Friday, September 01, 2006

How do you solve a problem like N****r?

It was announced yesterday that Peter Jackson, Ocar-winning director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, is to produce a new film about the Dambusters. [His longtime creative associate Christian Rivers is directing the movie, but most reports blissfully skated over that fact. Hell, I seemed to have slipped into parenthesis mode just to mention it - must be catching.] Dambusters is the story of how some plucky Brits developed a bouncing bomb during the Second World War that was used to destroy several large hydroelectric dams upriver from German factory towns. More than 60 years on, historians are still argue about whether the bombing mission actually had much effect on the German war effort. In truth, the Dambusters project is remembered for its morale-boosting qualities.

It'll be interesting to see how Rivers and Jackson tackle one of the most embarrassing elements of the Dambusters story. The fliers how took the bouncing bombs to German had a dog as their squadron mascot and this dog was much referred to in the 1950s film version of The Dambusters. There's only one problem with the dog - its name. The dog was dark, very dark, and so the pilots called it by an epithet that was not uncommon in its usage at the time to describe very dark people. But it's word you don't hear used much these days. Yes, the dog's name started with the letter N and it rhymed with Tigger.

So, will the new film stay true to historical fact? Or will Jackson, Rivers and company decide that's one fact that doesn't need repeating? It's hard to imagine any film by a white director that doesn't star Samuel L Jackson daring to use the N-word. Hmm, maybe they can put some venomous reptiles on the Dambusters plane, just to spice up the narrative a bit?

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