In a surprising twist, one of Hollywood’s most classic films, Gone With the Wind, is now considered insensitive by a theater board in Memphis, Tennessee.
After receiving numerous comments regarding the film after a screening on August 11th, the board of The Orpheum Theatre has deemed that the classic 1939 film is too insensitive to show at future movie series. The Orpheum Theatre Group released the following statement:
“As an organization whose stated mission is to ‘entertain, educate and enlighten the communities it serves,’ the Orpheum cannot show a film that is insensitive to a large segment of its local population.”
The theatre group created an event post on their Facebook page, where even more people exclaimed how they believed the film to be racist.
Gone With the Wind depicts life in the South during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. Over time, the movie has become more and more divisive as people have begun to distance themselves from the movie’s sympathetic view of the South during that time period.
What It Means
While MovieBabble obviously doesn’t condone racist sentiment in art, this Gone With the Wind controversy has raised some interesting questions regarding the future of classic films.
As social norms continue to evolve, older films that are regarded as some of the best in the industry may fade into obscurity. Classic cinema has subject matter that doesn’t exactly align with today’s viewpoints. Some films appear racist to the present eye. Other films present women in a less than ideal light. Could we one day reach a point where pre-1950 film is forgotten?
Clearly the idea posed is somewhat of a blanket question as many older films did not share similar qualities with Gone With the Wind. However, Gone With the Wind is considered by many to be a touchstone of film. It has inspired countless works. As we move forward, it’s natural to expect that even more areas will condemn the film. This action will only reduce the significance of the film. Other movies may quickly succumb to the same fate.
There’s certainly some hyperbole in this discussion. That may be the only fact in this section to some readers. However, there’s no hiding that there are a declining amount of people that watch classic movies. With this piece of news, that amount can only decrease further.
Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on Gone With the Wind and the fate of classic cinema? Comment down below!
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*Report via Entertainment Weekly
[…] have experienced some of the greatest films ever made. Released the year after Victor Fleming’s Gone with the Wind (1939), this Selznick International Pictures-produced romantic psychological thriller had […]
The movie may not change, but the audience does. When enough people can’t enjoy a movie – even a classic – because they see racism or prejudice in place of the delight of an earlier era, it’s time to move that film into a museum or the classroom. Suppose there was merely a single jarring scene – do you think that could be removed to allow a movie a longer life? After all, movies are edited for run time or to meet TV ratings needs all the time.
That’s an interesting point that you bring up. What’s the line in editing art? Do we leave it be or heavily edit it to fit the times? That’s certainly something that smarter people than I struggle with answering.
When I was in high school, I had to read several “classics” that I thought were terrible – not because of any particular offense, I just didn’t like them, would never have finished them if not an assignment (I’m a good girl -and if maybe I didn’t quite finish, I read farther than anyone else in the class.) I still find many classics barely readable. I have a hypothesis: by the time something becomes an academic classic, it’s so far out of its time that it’s no fun anymore.
Movies, like books and art, are a product of their time. We may move on and change our views about what is acceptable, but we cannot just blankly delete whatever does not conform to today’s views. And as today’s views go now more and more narrow paths, what will be allowed to express?
I love that movie and the book is one of my favourites. Yes, it romanticizes the Old South but you watch the film knowing what you’re seeing on screen is fictional. The story is one of my favourites because it deals with how people react when their world’s are turned upside down. Who comes out on top and who sinks to the bottom and why – that’s the main fascination for me.
Great point! Definitely another layer to think about when discussing this issue!
Very wise first few lines.
The films of a time (or, in this case, depicting a different era), reflect the times. Of course a film about the Civil War-era American South is going to contain things we find offensive now.
That said, I do cringe when I see stereotypes in old films.
Very true! The discussion is still definitely worthwhile, however. These are discussions that will continue to arise as our culture changes!
Hello there! Firstly, thanks for following us!
I have to say, common sense of people these days has also gone with the wind smh We can’t possibly apply norms of today to the past and whitewash everything that didn’t adhere to current standards. Being “politically correct” has deemed more to be insensitive, and there will no longer be meaningful dialogue. Without learning history there cannot be a clear understanding of the future, be it for the society, politics or art.
Also, happy to follow you ?
