July 07, 2015

Gone with the microagression: Why Gone with the Wind has got to go

Richard AndersonRebel Blogger

Why Gone With The Wind needs to go:

But what does it say about us as a nation if we continue to embrace a movie that, in the final analysis, stands for many of the same things as the Confederate flag that flutters so dramatically over the dead and wounded soldiers at the Atlanta train station just before the “GWTW’’ intermission?

The above didn't appear in The New York Times or Slate. Nope. It appeared in the New York Post. I'll give you a moment to emit a gentle sigh of regret about the ironclad nature of O'Sullivan's First Law

GWTW would never be made today. The story, characters and dialogue speak of a time and place that has mercifully passed into American history. Even if you can dispute the film's racism it undeniably displays a cavalier attitude toward slavery and the lives of American blacks during Reconstruction. Even the most robust of viewers must wince a little at several moments through out the film. 

Yet all this said it is nevertheless a great work of art. One of the greatest films ever made. To deny its prominence in the American film canon reveals a totalitarian instinct that demands the subordination of art to political correctness. Therein lies a grave danger.

Each age has its idols and its hypocrisies. If each generation censors what it finds even mildly objectionable about the past what will that leave us? There is a human tendency to assume that the values of the moment are correct and true, everything that came before is false or wicked. It's a peculiar form of vanity. 

When Thomas Bowdler edited the racy bits out of Shakespeare he intended to create a version accessible to young children. The modern Bowdlerizers are far more ambitious. They wish to tell adults that some films are too "racist" to be seen or discussed. Apparently watching a seventy-five year old film, a film that has been watched by the vast majority of Americans many times, would be an unbearable trauma and grave injustice.

To watch a film, to read a book or listen to a lecture is not to condone everything being shown, written or heard. To assume otherwise is to inhabit the most narrow of moral universes. Watching GWTW is no more an endorsement of slavery than reading Hamlet shows a support for vigilante justice. To demand that the sweep of artistic creativity fit within a contemporary political mould is to critically undermine that creativity.

This still leaves us with a great old film with some terrible ideas just below the surface. The educated adult keeps in mind that like all art it is the product of a place and time. That it has transcended that place and time, and its particular evils, is proof of its inherent greatness. To the young viewer this must be tactfully explained. To attempt to ban or delegitimize a great work of art, if only because it reveals the mark of its origins, shows a pettiness and ignorance that should always be opposed.

The attempts to marginalize GWTW are a tactic in the culture wars. Go after something beloved but whose underlying values the modern world now finds abhorrent. Very few people are brave enough to defend anything that can be successfully labelled racist.

Soon that thing, be it a work of art or an old symbol, slips out of the mainstream. It's never a one off victory. It's a process. As more things get labelled racist the smaller the mainstream becomes. Unopposed all that will remain is a sterile nothingness that has been suitably stamped and approved by the great good. 


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commented 2015-07-10 00:56:22 -0400
Banning GWTW denies its historical authenticity and undermines the film’s effects, including breaking racial boundaries in Hollywood. Hattie McDaniel would turn over in her grave.
commented 2015-07-10 00:53:51 -0400
I love GWTW, and have viewed it so many times that I can practically recite every, single piece of dialogue, to the utter annoyance of my entire family. My mom finds this ability amusing, but then she loves GWTW too, and plus she’s my mom, so.
I would argue that it’s NOT racist, it simply depicts how things were immediately before, during and after the Civil War. In both Margaret Mitchell’s novel as well as the classic film version, GWTW highlights some strong, black characters, like Mammy, played by Hattie McDaniel (as in the first black woman to win an Oscar award). Some are portrayed as stereotypes, yes, but so too are several white characters, like the yankee sympathizer Jonas Wilkerson.
But time and again, the main protagonists either learn from or are actually saved by black characters like Mammy and Big Sam.
Even if it could be called racist, it’s historical realism, and rather than burying our history and/or burying our heads in the sand, we should confront it head on. That’s how we avoid repeating our past mistakes.
commented 2015-07-09 20:11:06 -0400
With this rationale, they should be clamping down on Mel Brooks’ movies — has anyone seen “Blazing Saddles”? That’s about as racist as one can get… and about as tongue-in-cheek, but the N-word is thrown about all over the place in that movie…!

I hate political correctness… Think I’m gonna go buy a Confederate flag for my motorcycle…
commented 2015-07-09 16:45:54 -0400
Agatha Christie uses that term as well. In any case, I did always find that movie puzzling as yes, it tended to vilify the North. But I think we need the perspective to see, that although the aims of the north were pure, its conduct was hardly perfect. The book itself is entirely different. The chapters that involve the siege of Atlanta are great literature and history. The north frankly was brutal and the sort of combat back then would be listed as war crimes if done today. But strange enough while the left has lots of movies in its sights for criticism, why GWTW has gotten a pass after all these years.
commented 2015-07-09 10:20:32 -0400
Disney did the same thing with their semi-animated (along the lines of Mary Poppins) “Song of the South”. It had some old classic songs in there, as well as an animated version of the Brer Rabbit story, but the only place you’ll find this movie is on a VHS cassette from Europe…
commented 2015-07-08 15:14:06 -0400
In the movie Rhett Butler does mention buying slaves from King Gezo of Dahomey (modern Benin) is part of the problem to. The liberals and leftists don’t want to admit that the slaves were sold to them by African rulers who took prisoners in war. Those slaves who were not sold to the white slavers were used for human sacrifices in Dahomey. Those sold to the middle eastern market don’t have many offspring because 9 out of ten male slaves died at the eunuch stations from dirty surgical instruments. The babies of slave women in the middle east were usually killed so that the mothers could get back to work.
While slavery was a horrible experience being sold to the Americas was not the worst thing that could have happened.
White men and women lead the way in ending slavery in the Americas which resulted in the American Civil War.

Blacks (The First North Carolina Colored Volunteers among other units) fought for the Confederacy. The lack of depictions of black Confederates in popular TV, movies and novels has contributed to the animosity between blacks and whites in the southern United States.

The descendants of African slaves sold to the USA can take comfort in the fact that they are incredibly well off compared to the descendants of those who sold their ancestors into slavery.
commented 2015-07-07 21:58:19 -0400
You can’t erase the past. It is like the call to take the word “nigger” out of all Mark Twain novels. You cannot use enough bleach to eradicate the past, so people are not made to feel uncomfortable.

“The educated adult keeps in mind that like all art it is the product of a place and time.”