You’ll never see “Gone With the Wind” in a theater again

The censorship is metastasizing: first statues, now movies. The movie we’re discussing is “Gone With the Wind”, the 1939 classic starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, with Oliva de Havilland and Leslie Howard, as well as the slave characters Hattie McDaniel as Mammy and Butterfly McQueen as Prissy.  Well, the showing of that movie has just been canceled as part of Memphis, Tennesee’s Orpheum Theater movie festival.  The cause was obvious: complaints by people that it was racist. As the New York Times reports:

A Memphis movie theater’s announcement that it will discontinue its annual screening of “Gone With the Wind” over concerns that the film is insensitive has prompted a heated discussion online.

The Orpheum theater has shown that 1939 film each of the past 34 years, as part of its classics series. It won 10 Oscars, including one for Hattie McDaniel as best supporting actress for her portrayal of a slave named Mammy. (She became the first black actor to win an Academy Award.) After the film’s screening on Aug. 11 — the same evening as a march in Charlottesville, Va., by white nationalists ahead of the “Unite the Right” rally on Aug. 12 — the theater received complaints online from patrons and commenters, who denounced the film’s portrayal of blacks and its romanticized view of the Old South.

As a result, the theater said it would not screen the film next year. “The recent screening of ‘Gone With the Wind’ at the Orpheum on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, generated numerous comments,” Brett Batterson, president of the Orpheum Theater Group, said in a statement. “The Orpheum carefully reviewed all of them. As an organization whose stated mission is to ‘entertain, educate and enlighten the communities it serves,’ the Orpheum cannot show a film that is insensitive to a large segment of its local population.”

Nobody who has seen the movie can deny that both Mammy and Prissy are racial stereotypes: Mammy, though the role did win an Oscar, is a stereotyped subservient (though empathic) “house Negro,” and I’ll never forget Prissy losing her head when Melanie was having a baby, “I don’t know nothing ’bout birthing babies.” McQueen in fact objected to the role as racially demeaning. It’s a film of its time, and who’s to say that such subservient behavior wasn’t actually demanded by whites at in the antebellum South?

But this cancellation, the product of offense culture, I can’t abide. Yes, there’s racism, as there was in many, many Hollywood films before the 1950s.  That’s movie history, and a reflection of the bigotry that, thankfully, has disappeared. But are we supposed to censor entire movies because of that? Will we see “Gone with the Wind” only on Netflix, ordering it in a plain brown paper wrapper? My view is this: if you don’t like the movie, don’t go see it. You can even picket it or write letters to the editor. But censoring it (and of course the Orpheum had every right to do that) not only keeps a generally good film away from the public (as Wikipedia notes, “when adjusted for monetary inflation, it is still the most successful film in box-office history”), but prevents a conversation about it. After all, a film isn’t a statue: you’re not forced to see it.

There are undoubtedly those of you out there who approve of this decision. If you do, tell me this: would you prevent the showing of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” because Shylock is an archetypal grasping and conniving Jew? If not, why would you object to the screening of “Gone With the Wind”?  And what about the anti-Semitism of Dickens, or the bigotry of many American novelists? Should we not let people read them?

I myself have spent a long time in my life watching anti-Jewish films made by the Nazis. Here’s one on YouTube: “Der Ewige Jude” (“The Eternal Jew”), made in 1940 at the order of Josef Goebbels. Yes, it’s deeply offensive, with the vilest stereotypes of Jews, but it teaches us something about the depth of bigotry in the human heart, and about Nazi attitudes toward Jews. Not for a second would I demand that it not be on YouTube, or shown in a German film festival about Nazi propaganda. You can dislike the material but not demand that something be censored. Shouldn’t I ask YouTube to remove it? After all, they have the right to. But I don’t think they should. I would in fact object to it being removed.

It’s time to get over the hypersensitivity that, if we don’t stand up to it, will eventually bowdlerize our culture. Yes, people have a right to decide whether their movie houses will show films that depict slavery, or grasping, duplicitous Jews, but if this trend continues, all traces of these things will eventually be effaced. All it takes is a social media campaign.

139 Comments

  1. BobTerrace
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Subscribe

  2. wendell read
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    A sad turn of events. Thanks for the update!

  3. Geoff Toscano
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    The world truly is going mad!

  4. Randy schenck
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Censorship in movies or books is the worst of slippery slopes. The censor becomes the dictator and the controller of human behavior. The evolution of the censor becomes the 18th amendment, our current war on drugs and other ways to take over the individual.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      I should also say, throwing out Gone With The Wind is like saying, we don’t give a damn for the civil war or 1939. We are too good for that now. Aren’t we wonderful?