The Orpheum Theatre Group’s argument is illogical in it’s knee jerk reaction based solely on the emotional self-aggrandizement afforded by a simplistic world view tainted with an unhealthy prioritization toward intellectually dishonest political correctness. If, indeed, their goal is to “entertain, educate and enlighten”, their narrow intellectual view of cultural legacies by way of currently fashionable handwringing will serve to deny the second and third aims of their mission statement, for there can be no true enlightenment achieved with the denial of the educating lessons of history. These are types of buffoons who illustrate the need for a continuance of an elevated Critical Establishment and, no doubt, for whom the current spate of crassly valueless populist cartoons and comic book epics are intended.
There certainly is a knee-jerk reaction to it as you mentioned. Idk, I hope other theaters don’t follow that trend
Totally agree, this is another example of seeking to erase the past to achieve political correctness according to one group ‘s wishes. It is wrong and ultimately leads to a totalitarian state if not stopped.
I live in Memphis and watched, ‘Gone with the Wind,’ every time it hit the big screen. It is one of my all time favorite movies, and also one of my favorite books. With that said, when the movie was pulled, I understood. The movie depicts slavery as almost natural and fitting to African Americans which is obviously nothing close to the reality of slavery. The books does more so. I will probably still watch the movie, and can enjoy it. I am white though and have the luxary of being able to watch it without offense. If I were African American, I am not sure I would enjoy the movie so much. So, I think the Orpheum made the right decision in pulling the movie. If folks want to watch the movie on their own accord, at home, so be it. However, it is insensitive to put it on public display. This may be hard for some white people to understand and some may even feel it is an infringement on history. However, the movie is not being burned, or banned. Memphis is a predominately black city and it just does not represent the population here. The population here wants accurate representation and who can blame them for that?
Total agreement there. I’m also white so naturally I’ll also never truly understand some of the issues the film raises. But, I think being respectful of other peoples’ cultures is key to having any type of dialogue on the matter.
I agree. It is better to discuss things. People can learn from each other and together we make the world a bit better. Thanks for sharing.
Glad to help!
This is ridiculous to me. We do not approve of violence and crime, yet we still watch drama. Even the most outlandish of fiction can be reflective and representative of the time period and origin in which it was created, so it is little different than reading through a history book. It is unfortunate that art cannot always be pristine, but the enjoyment of movies such as this is little different than travelling to see the pyramids and monuments in Egypt, which were also built by slaves, and of which several films have portrayed. Art reflects the attitudes and thinking of some individual/s at any given point, and they are not all beautiful or what we would agree with. We should no more deny that these ways of thinking and these attitudes and behaviours existed or may still exist within certain individuals or societies at any given point than we should deny the existence of Hitler or any tragedy that has befallen man throughout the course of time.
However, on this bent, I must admit that the continued re-release of Disney’s animated Peter Pan in its original form – seeing as how it’s marketed to children – always had me scratching my head just a bit.
I also recently re-watched this movie. Insensitive? To me, it accurately reflected the time and the history of the South. I’m for one don’t believe the true (or near truth) should be shushed because of some misguided individuals. I also came to the realization that this is one classic that can never be duplicated for many reasons. Not sure it glossed over slavery as it was a point of view of one woman and her family. Hell, they rarely make accurate movies about the times of slavery even today. Well, if this fades into obscurity, I’m glad I have my own copy.
I think I probably fall on your side of the argument as well!
I’ve read the book several times and seen the film so many times I cannot count. This movie does not represent the reality of slavery. It portrayed African Americans as fitted for the institution of slavery.
Gone with the Wind is part of our history. As was our decimation of the indians. (Thanks for your like today!) We can’t erase the past. You have to think of people in the context of their times. Movies and books record the times. I’ve recently published a book about my pioneer Seattle father. Today we are environmentalists. When he moved to Washington he had to survive. This meant cutting down wilderness forest to build shelter for himself. Enough people have done this that today we have cities.
Fascinating discussion that hasn’t been added yet! Thanks for your thoughts!
Ideation and people change as we grow up and mature. Rather than destroy the past, we should consider it lessons in life.
Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it!
And 60 years from now someone will find something about the movies made today offensive and demand they stop showing them. So the answer is to do away with any movie that is more than a generation old? That is basically destroying part of the entire history and culture of a country. It’s absurd.
