Tag Archives: The French Connection

On censoring racial slurs in classic movies

The remarkable thing about the censored scene is how ordinary it feels if you’ve watched a police procedural made before, say, 2010. It’s in William Friedkin’s “The French Connection,” from 1971. Two narcotics cops — Jimmy (Popeye) Doyle, played by Gene Hackman, and Buddy (Cloudy) Russo, played by Roy Scheider — are at the precinct, following an undercover operation during which a drug dealer ended up slashing Russo with a knife. The injury has left Russo struggling to put on his coat. “Need a little help there?” Doyle chuckles, then adds an ethnic jab: “You dumb guinea.” Russo: “How the hell did I know he had a knife?” Here Doyle points a slur at the Black dealer: “Never trust a nigger.” Russo: “He could have been white.” Doyle: “Never trust anyone.” Then he invites Russo out for a drink, and they trade masturbation jokes as they head through the door.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/06/magazine/the-french-connection-edit-racial-slur.html?searchResultPosition=1

Interestingly enough, Gene Hackman didn’t want to use the racial slur and almost quit the film. But William Friedkin bullied him into it, for which in retrospect Hackman is grateful since it was the movie that made him a star. Hackman also did his own stunt driving, something that surprised me when I heard about it. And one of the car crashes was real.

I can’t speak to whether or not black people should be offended by the racial slur in The French Connection since I’m not black. But I will speak from personal experience about racial slurs against Polish Americans. To this day I hear them all the time, especially from woke liberals, who seem to assume that since Polish Americans look like Anglo Saxon Americans they’re fully white and shouldn’t be offended. And to be fair, I sometimes tell Polish jokes myself, especially in regards to the insane amount of Russophobia in Poland and the destructive behavior of elite Polish Americans like Zbigniew Brzezinski, who admits to “creating the Taliban” to get back at the Russians and ooops killing 3000 Americans on 9/11.

When it comes to their foreign policy and subservience to American neoconservatism, the current Polish government are a bunch of dumb Polacks.

As a child I was never offended by Archie Bunker’s use of ethnic slurs for Polish Americans. That’s who he was. You can’t portray a racist without racial slurs. Ironically Rob Reiner’s pompous leftist turned out to be so unlikeable that he wound up making Archie almost sympathetic.

What I was offended by in the 1970s was the portrayal of Stanley Wojciehowicz the Polish American detective in Barney Miller as dim but likeable. It seemed to imply that Polish Americans were objectively as stupid as they were portrayed in the jokes. There was one particular scene, which is retrospect is really funny. Wojo couldn’t understand fellow detective Ron Harris’s distress after he was harassed by some racist fellow police officers. So Barney Miller tells him a Polish joke hoping to provoke some empathy. But it doesn’t work. Wojo was too dumb to understand. As an adult, of course, I recognize that a Polish American too dumb to understand a Polish joke was a hilarious jab at Polish jokes. But as a child, it upset me.