A wording warning

Us Breaking Bad types have been waiting for almost a year. It was on last Sept. 2 when—spoiler alert, skip to the dot if you haven't seen the eighth episode of Season 5—we saw the light bulb go off in Hank's head as he sat on the can at Walter's house, flipping through that fatefully misplaced copy of Whitman's Leaves of Grass. We've been wondering ever since what the heck is gonna happen when Hank zips up and rejoins the lunch party with Walt, Skyler and Marie. This Sunday night, our wait is over. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!

I saw an interview with Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan, where he talked about that final shot with Hank in the head. Vince joked about how he and the writers discussed having Hank rip a giant gasser right after his epiphany, but that idea, while good for a few sophomoric laughs, was quickly dismissed as just too damn low brow and Sandler-esque to be taken seriously. He was, of course, spot on with that call. But I and another sicko Badhead had a slightly daintier inspiration. We envisioned that just after Hank looked up from the Whitman book with his blown mind, we would hear not some gross and distracting flatulence, but an almost charming little “bloop,” as Hank dropped a single Milk Dud of shock. Alas …

Both Paula Deen and Riley Cooper have reminded us white people of a simple lesson in modern manners, and for that, we owe them. They both reminded us, very clearly, that N-bombs can still be big trouble when launched out of white mouths.

This is a timely reminder, because it seems that many young folk between 15-30 are getting a bit too comfortable in using this most loaded of racial epithets. Some confusion is understandable. It is a little bizarre, seeing that this most reviled of slurs has been appropriated and used openly by many of the most influential black artists of recent years. Indeed, the confusion may well have begun way back in my day, in the early '70s, when the great Richard Pryor released an extremely popular album called That Nigger's Crazy.

That was 40 freakin' years ago, and since then, we've seen many black artists completely embrace the “N-word.” The reasons and justifications for this have been discussed and dissected by many, and are sociologically complex and multi-layered. But it's safe to say—when Kanye West drops an “N” into a rap, you can bet he's not using it to convey that he buys into the position that African-Americans are an inferior race. When Deen and Cooper were caught in their “N” moments, one couldn't be so sure. Therein lies the problem.

Yes, the situation is weird, confusing, and hypocritical. But the best rule of conduct is still simple and obvious. If you're white, make damned sure those N-bombs get stuck in your throat.