I think a lot of people share your sentiment, me included!
I love the classic movies. They are what gives us a window into what our past looked like as well as entertaining. It was different time then, and many years from now, some people will look at our books and movies and say possibly the same things about our works. Instead of trying to separate ourselves from the past, we should embrace it thereby learning from it and strive to do better. :) Well written piece.
Nicely put! It’s definitely important to be accepting of other people and their culture, but at the same time, can we really blame a movie for having a less than ideal portrayal of subject matter that was made all the way back in the 30s??
Nick, I don’t think we can.
I love Gone With The Wind. Deemed Insensitive. They’re wrong in my opinion. I’ve seen other movies that aren’t deemed insensitive and should be.
I wonder if its fame as an iconic movie has anything to do with it. No one cares about a movie that people saw and quickly forgot about!
So true. I will always like Gone With The Wind.
It’s definitely a classic. It should be studied despite its inherent cultural flaws.
My fingers are crossed that this doesn’t happen to other films!
I here you.
The old saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” comes to mind here.
Rather than allowing political activists (whose motivations are sometimes not the purest either) to serve as arbiters of taste and to silence voices past and present with whom they disagree, it is better to consider an artistic expression such as GWTW in the context in which it was created. It’s a teachable moment. In light of current events, GWTW is a good film to see, because it brings to life the Ole South nostalgia that resulted in so many of the Confederate statues whose fates are being debated today.
Exposing ourselves to ideas (and art) with which we might disagree helps us better understand our own opinions. However, projecting today’s values backwards and judging previous behavior thusly is simply intellectual snobbery, or worse.
I’d have to agree there. GWTW was created a decade before the Civil Rights Movement came about. Do we really expect it to be politically correct for 2017? Although people might want it to, it’s pretty silly to expect it to be.
Spot on remarks!
I’ve been deemed insensitive by most people who know me. Just don’t care. Film is for entertainment. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. If a theater doesn’t want to screen it that is their right. If we get to a point where a film is not *allowed* to be screened, which we probably will get to soon enough, that’s when we have gone too far.
Adding to this, I really am in favor of free market forces here and nearly everywhere. Theaters should screen films they want to screen for whatever reasons they want to screen them. When there is alignment between what they supply and what their local public demands, their business is good. When there is a disconnect, the market should work itself out.
That might be a good way to go about it! If people stop going, then just show something else that’ll bring people in!
I love Gone with the Wind, I think it’s a reminder of the past and nothing is wrong with that. We all learn from the past and if it’s erased how will future generations benefit. That is what is wrong with society, sweeping everything under the rug. Great post.
Actually didn’t mean Gone with the Wind, I actually can never sit through it, I was thinking Imitation of Life which is kind of in the same category. Anyway the same rules apply.
Whoops! Lol I’d agree with you on that one. Those that don’t honor our past are doomed to repeat it.
Don’t sell yourself short. You’re a great writer and far smarter than many of the dumb people who post comments on Twitter.
Free speech and censorship is a very thin line. I might have to write an article about it
Your kind words are very much appreciated! I’m trying my best lol
What year in school are you if you don’t mind me asking? Are you studying English? Because your writing is incredibly good
No problem at all! I’m currently a senior in college. Funny enough, I’m actually a Business Analytics major, I just love talking about film!
Well, the analytics part makes sense at the very least :)
I think people are very sensitive of any form of moral whitewashing of the past and Gone With The Wind is a heavily romanticized view of the south where slaves were content and maybe even happy being slaves, and portrays the North as the evil bad guys (because they fought on the side against them to… end slavery).
Gone with the Wind is a great movie for sure but it also causes harm by propogating the debunked view of how great the south was which is certainly a view point that enrages people who had ancestors live and die under brutal oppression.
I don’t think the movie should be banned but if a theater company thinks that screening gone with the wind in a time of racial strife is a bad business decision, I don’t blame them.
This always happens when arr gets older and societal values change (see Merchant of Venice’s portrayal of Jewish people. That controversy has been going on since the 1500s!). People will always appreciate art and the craft and have respect for it, but you also can’t ignore the messages and themes represented by that said work of art.
