Wednesday, May 06, 2009

It's like Sophie's Choice, if Sophie were a racist.

The phrase is "'Offensive' name". The name whose offensiveness is contentious enough to put into "Apparently-Quotes" is "Nigger". Know what, The Papers? You can go ahead and remove those "alleged-markers" right there. The word "Nigger" is not "Offensive", the word "Nigger" is just Offensive. Okay? It's 2009. You're allowed to come down on one side or the other of the great Is It Offensive To Say Nigger Debate.

Meanwhile we're all pretending like the makers of The Dam Busters are still undecided on this point. I am officially Sick Of This Story.

For those outside of Nizild, where The Dam Busters is recognized as the promising low-budget action movie it is, this is the story: Peter Jackson is producing a remake of The Dam Busters. In the original film (and the events on which it was based), the main character had a dog called "Nigger" (on account of it was black). Nowadays, people don't own dogs called "Nigger" (even if they're black), so it has been suggested that the new version of The Dam Busters may not feature a dog called Nigger.

And the letter-writers and hand-wringers of the country have agreed to play their role via the appropriate channels, that of pretending like "should or should not Peter Jackson allow a movie to be released under his name in which a dog is called 'Nigger'?" is a debate worth engaging in. And said letter-writings and hand-wringings are then reported as if it was a debate that was being engaged in, rather than a silly little piece of theatre revolving around a total nonissue.

Because, see, nobody is going to release a movie into theatres with a dog called "Nigger" in it, and nobody in their right mind is pretending otherwise, apart from racists pretending they're striving for historical verisimilitude. To offend racists, or to offend anyone offended by the word "Nigger"? Well golly, it's hard to pick just one.

And now I will for a second abandon my position of "let us stop talking about this" and adopt a position of "if I were to talk about this, here is what I would say". What I would say is that anyone who is willing to argue that "historical verisimilitude" should see a protagonist in a pulpy genre action movie own a dog called "Nigger", just because the character on which the character on which he was based owned one, is a racist. And here is why I would say that.

If you were truly concerned with a film relating events exactly as they were, you would obtain and read the script, and you would pillory writer Steven Fry whenever dialogue got points across succinctly or elegantly at the expense of the regular "um"s and "ah"s of actual peoples' diction. You would lambast the filmmakers for never showing the characters on the toilet. You'd be insisting that only the real actual face of Guy Gibson computer-mapped onto an actor (presumably Andy Serkis) would be appropriate for the depiction of the main character (and historical Nigger-owner). You'd be offended whenever action shifted (or "cut") from one viewpoint to another abruptly, as that doesn't happen in real life; every time such a shift happened, you'd take a freeze-frame of the image and inspect it for non-diegetic lighting, not a footcandle of which you would brook. Hell, you wouldn't even be happy with the fact that the film appeared to allege that World War 2 was fought on only two dimensions (presumably allowing Fritz unbarred access to the precious third and upward ones).

Meanwhile, if you weren't wanting an accurate depiction of events so much as a faithful repetition of the original movie, surely you'd have become outraged as soon as you heard that Steven Fry had written a new script, and once you found that the movie was now in colour and featured new actors and... et cetera.

All of this is to say, via what I laughingly call reducto ad absurdum, that everyone knows that a film is a film, and that everybody knows that films don't tell the truth, they tell stories, and that stories and reality are different. And if you want as close as possible an experience to the original movie, well, go watch the damn original movie.

Whereas if you want to know exactly what it's like to be in a war and have people freely bandy about racist epithets, I'm sure there are plenty of companies currently serving that could help you out. Just don't write back.

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