  5. Trevor H
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    The comments to ‘The Eternal Jew’ are not pleasant

    😦

    • Posted August 28, 2017 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      I found another version that just has subtitles, avoiding the double anti-Semitism!

  6. CJ
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    There are obvious reasons to protest potentially racist and offensive memorials on public grounds, where taxpayer money is used to construct, maintain, and protect those displays. However, when dealing with private, voluntary events like the showing of a film, I see no reason for objection. Of course any theater should have the right to show, or not, any film they choose. And if a specific film threatens to drive away a large percentage of their customer base, it’s only good business sense for them to listen to their customers. For those who feel the theater took the wrong approach and are really that upset about not seeing a 1939 film, surely they can find a theater that will show it, or at worst, rent it from any number of streaming services.

    • CJ
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      Government mandated censorship is one thing. Private entities choosing not to show something is another. It is not illegal to see Gone with the Wind. It’s also not illegal to watch R-rated films. Just don’t expect that everyone will want to partake. Why on earth does that mean you can’t still enjoy them on your own, or with others who agree with you?

      • Randy schenck
        Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        Don’t you think this specific issue might just be censorship by intimidation. Has nothing to do with the govt.

        • CJ
          Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

          Maybe. But I guess unless it comes from the government, I don’t really care that much. I’m not a big “free market” guy, but the idea holds. There will be those theaters that decide to show films, regardless of the contents. People who want to see those films will go there. I just don’t get the alarmist perspective that all private businesses will all voluntarily ban every work of art/history that could be offensive. If banning such films becomes a directive or law, then we have a real problem. Just my perspective.

          • Florent
            Posted August 28, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

            It can become a law when people see their actions of threat are taken into consideration by private entities.

            Then they will threaten other people to make it into a law, and it will then be too late.

            • Randy schenck
              Posted August 28, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

              Very good. And that is why just saying, well, it doesn’t bother me is not the correct reaction. Why not say, hey, I don’t like that movie so I won’t go. To instead, go to the theater owner and say, take that movie out because I am offended, that is sad. That is censorship by intimidation.

              • Craw
                Posted August 28, 2017 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

                Especially when you organize twitter storm etc. It shows an intolerant, controlling, authoritarian attitude because it’s not about what you want to see but about what you want others to see.

          • gothamette
            Posted August 29, 2017 at 10:43 am | Permalink

            Would you say the same thing about The Merchant of Venice?

            I believe that you are trying to make a specious distinction between custom and law. But first answer my question do you think the same thing about The Merchant of Venice?

      • Posted August 28, 2017 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

        I can enjoy a film on TV, on my own but that’s not what they are for.

        They are public events created for the big screen.

  7. Posted August 28, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    The movie wasn’t racist, far from it. It displays racism but the racists got their asses handed to them. How are the next generations expected to understand racism if they never see it displayed?

    You missed one thing about Robert E. Lee trying to put the war to rest. he refused to wear his uniform ever again, even though he attended some reunions. He felt that they had struck their colors and lost. This was not something to remember nostalgically. That lesson was not learned.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      I wholeheartedly disagree. I certainly consider it a racist movie; furthermore, it plays right into the odious, romanticization of slavery, and for that reason, many people (not just Southerners or racists or Anglos, or even Caucasians) adore the flick — I’ve encountered this particularly with women who identify with Scarlett O’Hara (and I’ve lost friends because of it). So what if “the racists got their asses handed to them,” it’s all about the romance and the clothes and the setting and Clark Gable, and those who adore the film brush off the deeper, exceedingly disturbing aspects. But that said, it doesn’t mean that GWTW should be banned; by no means.

      And re “and who’s to say that such subservient behavior wasn’t actually demanded by whites at in the antebellum South?” Who’s to say? The historical record. Just read some slave narratives, or perhaps Thavolia Glymph’s Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household https://www.amazon.com/Out-House-Bondage-Transformation-Plantation/dp/0521703980. That attitude and those dehumanizing demands of subservience have not disappeared in the 21st century, and I’m thinking about “enlightened” liberals when I write this.

      • Craw
        Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        You are chastising our host for being right, agreeing with him in a condemnatory tone.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted August 28, 2017 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

          If you mean PCC(E) re my second paragraph, it wasn’t until after I’d posted my comment that I wondered if that statement, “who’s to say…” was made tongue in cheek. If so, I didn’t realize it when I first read it,and I thought that some might think that house slaves weren’t cruelly punished, brutalized, tortured, and killed, sometimes for the smallest slight or lapse of the Mistiss’s protocols. Plantation mistresses demanded expressions of love and gratitude from their house slaves, and were particularly upset when those expressions weren’t immediately given.

