Don’t Let’s Start #002: Tarantino Privilege Has To End

Jonathan Friedland, who has served as the streaming giant’s chief communications officer for the past six years, is out at the company after “insensitive” remarks he made to his team. Sources say that Friedland used the N-word in a meeting with other Netflix staffers, some of whom later reported the incident. Source:  Hollywood Reporter 

It’s time to talk about the N-word again. I’m going to take what some may see as an extreme stance.

Here it is: we have to stop using racial slurs, hell we should stop using any slurs to describe other people.

Seriously, White People, we need to stop using racial epiphets. White people in particular need to remove the N-word from usage. Now I’m not calling anyone who has ever uttered the word while white a racist; that’s hyperbole. And I’m not talking to racists, let’s put the “out” racists to the side; using the word should automatically be a sign of a garbage person.

This is about trying to be better humans.

We white folks need to be better allies and that starts with our language.

Flimsy rationalizations  like “why do black people get to use it but I can’t?” or “my black friend said it was okay” need to stop.

Singing along to lyrics counts. And definitely stop doing it on camera.

Seriously it should never be comfortable coming out of your mouth. It should never be comfortable on your lips. Ever.

I do not care how much you love that song.

African-American people may choose to use the word, that choice has nothing to do with you. You can’t act like things are equal because you believe they should be equal and you personally see everyone as equals. Using the word is a reminder of the vast inequity that exists in our society. When things are actually equal, we can decide if we really need to use the word.

A friend recently wrote on facebook:

“That word means “someone who can be killed without legal consequences.”

If you’re not in that group, you’re saying, “This is someone I can kill without legal repercussions.”

If you use it to refer to yourself, you’re saying, “We can be killed and no one will care.”

 

Which brings me to writing and writing scripts. And ultimately Quentin Tarantino’s use exploitive over-use of the word in his work.

It’s well past the time of the word being edgy. It’s cringeworthy, as in the word being used should make you cringe. It has weight. It’s use, by a white person is wrong. And it’s common use in popular media and popular culture can serve to blur the line of what is inappropriate use for white people.

Personally I would not feel comfortable writing a character saying that word. My reason is two-fold. First I do not feel I could convincingly write a story where a person of color character uses it where it would be needed. Second, I have no desire to write a story where a white character uses it.

I believe Quentin Tarantino is writing stories where the use of the N-word is utterly gratuitous.

Quentin Tarantino is not Lenny Bruce. He is not George Carlin. He’s damn well isn’t Redd Foxx. His use of the word stopped having any weight years ago. It’s become his schtick. He’s crossed from homage to blaxploitation to maker of blaxploitation.

I recently went to a screening of  True Romance.

True Romance is one of my all time favorite movies.

But this last time, I didn’t enjoy it as much as my nostalgia for the movie wanted me to.

Drexyl Spivey is a cartoonish character, where I once saw a real villain.

Christopher Walken a  Vincenzo Cocotti is Walken perfection. However the climax of his scene with Dennis Hopper is this truth: the Cocotti character was so insulted by the Hopper’s Clifford Worley saying to his face that Sicilians all have Moorish blood, that he killed Worley. Are we to believe Worley had to repeatedly use the n-word to incite Cocotti? Is Worley the kind of white man who uses it? I guess he’s of a “certain” generation.

True Romance was released almost 25 years ago. Have Tarantino’s characters, stories and use of the N-word advanced? Hasn’t Tarantino’s privilege expired?

Pop culture is escapism to be sure. But it is also a reflection of society. For us to be better, our entertainment, our entertainers need to be better too.