This week’s vexed columnar question: should Guy Gibson’s dog still be called Nigger in The Dam Busters remake? Some of you no doubt think you know already what my line will be. And it’s true that as a second world war enthusiast of the retired-blustering-colonel persuasion, I am indeed the sort of fellow who spits in his gin when filmmakers take liberties with the period.
When Steven Spielberg made out in Saving Private Ryan that the Americans won D-Day on their own, that was annoying. When the film U-571 told us that it was a US navy crew that first captured a German naval Enigma machine — when in fact it was British personnel from HMS Bulldog — that was more irksome still. At least Spielberg had the reasonable excuse that the Omaha landings were a largely American affair. But the U-571 plotline was such a blatant distortion that its US screenwriter later felt compelled to apologise for his ‘mercenary decision… to create this parallel history in order to drive the movie for an American audience’.
So why, given my general sticklerishness, have I not yet gathered a few like-minded chums and started protests outside David Frost’s and Stephen Fry’s houses with placards saying ‘Hands off our Nigger!’, ‘Guy Gibson wasn’t racist!’, ‘It was acceptable in the Forties, so what’s your problem?’ or ‘If it’s good enough for Snoop Dogg, it’s good enough for a wartime flying hero!’?
Before I go on let me give you some background. David Frost has bought the screen rights to The Dam Busters, Stephen Fry is writing the screenplay, it’s being produced by Peter Jackson (director of the stupendous Lord of the Rings trilogy) and is due out sometime in 2011. Their biggest headache so far has been what to call Guy Gibson’s dog.
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