As a trans person, I feel the same way about Silence of The Lambs. It’s a great and well acted, written, and directed thriller. It’s also transphobic as hell and the Buffalo Bill segments irk me because they perpetuate harmful stereotypes about the supposed danger of femininity in seemingly male people. Media influencing stereotypes leads to violence in the real world.
Just my two cents. Looking forward to the reply
I loved your comparison to The Merchant of Venice. I read that book and high school and although the entire class understood the portrayal to be highly racist and off-putting, we all still gained appreciation for Shakespeare and the way he crafted his tales. I hope that we may get to that point with films as well.
As for your remark on Silence of the Lambs, That’s a completely different point of view that I really welcome in this type of conversation. Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but I felt as if it’s comparable to this year’s Split where mental disorders weren’t handled with as much grace as maybe they could have been. Do you have similar feelings for that film?
I haven’t seen Split so I can’t say how it feels about portraying mental illness but with Silence of the Lambs there are moments that I find cringe inducing for all the wrong reasons. The “It puts the lotion on its skin!” is so irritating to me. People actually joke to me and so “I hope you don’t want to wear my skin today.” Beyond that the themes are quite problematic because the movie really focuses on how humanity’s more animalistic instincts (Starling is a type of bird afterall). Some of this is shown in how Clarice has to maneuver around a male dominated occupation (the dudes view her as inherently weaker or a sexcapade), but most importantly we see this in how the serial killers are have predatory tendency and view their victims as prey meant to be eaten or slaughtered. With Lecter, this is quite cool but with bill (which is a character based on the trans people are mentally unstable psychopaths who want to attack your daughters present in pretty much every portrayal of trans people in the movies) it’s disheartening to see that yet another movie gives the impression that transgender people are inherently deceptive and predatory.
These views lead to harm in the real world as well. Just today even, someone referred to me as m’aam and that was the first time someone who had never met me before called me thought. It felt fantastic to be seen as the person I am. However, these good feelings did not last too long because I had to use the restroom and couldn’t decide which one was proper for me to go in. I would feel more comfortable in the lady’s room of course but what if someone was in there that referred to me by my birth gender? What if they were afraid of me? So I decided to use the men’s room today even though things got problematic when the man who m’aamed me walked in and saw me there which also put me in a dangerous situation because I didn’t know what his reaction would be.
What I’m trying to say is art is great but sometimes good art can send bad messages that lead to harm in the real world
I’d have to agree with your final thought there. Personally, I believe it comes down the individual to understand the correct viewpoint of a certain scene or message within a film. I don’t know ho practical this is since the wrong messages from film are used all the time (as you mentioned above). This struggle comes down to a freedom of speech discussion. Do you censor art so that the correct message is always represented in the public consciousness or allow filmmakers to do what they want and trust people to see messages in the correct light? It’s a fascinating discussion that smarter people than me still discuss.
If people make crazy statements in real life alluding to Buffalo Bill perhaps there are a lot of people misunderstanding what they see in The Silence of the Lambs, which wouldn’t be surprising. Buffalo Bill is clearly identified as not actually being trans. He (wrongly) thinks he is trans because there is something mentally wrong with him. He kills woman and wears their skin because there is something mentally wrong with him. He is a psychopath and not a true trans person and this is spelled out in the film.
Yeah I know they explained that Bill isn’t really trans but to me that’s like putting a child’s bandaid on a gaping wound. Bill is yet another character that vilifies any element of masculinity that flirts with femininity. Gay villains are cliche. Effeminate villains are cliche. Cross dressing villains are cliche. These stereotypes reinforce the idea that femininity is bad, especially when that said femininity is being expressed by someone that appears male. The fact of the matter is, we’re never portrayed as heroes or good guys. Just villains and antagonists.
This is incredibly harmful to LGBTQ youth who are surrounded by the media vilifying people like them to the point believe that there is something inherently wrong with being LGBTQ (that’s why we have Pride Month to shake that stigma).
Additionally, being transgender is not diagnosable because it’s not a mental illness. The idea that a doctor can be the arbitrator on one’s gender identity problematic because many people don’t know or show signs of being trans until their older.
It’s just very problematic
Your initial comments are provocative, and it made me think of cinematic technology that would have been lost to future generations given the content of the material. Moving cameras in “Birth of a Nation.” Cartoon and live action integrated in “Song of the South.” Technicolor in “Gone With the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz.” Don’t forget iconic movies from Roman Polanski such as “Chinatown” and “Rosemary’s Baby.” Applying current mores, values, and views to historic art as a reason for censorship makes as much sense as applying Victorian sensibility to Roman and Greek carvings. You will have protected the view but lost the vantage.
