Kerre Woodham: Give a dog a bad name ... and hang on to it

As Peter Jackson says, he's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. As producer of the long-awaited remake of that classic war movie The Dambusters, Jackson has to get around a problem that even the writing skills of his Oscar-winning wife can't fix.

The film's hero, Squadron Leader Guy Gibson, had a black labrador dog. He loved the dog and the dog's name was the codeword for the bombing operation.

Trouble is, the dog's name was Nigger - common and indeed acceptable in wartime Britain but absolute poison just about everywhere in 2006.

When ITV in England screened The Dambusters recently, they dubbed in the name Trigger and received condemnation for doing so.

The problem is that the movie isn't fantasy.

The script, the plot and the characters haven't come from the pens of gin-soaked writers with great imaginations - this was a real operation, involving real people and a real dog. A dog with a name that has not stood the test of time.

If it were fiction, fine. Change the dog's name. What does it matter?

But this was a true historical event, and while some liberties have to be taken by film-makers for expedience's sake, surely the name of the dog has to stay.

It's an ugly word, despite the efforts of black American rappers to reclaim it for themselves, because people have used it in an ugly way. It's a word that's been used to try to hurt and belittle others and it's a hard word to hear, far less say.

But when it comes to history, it wasn't always pretty and trying to rewrite history to suit the conventions of the day is wrong.

As Peter Jackson says, he'll be damned either way.

But I think the dog should keep his name.


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