‘Django Unchained’ sparks new controversy over the n-word

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Samuel L. Jackson in 'Django Unchained.'

Samuel L. Jackson in 'Django Unchained.'

The n-word has been taunted, rebuked, dissected, commercialized, uttered under hushed breaths and shouted in public commons, and now, in Quentin Tarantino’s new movie, Django Unchained, it gets hyperbolized to the max.

The film, opening in theaters December 25, takes on the era of slavery at its grimmest – violent and ruthless – through the tale of Django, a freed slave played by Jamie Foxx, on a mission to assert his ultimate revenge.

It’s a slap in America’s face; an upheaval of the country’s skeletons; and it’s causing a stir amongst critics who have already begun debating the racial politics of the narrative. Not only is the n-word uttered over 110 times in the movie, but a black man commits acts of violence on a white man and gets away with it.

Accordingly, the community at large has been aroused with concern, deeming it racist, over-the-top, and against history.

“Those things really depress me because they are usually talked about by people who’ve not actually seen the film, which is typical of where we are in our culture,” the film’s producer Reggie Hudlin tells theGrio. “We’re in a time period when there was extraordinary violence against people; verbal violence is the least of it. When you look at that time, there was institutionalized horror – legalized horror – people were denying the humanity of people to justify white supremacy. That’s more significant than any use of the word ni**er. Let’s actually talk about the bigger themes in the movie.”

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Nevertheless, it’s the n-word that’s taken the spotlight. Over the past couple weeks, it has been plastered across headlines on Drudge Report, analyzed and critiqued by both conservative and liberal outlets, and scrutinized for its questionable purpose throughout the film. An article in the Hollywood Reporter referenced Spike Lee’s former grievances with Tarantino’s use of the word, questioning whether Tarantino had the right to employ such dialogue as a white man, or whether he was a “bold filmmaker” willing to tackle race in ways others haven’t. In response, Tarantino, an apparent rival to Lee, defended himself saying he was “simply utilizing the English language in all its glory and ugly legacies.”

Yet on closer look, the speech of Django Unchained may not be so transparent, as Tarantino is often eager to flip the switch on traditional film vernacular. Particularly given the fact that Django is successfully able to enact his vengeance, this film is getting viewed by some more as a “threat” to white people or reverse racism.

As Slate points out, Foxx’s recent appearance on Saturday Night Live sent conservative bloggers fuming when he joked about being excited to “kill all the white people in the movie.” This led to a subsequent discussion over the alleged proliferation of anti-white bigotry in America, even suggesting that European civilizations have been unfairly discriminated against for decades.