It’s often been said that Hollywood wouldn’t dare make Blazing Saddles in these days of political correctness. Now they won’t even show it — at least, not without an opening paternalistic lecture about the “social context” of Mel Brooks’ broad social satire against bigotry and racism. HBO Max has given Blazing Saddles the Gone With The Wind treatment, the Hollywood Reporter related yesterday, even though the two films couldn’t be farther apart in messaging and “social context”:
It is unclear exactly when the intro was added to the 1974 comedy classic starring the late Cleavon Little and the late Gene Wilder, but it was sometime after the film premiered on the streaming service in July.
“The intro was added to ensure that the film was put into the proper social context,” an HBO Max spokeswoman told The Hollywood Reporter.
The situation is similar to that of Gone with the Wind, which was pulled from HBO Max not long after the streaming service was introduced due to outcry over its outdated and racist story and themes. The 1939 war classic returned in June with additional context and a disclaimer attached.
Harrumph! There is nothing so subtle in Blazing Saddles that its overarching “social context” could possibly be missed. Brooks clearly takes aim at all kinds of racist tropes in the film (as well as Western movie tropes), and sets them up for maximum ridicule. All of the bigots are either idiots or “eeeeeeevil,” as Harvey Korman describes himself and his allies in his hilarious monologue. All of the good guys are enlightened, and even the townspeople get forced to confront their own bigotry and take in all sorts.
Even the Irish, in fact. Now that’s enlightened.
Perhaps HBO Max has a big enough grip on cable entertainment that it can afford to treat its customers as though they are morons. Apparently they think that these points will escape their paying audience unless it comes in a delivered lecture:
A little more than three-minutes long, Stewart’s intro puts the bigotry and racist language in context, the host saying, “as the storyline implies the issue of race is front and center in Blazing Saddles. And racist language and attitudes pervade the film. But those attitudes are espoused by characters who are portrayed here as explicitly small-minded, ignorant bigots. The real, and much more enlightened perspective, is provided by the main characters played by Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder.”
That should prompt this reaction from HBO Max customers, who might say they’ve had enough of this kind of elite condescension:
Audiences have “put the bigotry and racist language in context” in Blazing Saddles for forty-six years without ever once coming to the conclusion that it was advocating bigotry and racism. We worried that political correctness might kill social satire; now we have to conclude that political correctness has eclipsed social satire.
The real lesson taught by HBO Max is that people should buy their favorite movies on physical media, and watch them without interference from an industry that used to trust its audience a whole lot more 46 years ago than it does now.