Friday, April 10, 2009

A Nation of Whiners - Part 2

So, since it’s now known that Americans have become so overly sensitive when it comes to virtually any public statement made in the course of expressing one’s opinion that we are, in essence, a nation of crybabies and whiners, does that mean that we shouldn’t become offended at something untoward that someone says? Of course not. The problem lies in the fact we fail to recognize the context in which, the intent of, or the merit of what someone says; we reactively go right into a mode of thought and actions which force us to conclude, “That’s offensive.”
Here’s the difference. As an African-American, I was not at all offended when the always controversial animated series South Park aired a true-to-it’s-form ire-raising episode “With Respect to Jesse Jackson” in March of 2007. For those who aren’t familiar with the episode, it was a tongue-in-cheek look at the use of the N-word in response to Seinfeld alumnus Michael Richard’s now infamous N-Word-laden tirade against a heckler at a comedy nightclub, which was caught on camera and subsequently broadcast worldwide. The episode turned the tables on racial bigotry via role reversal; a white man was put in the position of social pariah for his “accidental” use of the N-word on The Wheel of Fortune as he sought to solve a puzzle.
My lack of personal offense to the episode’s generous use of the N-word was due to the way in which I viewed it. I was totally cognizant of the context in which it was used…social commentary by use of parodying one of the more ridiculous aspects of real life.

On the other hand, it was a little harder for me to accept director Quentin Tarantino’s use of the word in the movie classic, Pulp Fiction. In one scene, assassins Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta’s characters inadvertently shoot an unexpected black hostage in the head (while matter-of-factly trying to have a conversation) in the back of their moving getaway car, creating a gruesome mess that’s sure to draw unwanted attention. Jackson’s character seeks the assistance of a fellow acquaintance in the underworld—a man of obvious Italian descent married to a black nurse—to help get rid of any and all incriminating evidence related to the cold-blooded shooting. Angry that the two assassins would dare to show up at his home (and at the risk of his wife finding out), the man openly displays his hostility to the gall of such a move by saying, “…and you bring a dead nigger to my house knowing that my wife is going to be home soon…! Or words to that effect. Call me a little nit-picky, but that exchange seemed to be totally gratuitous. It asked me as a movie-goer to suspend my belief a bit too much; a white man married to a black woman, using the N-word around an angry black assassin? It totally lacked artistic appreciation. As an African-American, I was offended by this gratutious use of the word (in much the same way that I am whenever African-Americans use the word to degrade and call each other).
The latest object of "offense" is the new commercial by the Burger King Corporation, which is marketing its latest themed burger meal for children, the SpongeBob Squarepants meal.
The ad, which I thought to be hilarious, was a parody of the music video to Sir-Mix-Alot's 90's hit, Baby Got Back. But as usual when it comes to notions of "protecting the children," people were offended because it's "adult" content was clearly out of place with its emphasis on "sexuality," which I'm willing to bet any amount of money was not the intent when the marketing barrons who created the funny piece decided to go with it. Again, people fail to take notice of either intent or context when it comes to their sensitivities.

To be Concluded...



  1. Ok ok ok, I understand your point about context, especially as it relates to the "With Respect to Jesse Jackson" episode. But come on man Tarantino may be a jerk and a wannabe honorary n-word but I really don't think he meant any harm by his excessive use of the infamous n-word. I think at the time with all the hoopla about abolishing the word and him being a fan of blaxploitation movies, he thought it would be funny. I thought it was hilarious the fact that he had a black wife and yet called the dead guy a nigg sorry n-word. But hey my sense of humor can be warped at times. As far as the BBKing commercial, I thought it was corny as hell lol, but I never thought of it as sexual until I read your blog. Then again I'm not a parent so I wouldn't understand. However, you're right, intent and context matter but everyone's perception of intent and contex vary so either way we're screwed.