          • Posted August 28, 2017 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

            You know, it’s okay to one the one hand vehemently condemn slavery as an institution, while on the other hand recognizing that it’s as old as civilization, that every single one of the millions of owners and owned were humans who displayed the full range of human nature, and that no master-slave relationship was quite alike.

            • Tim Harris
              Posted August 29, 2017 at 6:56 am | Permalink

              What are you, Matt, trying to say? That since we are all individuals, since some slave-owners were nicer than others, and since slave-owning is so wonderfully traditional, that the institution wasn’t really so bad after all?

            • Robert Bray
              Posted August 29, 2017 at 8:21 am | Permalink

              As is so often the case, distinctions are more important than generalities. Compare, for instance, the legal details of Greek and Roman slavery with those of slave states in the southern U.S., ca. 1850. Then remember these soul-crushing words from the Dred Scott decision of 1857:

              ‘They {African slaves} had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.’

              Chattels, in other words, not members of Homo sapiens–and Chief Justice Taney was at pains to point out that the Founders had clearly excluded Africans from the ‘all men are created equal’ language of the Declaration–to be managed as owners saw fit.

              To say that ‘slavery is as old as civilization’ itself is to say nothing significant about slavery in the United States of America.

          • Diane G.
            Posted August 29, 2017 at 1:58 am | Permalink

            I think you need to revisit that sentence yet again. There’s nothing tongue in cheek about it. Jerry’s saying that the subservient behavior portrayed by the slaves in GWTW may have been wholly demanded by the (odious) slave owners. As much it no doubt was. One more way the slaves were denied their dignity as people, one more form of abuse.

            • darrelle
              Posted August 29, 2017 at 7:30 am | Permalink

              Whew! I was hoping someone would straighten that out. Seemed pretty straight forward to me.

              • gothamette
                Posted August 29, 2017 at 10:46 am | Permalink

                The book and the movie work together synergistically.

                I do realize that this discussion is about the movie, but the Mammy character in the book is hardly subservient.

                At the end of the book, she tells off Scarlett in no uncertain and blistering terms. Rhett Butler completely backs up Mammy.

                I don’t worry about Gone With the Wind. Both the book and the movie are too extraordinary to be suppressed by small and petty minds.

              • darrelle
                Posted August 29, 2017 at 11:21 am | Permalink

                This little subthread is primarily about a misinterpretation another commentor made of a single line in the OP which caused that commentor to think that the OP had said exactly the opposite of what he actually said, and that’s it.

                Regarding your criticism of that line from the OP, Mammy was not the only slave in the story, Mammy’s behavior in the context of the story doesn’t necessarily contradict the OP’s statement within the context of the story and most certainly does not in the context of real life, which is the context the OP’s statement was set in.

                And “small and petty minds?” No doubt some of the people complaining about GWtW are worthy of that description but statements like your final paragraph make you sound more similar to them than otherwise.

              • gothamette
                Posted August 29, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

                I don’t need an explanation of the misinterpretation, which I caught.

                Nor was I making a personal comment to anyone here about small and petty minds. But you made a personal comment to me.

                So, go to hell.

              • darrelle
                Posted August 29, 2017 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

                I didn’t think you were calling me names and I wasn’t calling you names. I merely made an observation that your aggressive and uncompromising remark would likely cause some others to categorize you as not all that different than the people you were commenting about. In the same vein, your comment here could further incline some people to lump you into that category that you’d apparently rather they wouldn’t and that, possibly, is unwarranted.

            • Jenny Haniver
              Posted August 29, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

              It’s the “may” that sticks in my craw, which expresses possibility. You write “the subservient behavior portrayed by the slaves in GWTW may have been wholly demanded by the (odious) slave owners.” “May have been wholly demanded”? Thats outrageous. The essence of chattel slavery is subjugation and dehuminization, the essence of slavery is subjugation and dehuminization. No ifs ands or buts about it. There’s that old racist southern chestnut (which persists today) of happy grateful slaves singing and dancing and praising Master and Mistiss who’ve been so good to them. – reminds me of people in North Korea responding to Kim Jong Un, though they don’t sing and dance.

              I was once abducted at gunpoint and later released. When I went to the police, they refused to investigate because they said that I got in the car willingly. Yes, of course, I did, but there was a .38 at the small of my back.

