I thought about The Wire in context of the controversy over Huckleberry Finn for this reason. The n-word is used constantly. So is the f-word. Take away those two words and half the script would disappear. Black gangsters use the n-word freely to describe one another; so do the cops. To my knowledge, no one has protested to HBO or the producers. This is popular culture, so who cares?
This is a strange juxtaposition: Our schools are cleansed of all that is troubling, offensive, and challenging, while our popular culture deals bluntly, graphically, and harshly with the ugliest realities of our time. I would not want our schools to include all the vulgarity and obscenity that is commonplace in the popular culture. Indeed, I wish that our schools would elevate the popular culture and give young people a taste for something finer than what they see on television and in the movies. In my dreams, the schools would teach the best that has been known and said in the world.
They cannot do that by bowdlerizing classic literature, by pretending that bad things never happened and that we live in a cotton-candy world. Bad things have happened.
Compiled by Arturo R. García
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
- Mark Twain, author, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Seems to me I’m doing something constructive by simply eliminating a word that’s a clear barrier for many people.
- Dr. Alan Gribben, Twain scholar, Auburn University.
We’ve got our first official race flap of 2011—and it involves something published in 1884.
- Kai Wright, editorial director, Colorlines