In the wake of the Charleton shootings that left nine black people dead, America has been taking a long hard look at itself, with the eyes of the media, activists and politicians falling on the Confederate Flag. While some see this flag as a symbol of Southern history and culture, most others associate it with white supremacy and groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of Americans polled would be happy to see the flag disappear into the annals of history. Apple yesterday pulled all American Civil War games off iTunes as a protest over the flag.
While this is an issue that needs to be sorted out in-country, movie-lovers the world over could face a surprising repercussion.
Several critics have suggested that the iconic film Gone With the Wind is as much a symbol of racism as the Confederate Flag, with one influential New York Post critic going so far as to say it should be banned from cinemas.
— The Independent (@Independent) June 26, 2015
Lou Lumenick writes, “The more subtle racism of ‘Gone with the Wind’ is in some ways more insidious, going to great lengths to enshrine the myth that the Civil War wasn’t fought over slavery – an institution the film unabashedly romanticises.”
“But what 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 things as the Confederate flag that flutters so dramatically over the dead and wounded soldiers at the Atlanta train station just before the intermission?”
This criticism is not new, academics and activists have often pointed out that Gone With The Wind perpetuates myths and stereotypes, not least of all what historian Jennifer Dickey described as the myth of the “happy darky”. Others have deplored the positioning of the Ku Klux Klan as heroes in the film.
Clark Gable & Vivien Leigh "Gone with the Wind 1939" pic.twitter.com/2wFpl4AbqU
— Memory Lane (@idyllicmind1) June 26, 2015
On the other side of the fence are those who say, like it or not, Gone With The Wind is a part of American history and culture and cannot be vilified for being what it was, when it was.
In recent years, Warner Bros has also come under fire for the racism inherent in many of its old cartoons. When it released Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume Three, it was compelled to include this caveat, read by Whoopi Goldberg:
“The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time. They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in the US society. These depictions were wrong then and they are wrong today. While the following does not represent the Warner Bros. view of today’s society, these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming that these prejudices never existed.”
So where is the line? In our efforts to eradicate racism and the violence and injustices that go with it, do we need to clean up our cultural back-catalogue too?
I for one, would be sad to never have the opportunity to see Gone With The Wind in the cinema again, and my children really don’t have a stereotypical view of Mexicans because they watched Speedy Gonzales on TV. But that said, I’d be pretty disappointed if one of them identified with the Confederate Flag.
Let’s talk: Do you think Gone With the Wind and other films that glorify slavery, or promote racism in any other way, should be banned from being shown to large audiences?