declared, “You’d be hard-pressed, by now, to name a moment from Quentin Tarantino’s film that isn’t iconic.” Even though we can assume that there was no paid product placement in Pulp Fiction, the Royal with Cheese dialogue also became famous. It’s kind of funny to associate brand with men whose job is killing people, but there are only few movie dialogues that include McDonald’s and are interesting for viewers. The scene also showed how McDonalds has evolved in Amsterdam (Americans would never dip their fries in mayonnaise, but the Dutch do).

McDonald’s certainly profited from the movie. A few years ago Israeli ad for McDonald’s McSchwarma spoofed the aforementioned scene. In the ad fake John Travolta tells fake Samuel L. Jackson that the pita bread with turkey meat in it is called a McSchwarma in Israel. The ad ends with a bit of a strange twist – Jules asks “So a guy just walks into a McDonalds and says, “Can I have a McShwarma please”? And Vincent replies, “Yeah, but they don’t say ‘please’ in Israel.”

The dialogue was again referenced this year in Travolta’s new movie From Paris with Love, where Travolta’s character Charlie Wax explains to his partner:

“Reece, every man has got his vices. And in my case the locals call my vice “A Royal with cheese”.”

  1. Pulp Fiction is without doubt one of the best movies EVER made. But in this movie is almost blasphemy to speak about product placement – this movie is all about how certain brands and trademarks define ones lifestyle and vice versa.

    As I’ve put in my prior comment – I agree, that most of the brands which appear in movies are sponsored by its manufactures. This goes for literature or pop lyrics as well. But definitely not all. I bet that Janice Joplin was not sponsored by Bavarians for her: ‘Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz….’

  2. Btw. in Germany the Quarter Pounder with Cheese got a literally translation in “Viertelpfünder mit Käse”.

    I hate product placement. No matter if MCD, other burger makers or cars. It started with a Cadillac Escalade and ended with blatant PP for Audi. :-(