              This article from Vox illustrates precisely what I mean when such equivocations about slavery are allowed to stand unchallenged https://www.vox.com/2015/6/29/8847385/what-i-learned-from-leading-tours-about-slavery-at-a-plantation.

              • Diane G.
                Posted August 30, 2017 at 2:08 am | Permalink

                OK, now I understand where you’re coming from and I agree that a “who doesn’t recognize that such subservient behavior was actually demanded…” would have been a better phrase than the “who’s to say,” etc., in Jerry’s original sentence. I’m confident, though, that Jerry in no way meant to imply that slaves were just naturally submissive and deferential, and I’m surprised you can think him capable of that. We have to remember that Jerry produces an inordinate quantity of prose per day–few of us could produce the equivalent of the 2, 3, or more essays everyday that he does in addition to all the simpler posts plus all his non-bl*g-related activities.

                But instead you chose to assume that our host might not be sufficiently aware of the heinousness of slavery and offer remedial reading. To my ear this bordered on virtue signalling.

                (I agree, though, that my “may” was a horrible choice of word!)

      • GM
        Posted August 28, 2017 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

        So romance never happened in the South and the only thing that was ever going on in the South and the only thing that could be talked about in the context of the South was slavery?

        Is that what you’re saying?

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted August 28, 2017 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

          Puleez.

        • Tim Harris
          Posted August 29, 2017 at 6:57 am | Permalink

          Yes, puleez.

      • aljones909
        Posted August 28, 2017 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

        “I certainly consider it a racist movie; furthermore, it plays right into the odious, romanticization of slavery”

        As adults, I think we can cope. We needn’t be upset by everything that fails to meet current standards of morality. Take the Bible…
        “As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. ”
        Terrible, but we can cope. We don’t need to ban public readings of the Bible.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted August 28, 2017 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

          I did not call for banning the movie.

        • Tim Harris
          Posted August 29, 2017 at 7:03 am | Permalink

          Well, it’s nice to know that aljones909 is an adult. Considering what adults on occasion get up to, it’s not much of a recommendation. I strongly agree with Jenny Haniver’s and Nom de Plume’s perceptive remarks about the film.

      • gothamette
        Posted August 29, 2017 at 10:47 am | Permalink

        Great. Disagree. I disagree with you. So where does that leave us?

        • Tim Harris
          Posted August 30, 2017 at 6:31 am | Permalink

          What it leaves us with is the labour of making our cases on both sides, which would almost certainly be too long for a thread on a website. So if you are suggesting it’s all a matter a taste and arbitrary, it is not so,

    • Nom de Plume
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      For the record, I don’t agree with censoring the film, but the fact remains that it is the worst sort of revisionism and “Lost Cause” romanticism. It’s all happy, sassy black folk who live to serve their masters. And of course their masters are all well-intentioned.

      For another example from around the same time, see “Jezebel” with Bette Davis and Henry Fonda. In fact, you should probably watch that instead of GWTW, since it’s a lot shorter and better acted.

  8. Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    A statue of a war hero is static. It doesn’t really say anything about that person. I don’t think of that as art so much as merely trying to elicit reverence for the person depicted. This is not to say that statures can’t say anything, but a statue of a historical figure rarely does.

    A movie, on the other hand. is not static. It tells a story, it puts people in perspective, and it opens a window on the lives and times of those people. Whether or not you agree with what is being depicted doesn’t make it any less significant. To censor a movie is to hide part of what it’s saying. Movies are art. Even the worst of educational movies (Anybody ever see What to Do on a Date?) provide a window into life, even if it is skewed. I would no sooner censor Gone with the Wind than I would Birth of a Nation, which is quite racist.

  9. Liz
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    “The Eternal Jew” is sickening.

  10. mfdempsey1946
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    For whatever they may be worth, I offer the following comments, written as part of an essay about “Gone With The Wind” for my files some years ago.

    Mammy: The noted critic David Thomson asks if Hattie McDaniel, the first black Oscar winner, gives a good performance. No question about it. Her rendition of a house slave who defies and rebukes her “owners” when she believes that is required, backs down from no one, and wins the unfeigned respect of Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) is, fat black woman stereotype or not, a formidable piece of acting that didn’t need charity from the Academy. She fully holds her own in sustained scenes with all the other leads and credibly makes Mammy a forcefully particularized characterization.

    Prissy: Today Butterfly McQueen’s squeaky-voiced goofiness and panic may induce cringes along the lines of Stepin Fetchit’s performances. But in context she’s playing a dreamy, in-her-own-realm eccentric who has found her special means of self-protection (though the picture never gives her any chance to reveal this except implicitly). No one would take a comparable white character for a slur on the entire white race, but the existence of racism then and now condemns Prissy and McQueen to this fate for the foreseeable future.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      It’s pathetic that the only way an African American could get an Oscar was to Tom.