Spot on! I’m in total agreemet with you there. Those initial comments were merely to get conversation going!
I admit to rolling my eyes when I read the headline. Statues, movies, what’s next?
When did people become so sensitive that they cannot enjoy something because it “triggers” or offends them?
If we proceed like this, history will be forgotten and erased, which will lead to a repeat of history sooner than later.
EVERYTHING offends someone nowadays. It is still possible to enjoy and admire those things.
My hope is that we get to the point where we all consider something in a film to be racist but still appreciate the rest of the film. After all, the civil rights movement didn’t occur until more than a decade later.
…and the first Oscar for an African American to Hattie McDaniel, whose Mammy could reveal the sneaking, conniving motives of Scarlet in one hot second. It is a ground breaking movie in many ways.
Totally! I wonder if they failed to bring up that side of the argument when deliberating on the issue.
Thankfully, with the popularity of classic film enthusiasts and channels like TCM, I don’t think classic Hollywood cinema will ever go away. And I’m quite glad for that!
You’re absolutely right!
I believe that classic films are part of our history. History – has been unfair, politically incorrect, racist, ageist, sexist, cruel but is still thought in schools. Why should classic movies be banned from theaters? As history, they are the proof that at some point we did something wrong, and are good reminders of the things mankind should not repeat.
Exactly! It’s the same reason why we study history in schools.
It’s a shame that we are getting to this point, that the regressive left cannot appreciate old art because it doesn’t adhere to their socio-political values. Here’s hoping it won’t go further than this…
One can hope!
What is it about a culture that hates itself so much, it is willing to destroy itself to not be offensive to others? Wasn’t this the same culture that bristled under the moral compass that resulted in censorship of the arts in the past? I hope all of this classic cinema will be digitized and hidden away on the Internet. There will need to be someone who preserves past history and art when this generation passes away.
I’m sure many have already been digitized (especially Gone With the Wind), so maybe classic cinema will live on
I think it’s important not to censor or ban classics works of creative expression, whether written or visual, because a conscious effort to experience a novel or film on its own terms can lead to valuable insights into our own unrecognized personal biases and prejudices. Equally important, works of creative expression are historical artifacts that should be studied and discussed to gain insight into who we are as a society and how we came to be that way, where we aspire to go and where we never want to go again.
I think you nailed it there. If we don’t study our past, we’re doomed to repeat it. The same could be said for film.
Gone With The Wind is the product of it’s time and the sensibilities of that time. It is also a piece of classic cinema. I really can’t judge whether or not it should be “banned”. But what may be next…..Lawrence of Arabia because it romanticizes people who are Arab? It’s a brilliant move and it is fairly historically correct. Again it reflects a time that is gone. I’m just glad that I have seen both of these films several times and can remember them as cinema and not real life.
Hopefully their legacy continues. I merely added the last piece of the article to stir up conversation because that’s the best part of the film industry. Talking about film is too fun!
Indeed. Also it is important to have this sort of dialogic. No one gets killed with this kind of exchange of viewpoints. And films always a great source of conversation.
I think classic movies are a product of their time – that is what makes them classics. You can view them with modern sensibilities, you can discuss them with modern sensibilities, but you can’t judge their merit them with modern sensibilities.
Very valid point! It’s a shame more people don’t see it that way.
If we discount history because it doesn’t conform to new “evolving social norms”, we will miss out on some great art. I look at classic films in the context of the times they were made, rather than try to see them through more enlightened eyes. Take the work of comedians Mantan Mooreland and Willie Best, two very funny men forced to act in a stereotypical manner in order to work in white-man-dominated Hollywood. Their screen personas may be deemed offensive, but the fact is they worked steadily in pictures, and were household names in the black community. Do we ban all their films because “social norms” are changing? This would be a disservice to both, and a host of other ethnic actors who plied their trade during the 30’s. 40’s, and even the 50’s. I have an answer for those offended by “Gone With the Wind” and other movies… don’t watch. But let those of us who enjoy looking back on historic films (with budgets both large and small) do so.