Have You Used the “N” Word Today?
By: P.S. Perkins, HCI
A Film Commentary
“Does art mirror life or life mirror art?” This is an age-old question often debated when cultures examine the role of the artist and social messages that come in the form of “entertainment”. What is the role of the theater, film, music, visual arts, media and all forms of creative expression in sharing, creating and exchanging our realities and imaginations? Of course the answers are as diverse as the myriad of artistic expressions world-wide. However, this discussion surfaces front and center once again with the release of the Quentin Tarantino film, Django starring Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington and Leonardo Dicaprio.
Have you used the “n” word today, yesterday, tomorrow, never? I understand that a controversy ensued over Tarantino’s liberal use of the word in the movie. Used in its historically derogatory and debasing context throughout the movie by whites and some blacks, there were movie critics that were offended by its “overuse” as well as what was viewed as the excessive violence that usually underscores a Tarrantino film – Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, etc. I was intrigued by the Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday interview with Jamie Foxx and their discussion about Django. It definitely added to my excitement about seeing the film. There was a comment Oprah made during the interview about when she left the film viewing with a few of her OWN colleagues, someone commented about the incredible “imagination of Quentin Tarantino!” Oprah looked straight into the camera and made sure she let her viewing audience know that she corrected her colleague and that the film was not based on the imagination of the director but a horrid truth that was much worse in its scope and devastation than any movie could ever depict! Amen Oprah!
Yet, some want to squabble over the “N” word!!! Give me a break! Many of these same individuals boldly throw the word back and forth having changed the “er” for an “a”, daring white folks and others to use it, as their own children kill each other in the streets screaming the very word that has enslaved their minds and devalued their lives. How in the h@#% can you make a film about the horrors of slavery and not give the audience an honest depiction of the degradation slaves endued mentally, physically, morally and spiritually? The language was real! The hatred was real! The physical and moral devastation of an entire race of people was real! The resultant “self-hatred” was real! The legacy is real! And some folks want to be upset about a white director that was brave enough to once again show the nation to its face how brutal, cruel and evil the institution of slavery was and the OBVIOUS legacy that still stains our nation?
Yes, art can truly mirror life, and often it’s not pretty but REAL! Oh, so you say Django the character was not real? I defiantly differ on that point and scream from the highest mountain top that the survivors of U.S. system of slavery and apartheid were and continue to be the real heroes of the story of Django. We suffer from a legacy that we still do not want to talk about or face the devastating consequences that continue to enslave our minds, bodies and spirits as our discussions concerning light-skin and dark-skin, good-hair versus bad-hair, the prison industrial complex, health disparities, gang violence, school dropout rates, teen pregnancy… Yes, too often art does mirror life in the depiction of Black life.
The “N” word is alive and well and thank God it has once again been exposed as the debasing, castrating, and morally corrupt word that it was always intended to be no matter what letter it ends with! Yes, I personally experienced some cathartic relief watching Django kick some much deserved butt and even though he may have come to the screen as a mythical hero to save his people, his legacy lives on in the countless names of millions that fought and died as well as fought and lived for what they believed in – ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL and that includes my children and yours. Take your age appropriate family members to see the film and maybe we will have less n%@#$@s and more heroes/sheroes in the community tomorrow.