Sunday, January 9, 2011

Dorian Chandler: My Take on the N-Word and Huckleberry Finn

by Filmmaker Dorian Chandler

To censor or not to censor?

That is the question.

This week marked a controversial move by publisherNew South Books and Mark Twain scholar Alan Gribbento remove the word “nigger” from their new edition of Twain’s novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Nigger is used 219 times in the original novel and will be replaced by the word “slave” in the revamped version. The censored version is an attempt to reposition Huckleberry Finn within the American grade school curricula lexicon. By censoring language are we blatantly distorting historical context? Will students get more out of censorship then provoked discourse?

I’m not a fan of censorship, especially when it relates to art and education. As an artist who often uses film and language to explore the complex word “nigger” I have experienced censorship firsthand. My film and website will often be called “N Nation” instead of its original name: “Nigger Nation.” As the filmmaker, it’s disconcerting one would take it upon themselves to edit and censor my work in the very forums it was made to be addressed, like classrooms and film screenings. After its viewing, there is always a dialog seeking to share their experiences with the word “nigger” and it’s place in society. When it is introduced as “N Nation”, it almost mutes the discussion by making it apparent from the start that this is an uncomfortable word to say, let alone have a conversation about.


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