No place for black people
The casual use of the ‘N’ word has one viewer vowing to leave ‘Fargo’
By Angie Comer 05/07/2014
I felt a sudden gush of excitement when my clock hit 10 p.m. and “Fargo,” a takeoff on the hit 1996 Coen Brothers movie, made its debut on FX. I could not resist lawless Billy Bob Thorton leering with emotion. A few minutes later, as Sam Hess (played by Kevin O’Grady) pounced on poor Lester Nygaard (played by Martin Freeman) like an amorous leopard, a memory trickled out and slipped into gear; the first time a white man called me a “nigger.”
At the edge of every experience, there are moments that are sleeping in their subconscious caves. Many years ago in Hollywood, when I decided not to make a left turn one afternoon, the driver behind me was furious. He followed me for a half-mile, honking and yelling.
After I picked up my mom from a bus stop, he suddenly flew out of a bank driveway, blocked my car and barked out every variation of the “N” word that he could come up with. I had no clue there were so many. Archie Bunker would have been proud of this foolish brute. This encounter that was forced upon me lasted less than a minute, but his words cut like claws scratching my face.
This spasm of emotions reemerged as I watched the pilot of “Fargo.” It was a swift kick to my gut as the scene played out and Sam Hess dropped the “N” word a grand total of three times — once was for shock, twice was for the glory of its impact, and the third time was … what? Necessity?
N is for “nigger” and “necessity.” So, calling anyone a “nigger” today — black, white, or even Asian — has quickly become a TV necessity to prove some point to validate an instant in time.
Why is it that we frequently hear “nigger” on TV, but the concoction of other ethnic verbal cruelties are almost nonexistent? When was the last time you watched a series and heard the words “chink,” “sand-nigger,” “wetback” or “honkey?”
I wondered if writer/producer Noah Hawley had a cocktail of reasons for hyping- up this reunion scene with a former bully by showcasing such a demeaning word. I sat there in my mental huddle, wrestling with the scene I just witnessed and I know that the intent of Sam Hess would not have been lost if the writer made the creative choice to spare the hurt feelings of every black viewer and not use the word “nigger.”
Is Lester’s last name Nygaard a spin on “nigger?” Are we to expect more of this from the world of Minnesota Nice? Sam Hess wore his feelings toward Lester Nygaard like a neon sign. If the “N” word had been eliminated from that scene, I would have said, “I get it, brah! You’re a bully. You get off on it. You have a tiny penis and your mommy never loved you, right? You still hate Lester.”
The on-the-nose writing of that scene was a harrowing excavation of pain for me. I simply don’t like to hear that word. Actually, I hate it. I’m exhausted by its frivolous use. Everything changes and something inside of me shatters when I hear it. Melodramatic, perhaps, but I’m a woman and a screenwriter. I don’t two-step around my feelings, and the use of the “N” word is simply lazy.
It’s not the word by itself, but the context of its delivery. A spoiled brat football player becomes irate with a bouncer and fires back by calling him a “nigger.” Alec Baldwin did the same thing to a photographer. And a thought occurred to me; “nigger” is the new go-to word.
When I heard that word on “Fargo,” it ripped right through me. This series, clearly lacking in diversity, so casually dropped this verbal diarrhea of hatred, and for what purpose? Hawley is responsible for the characters in “Fargo.” Maybe if he did some due diligence, there is the possibility that his dialogue would speak more of Sam and Lester’s larger issues and not some cruel word masquerading as edgy.
I believe that every writer pulls, or at least attempts to pull meaning through their fingers to engage audiences with an elegant corruption of words and style. As the world of “Fargo” changes and crises come and go, will blacks be belittled again with this worthless phrase? I’m not waiting around to find out. I’m leaving and I’m not looking back. “Fargo” is not a place for me.
When I watch TV, it is a brief abandonment from driving, surfing the Internet for jobs, writing opportunities and sometimes dates. I don’t need to hear that sound byte of road rage when I am on the prowl for a new series to watch. Why would anyone?
If some things are better left unsaid, why couldn’t we let the “N” word be one of them?