When it came to acceptance speeches at the 2016 Golden Globes, you could say it was a hit-or-miss affair — and both Quentin Tarantino and Taraji P. Henson made comments that qualified their speeches for the latter.
Since I tend to ascribe to the ‘ripping the Band-Aid off’ approach to life, let’s start with the most painful offender first: Tarantino.
Taking the stage on behalf of legendary composer Ennio Morricone to accept the Best Original Score award for The Hateful Eight, Tarantino made more than a minor slip-up. Were viewers a bit irked by Tarantino’s assertion that Morricone hadn’t won an award for any individual film work prior to this? Absolutely.
But that wasn’t the part of Tarantino’s speech that really worked the social media-sphere into a frenzy. Rather, the uproar was over Tarantino’s phrasing in reference to film composers, saying, “When I say favorite composer, I don’t mean movie composer. That’s ghetto. I’m talking about Mozart, I’m talking about Beethoven, I’m talking about Schubert.”
Addressing the podium immediately after Tarantino’s speech, an obviously vexed Jamie Foxx — who starred in Tarantino’s 2012 Django Unchained — repeated the polarizing word choice while shaking his head.
When the camera panned to the audience following the comment, it seemed that celebrities such as Regina King were ruffled by Tarantino’s use of the word “ghetto” as well. And, naturally, Twitter was not having it.
For added context, this is not the first time Tarantino has been accused of using racial or culturally loaded offensive language — he has been called out in the past for the gratuitous use of “the n-word” in his films. So, detractors are none too impressed with the director’s use of what some are calling a “euphemism for the n-word.”
Supporters, on the other hand, are offering up Tarantino’s recent high-profile support of the Black Lives Matter movement and how he asserts that The Hateful Eight itself is a reflection on cultural and racial politics. But, of course, one has nothing to do with the other. The colloquial use of the term ghetto parlays inherently racist assumptions and is deeply stigmatizing.
If the arguments in Tarantino’s defense include mention of the fact that this word has sneaked its way into the American vernacular, well, that also has little bearing on its appropriateness. The prevalence of a thing and the rightness of it can be two very different things.
As for Taraji P. Henson, her misstep wasn’t nearly as insidious as Tarantino’s, but it still merits a mention while we’re on the subject of unfortunate phrasing.
While onstage to accept her trophy for inimitable work as Cookie Lyon in Fox’s hit series Empire, Henson was visibly overwhelmed with a heady mix of excitement and nerves. After joking that her win meant “cookies for everyone tonight,” Henson quipped, “Who knew that playing an ex-convict would take me all around the globe?”
She then joked that she never thought the role that would bring her to this point would be a woman who “spent 17 years in jail for selling crack.”
Granted, she was her typical bubbly, charming self — but still. One can’t help but take slight issue with her marginalization of drug trafficking as well as women in prison, an issue whose earnestness Empire actually works hard to create a dialogue around.
Or could it simply be that Henson was making a point about the industry itself? The woman has been doing incredible work in Hollywood for decades. Is there something to read between the lines about this being the role she is celebrated for over all others?
Either way you look at it, it’s not great.