“Gone” in the Vaults: Should a beloved classic be banned?
During my shift at a retail store, I was asked to scope through our selection of movies and music CDs . The reason for this action was to find any film or album cover that had a Confederate flag on it. There were plenty of American flags and one didn’t think to question a Rage Against the Machines album with the iconic burning monk cover. But never would one question the idea to ban a full length feature from the shelf.
Recently, a critic of the New York Post, among a few others, stated beloved classic Gone with the Wind should be banned for its depiction of racism on not just slavery but also the Confederate war. The evidence is pushed further with the memorable shot of the dying soldiers laying out on a field. The camera pans back to show the casualties of the war as the Confederate flag waves into view. Again, a “few critics” have called the ban of a movie because of its aged material. Perhaps I should throw in my two cents because when one looks at art, you get two sides of the story.
Many can observe the Salvador Dali painting The Persistence of Memory and view it as either the death of time, due to the melting clocks, or a commentary about how surreal dreams can be. In the case of Gone with the Wind, some critics are calling out against its “racist” content, but I believe they’re not looking at the full picture here. In fact, the questionable critics is currently a small minority when compared to how many viewers love this movie. I even know a few friends of mine that really praise the greatness of this film. So if a small controversy is being drummed up, where do I stand with it?
I watched this move not too long ago just to see what the fuss was. At first, I was adamant about the length, but when examining the character of Scarlet and the toils she goes through, it made for an interesting experience. We have someone who is searching for her own “American Dream,” which includes settling down with the right man and trying to have family. But through selfish actions and seeing the world for what it is, proves that achieving her own dream is not easy to come by. If that’s the case, why are critics making a big deal about it now?
Well, the focus deals more with what events take place during the story. The whole movie (and the novel its based from) are set during the Civil War while showing the toils of the South. As expected, there is going to be that Southern accent and appearances of the Confederate flag to reflect the time period. It even goes as far to use the historical burning of Georgia as a crucial plot point. So really the real question here is not what material is being used to offend, but how accurate can the material be to the point of offense.
Viewers will draw a line between what appeals to them and what can easily be chalked off as a trigger button. And no other element is so easy to offend than stereotypical portrayal. Watching this movie from another point of view, one can be uncomfortable by the broken dialect of the African American characters or even the Hollywood treatment of the war. Even if Gone shows the brutal effects, there is that toned down feel considering how movie-making was different back then. Gone with the Wind came out in the late 1930s, so clearly some production values (lack of extreme gore, for example) won’t stand the test of time. But if we can let The Wizard of Oz slide by its dated style and near silly elements (seriously, look at Glinda’s crown again! It has pink fuzzy stars), then what is so different from this film?
Again, the only thing being focused on as offense is the time period Gone is set within as opposed to the movie as a whole. Personally, what bugs me is when someone bans a film just for one basic element that isn’t even the whole tone of the picture. Again, I do argue the movie is more about coming of age than it is about the Civil War. The setting is used as a backdrop to make the environment of its characters more interesting because they have something to work off of. Had it been set in modern day 1939, the movie would have been a product of its time as opposed to its treatment within that time.
Take “Newsies,” for example. A Disney musical that is set during a newspaper boy strike in Olde New York. Say someone would get offended because of the stereotypical New York accents or that Mr. Pulitzer is being portrayed as the bad guy. Would the movie be considered dated by when it was created or judged by the material used at the time? It really depends on how you look at it. Some can watch it and observe the 1990s tropes that were popular then like Alan Menken’s songs or casting choices. On the other hand, one can view the treatment of the event adapted and feel negative towards the treatment as a family musical instead of a straight-forward historical biopic. It really depends on the sensitivity of the viewer and his/her cinematic taste.
So should we really turn the other cheek to a great American classic? Well, that’s up for you to decide. I won’t force the opinion, but I will say openly I can see why viewers can be offended by this movie. However, when you boil down to it, all we are really banning is a movie that clearly so many love because of its morals as opposed to its historical presentation. If you think its offensive and doing bad, I won’t hold it against you as long as there is a valid reason. But for a huge ban, that might be pushing it too far. We are talking about a movie that got its first Academy Award for an African American actress and has stood the test of time. For if we focus on only the offensive material, we are missing out on the bigger picture. So I ask of you, please have an open mind.
Posted on June 26, 2015, in Thoughts on Hollywood and Stuff and tagged 1939, banning, Civil War, Clark Gable, Confederate Flag, Gone with the Wind, Offensive, opinion, stereotypical. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.