November 22, 2018

What did Viggo Mortenson say?

I'm trying to understand the Variety article "Will Viggo Mortensen’s Racial Slur Doom His Oscar Chances?"
The controversy over Viggo Mortensen’s use of the N-word during a recent Q&A for his movie “Green Book” appears to be over, but can he and the film recover enough to emerge as a genuine awards contender?
Use? Do they mean mention*?
“I was attempting to make the point that the extreme, dehumanizing ugliness that this word conjures, the hateful attitude behind it, has not disappeared just because white people generally no longer use it as a racist insult,” he wrote in a statement released after shocked tweets from the screening surfaced online.
It sounds as though, while talking about the way other people have used the word, he actually vocalized the syllables. That's inadvisable these days, but nothing like actually hurling the epithet. I think the article ought to quote what he said and not force me to look it up.
Using racially charged language and particularly that slur has become a definitive line that, once crossed, is nearly impossible to come back from. Two top executives, Jonathan Friedland from Netflix and Amy Powell of Paramount Pictures, have been fired in the past five months for reportedly using the slur in the same manner as Mortensen — demonstratively, while discussing hate speech in the presence of people of color.
What a scary, repressive place Hollywood is! Such weak, craven people. Who cares what they choose to give awards to?
“The people that work with Viggo actually like him a lot, but he knows better. He’s been around long enough. He was obviously trying to make a statement in a conversation and it’s hard in this charged atmosphere to say what is forgivable and what is not,” one veteran film executive who is also an Oscar voter told Variety...
“I wouldn’t say at this point his chances [of winning the best actor Oscar] are hurt, because of how fast this went away, but don’t forget that the demographic within the Academy has changed, and is changing,” the executive said, referring to the record-breaking diversity among the 928 people invited to join the film academy this year....
Hollywood strains to deal with its longterm racial problems, and one of its remedies, enlarging the Academy, requires new efforts to imagine what might please those new members.
[T]he core lessons of the film ["Green Book"] are failing to resonate with some critics, who believe the film is tone deaf about the racial prejudices it seeks to illuminate and treats the historical mistreatment of black Americans with a glibness that’s inappropriate, finding humor where there is none.
Finding humor where there is none.... In the Era of That's Not Funny, not only is your humor not funny, no humor could be funny. You didn't just fail to find humor. There is no humor to find. But I think it's funny that Hollywood is trying so hard to make movies on racial themes and simultaneously making it harder to do it just the right way and submitting its erstwhile art form to the judgment of people who are presumed to be predisposed to say that they are not doing it right.

Let me look up what Mortenson said. In a question and answer session after the screening of the movie, on the subject of racial progress, he said "For instance, no one says [the word] anymore."

Please don't write out the word in the comments. Humor me.

In the Era of That's Not Funny, that's the only humor we have — humoring people.

______________________

* The "use-mention distinction."

94 comments:

exhelodrvr1 said...

When groups/people complain about something like that, it becomes REALLY hard to take anything they say seriously. So valid points they might have get discarded without being considered

David Begley said...

I wanted to see this movie before this incident and now I surely will.

The premise is intriguing and I liked the trailer. I also like Viggio. He was a great bad guy in “A Perfect Murder.” Great movie!

richlb said...

I just read about this a few minutes ago and had to look up the original exchange myself. I have to say his costar did him no favors. He should have shut down the controversy immediately. There shouldn't have been an apology to accept.

richlb said...

Also, as an actor, can you say it in a film while in character if you are white? (Not counting Tarantino films, which seem to get a pass)

Ann Althouse said...

David Sedaris writes out the word 16 times in his "Theft by Finding" collection of diaries. It's always to quote other people. I've listened to the audiobook many times. He reads it himself, and he says the word every time. He doesn't pontificate about what he thinks about the people who use the word. He just quotes them. It's very effective. But if people wanted to rise up against him, I could imagine that happening. We'll look back on these days and wonder at our obtuseness and stupidity.

By the way, I'm not calling on black people to help white people out of this jam.

bgates said...

