There's no getting around the fact that our dirtbag protagonist, Popeye, throws around racial epithets and stereotypes. A lot. Sure, this movie was made in 1970, but we think that the writer and director were doing something very strategic when it comes to Popeye's use of (disgusting) words.
In any other movie, Popeye would be the de facto hero. So why do you think the people behind The French Connection decided to make him such a raging jerk?
Questions About Race
How might Popeye use racist terms as an instrument for control?
What does Cloudy's objection to Popeye's racial stereotypes tell us about Cloudy?
What are the different ways that Cloudy and Popeye, and Sal and Joel Weinstock, seem to navigate the city across racial divides, from Little Italy to Harlem?
Does the story seem to be asking us to make an ethical judgment when it comes to Popeye and Cloudy's racism?
Chew on This
By pairing Popeye's casual racism with his willingness to abuse his authority by beating up suspects, the story is actually speaking against police brutality.
Friedkin's portrait of the racist Popeye invites us to hate him, which makes the movie more three-dimensional when it comes to the balance of "good" and "evil."