The digital media world was abuzz Wednesday with questions surrounding the Drudge Report’s bizarre front-page commentary on Quentin Tarantino’s new film, “Django Unchained.”
The spaghetti-Western-style movie is set just before the Civil War and follows a freed slave on a blood hunt for a murderous gang of gunslingers. In typical Tarantino style, the film contains plenty of profanity, including many instances of the N-word, which someone at Drudge either found off-putting, hypocritical or merely amusing.
The website featured a photo of the filmmaker, along with quotes about the offensive word from Jamie Foxx and Spike Lee. Foxx stars in the movie as the title role.
“Being called n-gger as a kid by white people was something I had to deal with,” Foxx was quoted.
The Drudge post also featured a quote from a Variety magazine review of the film, which noted that it “problematically features 109 instances of ‘the N word' ... most of them deployed for laughs or alliteration.” (OK, but who’s counting?)
Finally, the post featured the headline, “N*GGER. N*GGER. N*GGER. N*GGER. N*GGER. N*GGER. N*GGER,” which was linked to a review of the film on the Hollywood Reporter. The link was an odd choice, seeing how the Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy seemed indifferent to the use of the word in the film’s context.
“Quite naturally, given the historical setting, the N-word gets a heavy workout, by whites and blacks alike,” McCarthy wrote.
Exactly what point Matt Drudge was trying to make is unclear. The Huffington Post surmised that it might have been a “vague point about hypocrisy” (some offensive words are off limits while others are OK), but that hardly seems fitting. The movie itself is heavy on social commentary about the underlying hypocrisy that a country built on the idea of freedom once condoned the institution of slavery -- the film's leading characters are a freed slave and a white man who "despises" slavery. Moreover, to erase the very word that signifies that hypocrisy would not be very consistent with Tarantino’s body of work. The filmmaker built his career on a flair for writing profanity-laden dialogue that is both nuanced and rhythmic.
In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find a Tarantino movie that doesn’t contain the N-word. Spike Lee famously criticized him for it in 1997 after the release of “Jackie Brown,” which apparently contains 38 instances.
Tarantino later defended himself in an interview with Charlie Rose. “As a writer, I demand the right to write any character in the world that I want to write,” he said. “I demand the right to be them, I demand the right to think them, and I demand the right to tell the truth as I see they are, all right?”
And, of course, Matt Drudge has the right to not go see “Django Unchained.”