Humor me

Is it eough to merely avoid writig out the "-word"? Ievitably the taboo will stregthe, ad people who thought they avoided givig offese by ot spellig it out will be cosumed by a mob eve more exquisitely sesitive tha today's.

Ann Althouse said...

"... ad people ..."

I get email from Google ads nearly every day, telling me that my blog is violating their content policy. I have no way to figure out all the many ways I have offended. I couldn't fix it even if I wanted. I'm close to getting out of the advertising game....

Ann Althouse said...

My request that you not write out the word is based on my own preference. I just don't want to see it here. I don't write it myself, and I don't want to be used as a platform for anyone who wants to do it. Go somewhere else for that. Or just find a better way to say what you want.

J2 said...

"uttered"

Eleanor said...

I thought people and films were given Oscars for the quality of their work, not their personal character. Does this mean anyone who has ever said or done something offensive has become ineligible for an Oscar?

rhhardin said...

Censorship from Althouse. Writing the word out as a normal word obviously without hate defangs both it and the virtue signalling that loves itself so much. Some of which apparently has reached Althouse.

Less dysfunction benefits blacks more than anybody.

rhhardin said...

If you're going to virtue signal, show some vitrue.

Birches said...

I heard about this a couple of weeks ago. I think Viggo thought he had a lefty pass.

What I read at the time was that someone asked how this movie was different from the reality of that time. Viggo answered that they didn't use the word that would have been uttered frequently. He was right and so wrong to think he could get away with it.

rhhardin said...

I assume the language in the comments doesn't affect the Amazon ad revenue.

Birches said...

I don't mind a censor of the word. It is as most here don't constantly write the f word, though it is not banned. It's just good manners.

lgv said...

It's a strange new world. It was being liberal to believe it OK for Lenny Bruce to vocalize all those offensive words. We've done a 160, not quite 180, from what liberalism was 50 years ago. It's now "Progressive". We are progressing to a fascist state which forces us to speak a certain way, both in individual words and about our beliefs. The internet allows us to stop "bad" speech, through a vocal minority.

I'm sure it is only a minority of people that would condemn Viggo or Gellar for their missteps, but it is a very loud minority. If you polled Californians publicly on gay marriage, 90% would approve, yet the majority voted against it in a vote. That's when the army of progressives attacked anyone who gave money to anti-gay marriage groups.

The new Progressives not only want a command economy, but a command speech and thought code. If it weren't for that useless, outdated thing called a constitution, I'm sure there would be a call for legally banned words.


rhhardin said...

It's not good manners not to write the word. Writing it has a positive point. Somebody has to take the heat or it will go on and get worse.

tim maguire said...

Finding humor where there is none is the essence of humor.

The "N word" is an extraordinary thing. Unless you're black, you can't say it even when you are talking about it as a word (meta n-word). You can't say even when you are condemning its meaning. You just can't say it.

The n-word is granted magical powers. Let's be honest here, "n-word" is exactly the same as the n-word. We all know what you mean when you say "n-word," we're even hearing it in our heads. It's ok to lead us all to think about the n-word, you just can't say the n-word. Because that brings out Bloody Mary, who will stab you.

Lenny Bruce had some useful observations about this particular piece of institutionalized insanity. The word's power comes from its taboo. If you want to remove this blight from our society, we should be saying it all the time, not trying to literally eradicate it. We got this ass backwards. Because we're stupid and activists ruin everything.

Hagar said...

Joseph Conrad is deleted from the list of distinguished authors in the English language?

This is national lunacy on a level that would have been too fantastic to envision even in Sci-Fi a generation ago.

rhhardin said...

I always say blacks when not doing an anti-idiocy comment.

rhhardin said...

A typist substituted colored gentlemen for riggers in a Navy requisition, but that was the 70s. I think blacks is current.

Amexpat said...

I don't see many movies these days, but I saw VM in a "History of Violence" and he was very good in it.

