The main reason this sort of thing is so shareable, however, is because it’s the sort of low-cost pseudo-activism that makes everyone who passes it along feel good about themselves. Clicking that little square made of arrows constitutes a retweet for justice, a blow struck against someone who was very bad, a howl for fairness in a world that has so little of it. Checking that heart-shaped icon is a “like” for solidarity, a suggestion that we’re all fighting together in this battle against the ignorance of people born nearly 112 years ago.
If one is disinclined to partake in this ritual witch-burning, one has options. One could note, as one always does, that art and artist are separable, that a big-screen icon beloved by the camera lens is different from the man on the ground and in the history books. One could highlight that he, like all of us, contains multitudes, that some coarse words during an interview given toward the end of an illustrious career should not define the man’s character or our image of him. One could simply sigh and recite L.P. Hartley’s famous dictum: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
A less nuanced, but more viscerally pleasing, retort is “so what?” John Wayne presaged Avenue Q? So. What? Who cares that someone reposted screenshots from an interview that was conducted almost 50 years ago?