Directed by: Todd Williams
Premise: A documentary film exploring the history and contemporary use of the word through interviews with linguists and entertainers who have used the word in stand up routines, music, or acting roles.
What Works: The N Word is smart and bold and explores a lot of avenues about its subject matter. It abandons political correctness and puts the history of the language in a cultural context that demonstrates how racism and language are linked. The N Word is able to free its discussion of rightwing or leftwing social agendas and critiques the history and evolving use of the word in many facets of the culture in ways that are funny, heartbreaking, and enlightening.
What Doesn’t: The collection of voices does raise some issues. While the entertainers are the ones shaping the use of the language in the culture, the number of entertainers in the film does seem a little unbalanced. A wider variety of viewpoints on the subject may have helped the film.
DVD extras: Commentary track by Todd Williams.
Bottom Line: The N Word is a fascinating documentary about the complex nature of race relations in the United States and the sometimes contradictory nature of censorship, self-censorship, and evolving social mannerisms.
Episode: #97 (May 21, 2006)