Interesting that Dustin Hoffman got nominated for an Oscar for his roll in "Lenny". DH's prevalent use of the N word was integral for the most memorable scene in the film. Doubt they could make that film today. Link here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4jWxo8X8zs

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

It's a staple of show business to have a show indicating that no matter how bad things get, show business people know how to put on a show, make people laugh and cry, and possibly make things just a bit better without actually getting too political. There's always a concern that this deflects attention away from actually trying to change a bad political regime, and thereby provides support for it: "the beautiful people don't seem to mind all that much." Walt Disney probably thought he was encouraging people, not supporting Jim Crow laws, with "Song of the South"--apparently the movie he thought would be remembered as his classic. I first heard about "The Green Book" on Jazz FM radio: isn't it terrible what a talented jazz musician had to put up with under Jim Crow? But: he of all people can find humour and insight in a bad situation, to make the best of it. Does this normalize the racist laws of the time? Does refusing even to say the infamous word, which was in common use, make it seem more that those people were just like us? Randy Newman's song "Sail Away" is a devastating satire of the way slave traders would normalize their business; but it is funny, and not everyone gets it.
Of course it is always possible that generally speaking, looking out for oneself makes the most sense. Aristophanes' play "The Archanians" has a character named "the just city," an Athenian who makes a separate peace with Sparta during the long war between the two cities. His neighbours are suffering from food shortages because of the war, but they get to smell the chickens cooking at his house.

rhhardin said...

Chief White Halfoat: "Racial prejudice is a terrible thing, Yossarian. It really is. It's a terrible thing to treat a decent, loyal Indian like a n-word, kike, wop, or spic."

rhhardin said...

Maybe n-word can be made more offensive than what it thinks its avoiding, just through conspicuousness. The alternate strategy.

It says blacks are stupid and whites are virtuous.

wildswan said...

Why ever say an ugly word? But white people who like certain kinds of music hear it all the time, said by speakers who are allowed to use it. So should they be listening to that music? Is it OK to listen to that word in music but then not OK to say out loud what you are listening to? What does it mean to have a experience you can never speak of because you aren't an authorized user? Are you maybe not really having the experience? Is the word use disconnect a symbol of a larger disconnect? Can we hear? Should we listen? If we stop listening? Good or bad? When it's very convoluted, do we really, can we really care?

The simple thing is to believe in the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man and do as you would be done by. Though that also involves bad words (three) if you are near Dane County, just do it. And today, rest and be thankful.

rhhardin said...

Has there ever been an Althouse commenter who wrote the n-word outside a discussion of the n-word?

Which ought to be a very interesting topic, outlining a huge social dysfunction and power play in what counts as good and what counts as evil. Who gets to decide this.

I identify the good people as the evil ones. It takes some intellectual effort to recognize evil. The popular identifications are why it's evil.

Tank said...

Tank needs a Wordsplaining Website where he can go each morning to see what words are ok to say and what words aren't. Of course, that's not enough because some people can say some words and some people can't, so we need some chapters on which people are which.

It's really too complicated for us simple folk.

rhhardin said...

Stand in the corner and don't think of an e-word.

Walburton said that the e-word is the only animal having no ridiculous aspect. An early virtue-signaller.

rhhardin said...

Tigers, lions, bears and e-words, Oh my!

Kevin said...

The same people upset about Trump violating Jim Acosta’s civil right to say whatever he wants to the President are telling us what words can and can’t be uttered.

They are the first to discuss the color of Trump’s skin and how his orangeness makes him less of a human being and unfit for the office he holds.

“The n-word” is the ultimate civility bullshit.

rhhardin said...

Think of n-word as like pig latin.

Fernandistein said...

Such weak, craven people.
Humor me.


Humoring weak craven people is no fun, and if you don't want to see anyone use the word "nigger" you probably shouldn't write a column about someone who said the word "nigger". Jesus Christ, it's not r****t science.

The ban on saying "nigger" is like the (no longer popular) ban on saying the word "god"/"g-d" - it's religious. Sorry if I'm not a member of this New Age's Numinous Negro religion.

I get email from Google ads nearly every day, telling me that my blog is violating their content policy.

You make money from your dealings with a sleazy company.

Are you in favor of disappearing Abraham Lincoln's writings and speeches because they violate some silly google rule?

Ann Althouse said...

"Has there ever been an Althouse commenter who wrote the n-word outside a discussion of the n-word?"

I don't think I have ever in my life heard a white person use (as opposed to mention) the word. Not in real life. I've seen movies with characters who use it, and I've seen documentary footage of racists using it. But I've never been around any white person who used the word and that includes back in the 1950s (other than that I remember hearing the word as what seemed like a nonsense word in the child's rhyme "Eeny meeny miney moe").

rhhardin said...

The thing about actually writing the n-word is that Althouse will delete your comment, at least I assume so. We'll see.

johnhenry100 said...

Can I buy dick Gregory's book via the Portal, Ann?

I won't mention the title but it is not "defining moments" or his diet book I have in mind.

Is it OK to write the magic word if I use an l or a | or perhaps **?

Can I say &*#@!@?

John Henry

rhhardin said...

So it's a discussion of women trying to make everything nice by limiting the more daring sex.

Which gives its own distinct form of evil.

rhhardin said...

If you can ambiguously combine use and mention, you create an origin term. It's handy if you're ever doing philosophy. You feel no need to think back past it, to look for another turtle supporting it.

rhhardin said...

``When there was as yet no shrub of the field upon earth, and as yet no grasses of the field had sprouted, because Yahweh had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the soil, but a flow welled up from the ground and watered the whole surface of the earth, then Yahweh molded Adam from the earth's dust, and blew into the nostrils the breath of life, and Adam became a living being.''

What made Adam human was his openness to literary effects, at the moment that it's expressed by a literary effect. One use and one mention.

David Begley said...

Ann and Meade better go see the movie and discuss it here.

I’m going to see it at Film Steams in the Peggy Payne theater. The theater is named after the mother of Academy Award winner Alexander Payne; my new best friend.

Jeff Weimer said...

Not just those two, John of Papa John's Pizza was forced out for the very same thing. At a consciousness-raising "diversity seminar" no less.

rhhardin said...

Maybe there should be a university course on spotting good and evil. Everybody's getting it backwards.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Slur is right up there with garner.

Slur! Slur this - thought police.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Ann said...

"What a scary, repressive place Hollywood is! Such weak, craven people. Who cares what they choose to give awards to?"

That was good. Thank you.

Is it any wonder these repressive thought-police/ word-police are all on the political far left?

surfed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

During the oscars, it's almost 100% rich white progressive leftist repressives in fancy outfits.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

"What a scary, repressive place Hollywood is! Such weak, craven people."

I'm saving that for all time.

surfed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

I like how they already washed clean what Viggo said. What did he say? We cannot know.
We must be protected.

Pussies.

Guildofcannonballs said...

Some think there is a n--ga/n--ger distinction, the former being less (or not at all) offensive.

Bobby Byrd and his "white n--ger" declaimation on the Senate floor is another use with distinction to some.

surfed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
surfed said...

I'm going to reread Huckleberry Finn starting today. That way I can find humour in a 19th century kind of way and poke my finger in the eye of recalcitrant snow flakes. I'll open carry the book for good measure. Thanks you Sam Clemens - national treasure. I'd give a dollar to Sunday to see him skewer everyone.

MikeR said...

Wow.

robother said...

Does Viggo contradict himself? Maybe he contains multitudes. If he said the N-word in a forest, where no one heard him would Hollywood Oscar voters still be offended?

surfed said...

"Woman is Nigger of the World" John and Ono live and in your face.
https://youtu.be/VS78MX8Zmdk

Rob said...

As an historical note, though Twain's use of the n-word in Huckleberry Finn had caused the book occasionally to be banned as far back as the 60's, the notion that the word is magic and that simply speaking it in a non-hateful way causes the earth to tilt on its axis didn't truly come into vogue until Johnny Cochran cleverly and cynically made Detective Mark Fuhrman's use of the word a mechanism for destroying his credibility in the O.J. Simpson case. You might say that Cochran weaponized the n-word. And today even a free-speech advocate like Ann Althouse shrinks from even innocent uses of the word. One can't blame her; the world judges. But what a legacy for Johnny Cochran.

Ice Nine said...

>>"Please don't write out the word in the comments."<<

Sure, no problem...well, other than the momentary disgust that it evokes. That request jibes perfectly with the nauseating sanctimony in Hollywood that would deny Viggo an Oscar because he did no more than that. Good grief.

I don't care for the word either but there is nothing much more childish than use of the term "N word" in legitimate discussion of the real word.

Otto said...

"What a scary, repressive place Hollywood is! Such weak, craven people......"
"Please don't write out the word in the comments. Humor me."

Temujin said...

Lenny Bruce, Don Rickles, Mort Sahl, George Carlin and others could not exist today. Mortensen is getting kicked around because he said a word in referencing how bad that word is to say?

Seriously fucked up world we've made for ourselves. I'm tempted to list all of the words that used to be used for all of the ethnic groups when we had the balls and stamina to deal with it. Now everyone just cowers in the corner, or hides behind a black mask and black t-shirts. I was called these words, and I used other words to call out to those calling me those words. Occasionally we'd fight it out. But somehow all of that seems worlds more sane and healthy than what we're doing today.

Maryland Geezer said...

Does anyone believe that Viggo Mortenson is a racist or that his use of the word, in context, perpetuates racism? He was trying to have an honest mature discussion, and is shouted down by sanctimonious, self–righteous virtue–signalers who are purporting to claim the moral high–ground by calling him out.

Althouse, you need a “civility–bullshit” tag for this kind of narcissism – call it virtue–signaling bullshit.

Temujin said...

Not only don't you get a Lenny Bruce, but instead you get a Michelle Wolf. God...what a horrible trade-off.

Ken B said...

Why the deliberate elision of the use/mention distinction?
In imperial China peasants were not allowed in the Forbidden City. They had to look down when their overlords went by.
Same thing.

Ken B said...

Otto: exactly.

Lyle said...

My black friends in college cringed when I would say N-word... they wanted me to actually to say it. We've gotten more racist and not less racist since then.

dreams said...

I don't think Papa John used that word as a racial slur but was using it as example and we know what happened to him.

AlbertAnonymous said...

Oh who gives a fuck...

(Can I say fuck? Or do I need to say “the F word” instead?)

The guy said a word. Who actually got offended? Anyone? Really? Really?

Yancey Ward said...

Really, how much longer will "n-word" be acceptable?

Amadeus 48 said...

I remember the last time I used that word. it was 28 years ago. I was doing about the same thing as Viggo--I was describing what someone else had said 20 years earlier. It fell so flat that I vowed never to use that word again.

I have never faced the dilemma of reading "Huckleberry Finn" aloud. Is that allowed? I have "The [that word} of the Narcissus" on my Kindle. Should I delete it? The cloud is forever.

After Kavanaugh, is anything ever really dead? Would I want my 16 year-old self dusted off for inspection in light of today's mores? No way. You can't get into trouble by being niggardly with with the past.

But William Faulkner said, "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

sprx said...

Is there a metaphor any deader than "hurling the epithet"?

Can an epithet ever just be whispered, said, shouted, yelled, or any of the other English words available for making words with your mouth?

Jon Burack said...

I will humor you, Ann. But I am sorry I find this obsession with the magic of this word idiotic. If I say "the N-word," I only do so in the absolutely certain presumption that my hearers know and can call forth the actual word it stands for in their conscious minds. So in any meaningful sense, I am actually0 using the banned word itself. All that is different is that to do so I utilize the hearer's mind not vibrations of sound in the air or print on a page. If anything, this cloaking likely only enhances the magical power of the word - by partially disguising it. Victoria's Secret does the same.

FullMoon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Howard said...

Jon: yeah, I get that. Too bad, but the times have changed. The N-W has been flipped as a social putdown from AA's to non-hispanial whites. A very small concession.

Jupiter said...

Ann Althouse said...

"I don't think I have ever in my life heard a white person use (as opposed to mention) the word."

You've never been pistol-whipped by a POC in the course of a robbery, either. Have you? You might be surprised at the way you would describe the experience. Kumbaya, Professor.

robother said...

When it comes to racial virtue-signaling, Hollywood is no niggard.

MayBee said...

It's weird how that word keeps gaining more and more and more power. Why do you all think that is?

miklos000rosza said...

Patti Smith wrote and sang "Rock N Roll N------" and when she performed it live, would repeat the word over and over and over. This seemed stupid at the time, just as stupid as the Lennon/Yoko Ono song.

n.n said...

Embrace diversity. Embrace color judgments. One step forward. Two steps backward.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

"Enward". That's what the Whites call me.

Matt said...

I don't get it. When did it happen that we are expected to be outraged about real or imagined "racism" every single day of our lives?

Is it a problem? I'm sure it probably is in some places. But an overwhelming societal evil that must be addressed with breathless prose, couch-fainting and garment-rending every single day? Nope.

Honestly, someone's skin color or ethnicity or gender or orientation or whatever doesn't seem any worse reason to hate them than political leanings, educational level, socioeconomic status, hair color or coke-bottle-glasses. It'll be a cold day in hell before someone tells me I can't hate hippies.

n.n said...

The logical implications are clear and progressive. It's similar to the wicked solution that goes by many euphemisms.

Narayanan Subramanian said...

Did People who use G__ word pave way for n_ word?

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

does "N-Wordly" mean 'stingy' ?

asking for a (white) friend

eddie willers said...

Brians Song, 1976 made for TV movie used the word.

Oh yes. And it was a very funny moment in the film.

PB said...

Tigger with an "N"

Bill Peschel said...

There was a D.C. official a few years back who lost her job because she used the N-word combined with "ardly". It's an honest-to-god word that means stingy and has nothing to do with race.

Growing up in North Carolina, I heard the word a lot. Not just about blacks, but a form of basketball was called "N-ball" because it was formless and consisted of everyone taking a shot. It was egocentric basketball.

Today, I'm in the middle of writing a novella about a zombie attack on a music festival. One of the groups is a progressive hip-hop group out of North Philly. I've been watching videos featuring rappers talking, and despite the prevalence of the N-word, I'm not going to use it. It's toxic and distracting from the story I want to tell. In fact, now that I think about it, I'll have to look at blacks who write fiction covering the same areas, and I'll bet they don't use it very much for the same reason. We're not reporters, we're storytellers. That takes precedence.

readering said...

Who cares what they choose to give awards to?

Althouse should get out more.

YoungHegelian said...

Remember that Hollywood treats those affected by the blacklist as heroes, like they were staunch defenders of free speech. The truth is a lot murkier. The Blacklisted refused to testify because they had been instructed to do so by the CPUSA, who knew what a PR disaster they would have had on their hands if the depth of Communist sympathy in Hollywood would have been exposed.

Whatever may have been the rights or wrongs of the Blacklisters vis-a-vis the American government, the Blacklisters were supporters of a regime that murdered tens of millions of its own people. And they knew it, too. They all knew it, but chose to support the USSR as "Man's Greatest Hope".

Hollywood has always has had strong leanings towards being "Soviet". It's just now the commissars are home-grown.

Jupiter said...

Where does Viggo Mortensen live?

https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2018/11/reminder_white_liberals_hate_living_in_black_neighborhoods.html

itzik basman said...

I was tempted to use the word to supplement my 100% position that its use is perfectly fine in good faith discussion about its use, which is to say, it’s good faith meta use is totally ok. But I won’t use it in meta talk about its use when you or anyone else asks me not to.

itzik basman said...

I was tempted to use the word to supplement my 100% position that its use is perfectly fine in good faith discussion about its use, which is to say, it’s good faith meta use is totally ok. But I won’t use it in meta talk about its use when you or anyone else asks me not to.

Paul said...

So this word a terror that has no name? A terror that must not be named..... Is it the Wendol?

Will the serpent of fire come?

Are we that worried about a simple word that is actually Latin??? Yes the Latin word for black!!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negro

Ah.... the serpent of fire comes!!!

Birches said...

Papa John was forced to use the word by the diversity training company and then the company turned around and blackmailed him for using the word.

Known Unknown said...

Tim Maguire's link leads to Applaudience -- which is a pretty lame portmanteau. (The name of the site is lame, not the content)

Char Char Binks said...

Never have
I uttered that
grotesque,
godawful
egregious
word, at least not all the way to the end.