James Franco and Seth Rogen’s parody of Kanye West’s "Bound 2" video is universally funny. But it’s hard not to take pause at the very begining when Franco, doing a frame-by-frame impersonation of West, lip-syncs the n-word twice.
It’s a word that defintely would have earned Franco, who’s white, tons of criticism if he’d actually said it in his own voice. Context is very important, of course, and that’s where this one gets tricky. For some general background on the public conversation around the n-word, here’s Ta-Nehisi Coates in a recent guest column at the New York Times:
A few summers ago one of my best friends invited me up to what he affectionately called his "white-trash cabin" in the Adirondacks. This was not how I described the outing to my family. Two of my Jewish acquaintances once joked that I’d "make a good Jew." My retort was not, "Yeah, I certainly am good with money." Gay men sometimes laughingly refer to one another as "faggots." My wife and her friends sometimes, when having a good time, will refer to one another with the word "bitch." I am certain that should I decide to join in, I would invite the same hard conversation that would greet me, should I ever call my father Billy.
In this instance, does the context make it okay? For more, check out the Maynard Institute’s recent collection of white writers who’ve joined the n-word debate.