I can’t lie. Purely as a matter of professional self-interest, I’m keen to see which exciting new directions this unleashed impulse towards cultural purging takes us in over the next days and weeks. It’s a bloggy gold mine, my friends. It may never run dry.
Based on a best seller by die-hard Southerner Margaret Mitchell, “Gone with the Wind’’ buys heavily into the idea that the Civil War was a noble lost cause and casts Yankees and Yankee sympathizers as the villains, both during the war and during Reconstruction…
[W]hat 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?…
That studio sent “Gone with the Wind’’ back into theaters for its 75th anniversary in partnership with its sister company Turner Classic Movies in 2014, but I have a feeling the movie’s days as a cash cow are numbered. It’s showing on July 4 at the Museum of Modern Art as part of the museum’s salute to the 100th anniversary of Technicolor — and maybe that’s where this much-loved but undeniably racist artifact really belongs.
It’s not just Americans who have embraced it. By one count the film’s earned more than $3 billion at the box office worldwide, only half of which came from U.S. ticket sales. It’s also not clear what Lou Lumenick wants to see happen to GWTW, although Sean Davis is probably right that he wants Warner Bros. to simply stop distributing it. No more theater showings, no more Blu-Ray releases, no more TCM broadcasts, no more iTunes downloads, nada. If you want to watch “Gone With the Wind,” you go find yourself one of the many, many, many DVDs already in circulation. If you want to indulge in a little revisionism about slavery, you should have to work for it.
John Nolte counters:
This is akin to book burning. Granted, Lumenick’s not suggesting government agents kick in your door, search your house, and burn your “Gone with the Wind” copy (maybe in another 3 days). Nevertheless, he is talking about removing from the marketplace one of the most treasured pieces of cinematic art the world has ever seen.
Lumenick is also assuming the classic bigoted role of the fascist white liberal patronizing black America.
Did Lumenick ask black America’s opinion before calling for “Gone With the Wind” to be banned?
Apparently not, because in a recent poll a whopping 73% of black Americans rated “Gone With the Wind” as “one of the best” or a ‘good/very good” movie.
A few thoughts. One: Lumenick’s right that the politics of the film are obnoxious. Offhand I can’t think of one slave in GWTW who’s excited to be freed. If anything, they’re eager to get back to work at Tara after the war. Two: John Podhoretz is right about this.
I saw GWTW 6 or 7 times in 60s/70s–sisters–but last time I saw it in a theater in '98, I couldn't believe how wooden and lame it seemed.
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) June 24, 2015
When I saw GWTW for the first time, it was captivating. When I saw it again a few months ago, it was leaden, so much so that I was shocked at how my memory of it differed from the real thing. It has its charms — you still fall for Scarlett, you still admire Rhett as the ultimate leading man — but the sheer humidity of the melodrama is stifling. The characters are barely two-dimensional, let alone three. In an odd way, it’s a kid’s picture, much more so than the other famous fairy tale that came out in 1939. (If GWTW has aged the worst of all Hollywood classics, “The Wizard of Oz” has probably aged the best.) I think that ends up working to the film’s advantage, though, in terms of deflecting charges of racism. The racism is assuredly there, it’s just sort of shunted off to the side while Rhett and Scarlett flirt. The Civil War is there too, but apart from the scene where Scarlett tends to wounded soldiers and the big escape from Atlanta, it’s all just backdrop for the romance. “Birth of a Nation,” the film to which Lumenick compares GWTW, isn’t like that: The Klan literally rides to the rescue to save the day at the end. If a Klansman had ended up onscreen in GWTW, the scene probably would have involved Scarlett brushing past one of them in her haste to try on a new bonnet. That’s not an excuse for the film’s whitewash of slavery and its remnants, just a reflection that there’s a lot more going on onscreen, most of it more essential to the plot, than the scenes with Mammy and Prissy. So the question is, can you enjoy a movie like this purely as entertainment, when the racist elements are incidental to the romantic storyline for which it’s celebrated? It’s a little like asking whether you should visit the Jefferson Memorial knowing that the great man owned slaves. It’s a serious stain on his legacy, but it’s not why he’s remembered. Same goes for GWTW.
Exit question: What did Scarlett ever see in Ashley? I mean really.