Given the wide and persistent use of the 'N' word during Quentin Tarantino's latest movie Django Unchained, and the controversy that has surrounded its usage regarding its historical accuracy and respect to contemporary feelings about the word, the conversation - or lack thereof - between Samuel L. Jackson and a reporter for Fox, seems a little odd.
There are few words that still have the power to shock. Both the 'F' word and the 'C' word have been absorbed more and more completely into vernacular discourses rendering them less offensive and consequently less powerful. Part of this loss of power is due to their overuse, but for the 'N' word, its frequency has no bearing on its power.
While the word appears in films and music, if it's ever used by a white person it still has the power to be incredibly offensive. Gwyneth Paltrow, earlier this year, came under fire for her quoting the Jay-Z/Kanye West song 'Niggas in Paris', plus in Big Brother of 2007 one contestant was kicked out for using it in what she deemed to be a friendly and non-confrontational context, saying that she was "joking" and that it wasn't a "big deal". Such ignorance is astounding.
Now, Samuel L. Jackson, during an interview for Fox, asked the interviewer to say the word. Jake Hamilton was the interviewer, who said "There's been a lot of controversy surrounding the 'N' word in the movie, and, and..." before being cut off by Jackson saying "No. Nobody. None... The word would be..?"
Hamilton responded by saying that he's not going to say it because he doesn't like to. What ensues is conversation between the pair in which Jackson tries to coax the N-word out of Hamilton, before the interviewer just moves on.
While the topic ended up being avoided within the interview, why Jackson asked Hamilton to say the word in the first place is up for debate. When Hamilton asked Jackson to say the word, he replied "F--- no, it's not the same thing." And he's right. It's not the same thing. By the white interviewer refusing to say the word, Jackson's question highlights the power of the word, thereby relaying its powerful usage in the film.
Neither Tarantino nor Jackson have shied away from controversial topics, particularly made evident within this movie, and while such debates can arise from movie-making, they never should do.
Check out the rest of the interview here (starting at 13:54) as well as interviews with the rest of the cast, here: