Date: December 1997
Technically, acclaimed filmmaker Quentin Tarantino didn’t voice the “N” word out of his own mouth; rather, he wrote it several times into his screenplay for his Jackie Brown, his 1997 throwback to ’70s Blaxploitation cinema. Mostly spoken by Samuel L. Jackson’s character, flashy criminal Ordell Robbie, the numerous N-bombs heard in the critically praised flick didn’t seem to bother many folks; that is, until Spike Lee heard them for himself.
As the story goes, Lee went off on Tarantino in an interview, saying, “I have a definite problem with Quentin Tarantino’s excessive use of the n-word. And let the record show that I never said that he can not use that word-I’ve used that word in many of my films-but I think something is wrong with him.”
Lee continued, “You look at Pulp Fiction,, Reservoir Dogs and even that thing with Christian Slater, True Romance. It’s just the n-word, the n-word, the n-word. He says he grew up on Blaxploitation films and that they were his favorite films but he has to realize that those films do not speak to the breadth of the entire African-American experience.” He also added that just because Samuel L. Jackson is Tarantino’s friend, that doesn’t mean that “black people love him.”
In his own defense, Tarantino later told Playboy, in a 2003 discussion, “I am working with The English language. I am not just a film director who shoots movies. I’m an artist, and good, bad, or indifferent, I’m coming from that place. All my choices, the way I live my life, are about that.”