Enfant Terrible, Quentin Tarantino, has come under fire once again for his reimagined western, Django Unchained. Spike Lee, a controversial director in his own right, has boycotted the film saying, “It’s disrespectful to my ancestors, and I can’t disrespect my ancestors.” Others have taken issue with the prolific use of the N word, calling it “insensitive,” and “exploitative.” This isn’t the first time Spike has critisized Smoky Q’s use of the N word in his films; concerning Tarantino’s homage to blaxploitation films of the 70’s, Jackie Brown, Lee said, “I’m not against the word. And some people speak that way. But Quentin is infatuated with that word.”

Regardless of how you feel about the sociopolitical or moral issues concerning the N word, it’s hard to imagine the word magically eliminated from the lexicon of film. So, as an actor, you may be asked–indeed directed–to use the word in the course of your profession. Whether you’re told to scream it in racist rage or mutter it with casual indifference, using the N word could be an issue in your career. And the N word isn’t the only unseemly expression to rouse a heated polemic in the press as well as at the water cooler. The B word is thrown around with troubling regularity, and there are hurtful words for just about every ethnic group in the world.

It’s important to understand the very nature of art is tendentious. And so it follows, as an actor you will be challenged to make political, moral, and ethical decisions in the projects you choose and the roles you undertake. It’s just the name of the game.

So what do you think? Should the N word be avoided in all cases regardless of artistic interpretation? Or are you comfortable with the word as long as it’s in keeping with a fictional character’s fundamental spirit?

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