The Dambusters

WARNING: In the interests of proper reporting, I am going to use a word as a pronoun that some may find offensive.

There was a story in the paper the other day about how Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame) is producing a remake of that war classic The Dam Busters.

The Dam Busters
The Dam Busters

However the filmmaker has struck a problem. He has expressed his desire to remain faithful to the true story of the RAF squadron who used special “bouncing” bombs, that skipped across lakes like stones flung at just that right trajectory, to attack dams in Germany and disrupt that country’s war industry.

In command of the squadron was Wing Commander Guy Gibson. He had a pet dog, a black Labrador that he adored. And in the way of the times, he called his black Labrador “Nigger”.

Now Jackson’s remake is embroiled in controversy over his desire to remain faithful to the story and thus keep the true name of the dog, which also just happens to have been used as a codename for part of the operation the film depicts. He has received advise that keeping the name could adversely affect the film, especially in the US market. Various names have been suggested, all of which have been rejected the the new version’s Executive Producer (not Jackson).

Now I have not seen this film in quite a while, but I do recall last time in was broadcast on television here the name remained unchanged and, since I was old enough to know other usages of the name, was curious about it. The newspaper story I read remarked how when the film is shown on television in the US, the name is dubbed to something else, usually “Trigger”. In 2001, ITV in Britain screened an edited version of the film that removed all references to the name, and were taken to task by an interest group called Index For Censorship. “Taking [the offending word] out is unnecessary and ridiculous,” a spokeswoman for Index on Censorship told Britain’s Guardian newspaper. “It is a ’50s film, and it should be kept in context.” At the time Granada, the ITV company that broadcast the film, responded, “What we are sensitive to is viewers being offended by [the word].”

So… what do people think? Should Jackson remain completely faithful to the story and keep the name, or should he let this one change go through to protect his film from possible controversy? Or is it all just making a mountain out of a molehill?