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Then and now… March 4, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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The Projection Booth had a two hour podcast on The Intruder, a Roger Corman directed film, starring William Shatner, made in 1962. It’s about school integration in the South during that period and is accessible on YouTube. It’s quite something. It really is. As noted on the podcast the ‘n’ word is used throughout – this is most definitely NSFW and as the contributors note the usage is genuinely shocking at this remove.

Despite some melodramatic flourishes the production has an unblinking aspect to it. Shatner was never the greatest actor and yet… this is pretty remarkable. A further point, this was, as noted on the podcast, one of Corman’s few flops. Nobody wanted to show it or see it.

But the podcast makes a fascinating case that the film is remarkably prescient in relation to the current era – looking at the Trump campaign and presidency .One point made in the podcast was just how violent both rhetorically and otherwise the Trump campaign was – it’s genuinely chilling to hear the tape of him encouraging the crowd to get the digs in at protestors. But then there’s a scene in the film where Shatner quizzes a hotel receptionist about integrated schooling and she replies, ‘but it’s the law’. To which he asks, ‘Whose law?’. That too has an oddly contemporary ring to it.

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1. Joe Mooney - March 5, 2017

I always liked this movie . Shatner is great in it , and I think Corman considers it one of his favourite productions. On the use of the phrase nigger , or the N- word (as we now know it ) – a friend of mine was a teacher in New York and before he could begin “Hucklebery Finn” he had to warn the pupils that it contained the ;n-word’ and they may find it offensive and could choose another novel to read. I really don’t get the point – surely explaining the context of the book and it’s time was more educational than blanking it ? Of course removing the phrase ‘nigger’ from usage is desirable but what useful purpose is served by trying to pretend it didn’t exist ?

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WorldbyStorm - March 5, 2017

Agree – and a point made on the podcast was how different the contemporary usage is too. That Spike Lee or Tarantino use it in a completely different way, that it doesn’t have the rawness and immediacy that it did in the early 1960s. I’ve got to admit I have little time for people not engaging with texts because of that (though I was flicking idly through a Biggles book I got second hand for a couple of quid down in Sean O’Casey along with others and there was the word in all its glory. The book was written in the 20s but republished in the mid-80s in the edition I had and I wondered whether more contemporary versions might have it excised). Definitely think people have to face up to the past – particularly ironically white people.

A lot depends on the balance of power though. It’s like anti-Catholic or Nationalist jibes. One thing in 1955, completely different in 2017 even if the meaning of those using them is the same the context has changed so much they have much less political and social power. The words can still wound and alienate but not to precisely the same degree and in some ways they can seem pathetic.

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