  11. tubby
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    The new academic year is starting. People take Film History or Narrative Cinema as ‘easy’ classes believing they’ll get to watch Hollywood blockbusters. Instead, that’s where they’ll encounter Birth of a Nation.

  12. busterggi
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    As a fan of HPL I hear this sort of thing all the time – denying racism in the past won’t ever erase it from history, it just needs to be accepted as ‘the way things were’ but not longer has to be.

    • Posted August 29, 2017 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      And perhaps a time to learn how it changed. “Teachable moment” and all.

  13. davidintoronto
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    The issue here (IMO) is whether “Gone With The Wind” can continue to be shown without critical or historical commentary – as part of a lighthearted/generic/nostalgic film festival. (The article says it was part of the Orpheum’s “classic series.”)

    Perhaps future screenings of “GWTW” will need a contextualizing disclaimer, lecture or warning label – as usually happens with screenings of “Birth of a Nation (1915),” “Triumph of the Will, ”etc.

    • Florent
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      Isn’t it a sort of patronizing thing to do, after all ? Those are not movies that you just go and see. The context usually comes in your own rendition of the movie, from the reason that got you to watch it.

      • Craw
        Posted August 28, 2017 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

        It’s more than just patronizing. David still envisions a Decider, who will allow the film to be shown only with a disclaimer– one acceptable to the Decider of course.

        • davidintoronto
          Posted August 28, 2017 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

          No, no Decider. My own views on free speech and censorship closely align to Jerry’s (and, in turn, to Hitch’s and JS Mill’s).

          But I was suggesting that the days of programming “GWTW” as an innocuous entry in a nostalgia film fest (alongside, say, “Wizard of Oz” and “Adventures of Robin Hood”) might be dwindling. Understandably so.

          • Craw
            Posted August 28, 2017 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

            Perhaps I misread your “can”. I took you to mean “would be allowed”. I guess you meant “is practicable”.

            • Jenny Haniver
              Posted August 29, 2017 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

              It seems as if confusion interpreting modal verbs is quite significant in this post — This from the one who unwittingly stepped on “may” and it blew up in her face. I’ve been driven to look at the Wiki on modal verbs. That for starters.

          • BJ
            Posted August 28, 2017 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

            Should we also give such disclaimers for any movie with sexism? If so, where do we stop with all the disclaimers?

          • Paul S
            Posted August 28, 2017 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

            “Innocuous entry in a nostalgia film fest”
            GWTW for those of us who love movies is a lesson in cinematography, set design, direction. To see it in a theater is an experience.
            To those who say you can still see it on Netflix or DVD, would you feel the same about the Mona Lisa or A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte?

    • Posted August 28, 2017 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps future screenings of “GWTW” will need a contextualizing disclaimer, lecture or warning label….

      What an exceedingly patronizing view of the hoi polloi.

  14. Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Films of the time were awash in what we’d call racism today. Other isms too. Same is true, I’ll wager, about today’s films seen through the eyes of people 50 years from now.

    From Ingrid Bergman calling Dooley Wilson “boy” -with affection, not hate- to the way Native Americans were portrayed in almost every film (even Peter Pan), films of the era, like most forms of art in all places at all times, reflect the culture they were created in.

    Sanitizing the past does not help in understanding nor in rising above it.

    • Posted August 28, 2017 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

      Damn straight.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 29, 2017 at 2:08 am | Permalink

      +2

  15. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Frankly, even Rhett Butler would give a damn about this.

    My local art house shows Hollywood classics on the big screen every other Sunday (saw All About Eve, North by Northwest and An Affair to Remember recently). We’ll see if they show GWTW. If so, I’ll be there. I’ll be there if they show Birth of a Nation or a Leni Riefenstahl retrospective, too. When it comes to aesthetics and politics, I’m a firm believer in the separation of church and state.

  16. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    The obviously productive riposte to “Gone With the Wind” is the 2001 novel “The Wind Done Gone” by African-American novelist Alice Randall.
    It retells the story from the point of view of a mulatto slave on the O’Hara plantation. Wikipedia reports “The book consciously avoids using the names of Mitchell’s characters or locations.”

    (This is an old literary device. John Updike’s “Gertrude and Claudius” retells Hamlet, and there are three books recounting “Lolita” from the point of view of Dolores Haze aka Lolita.)

  17. Heather Hastie
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s quite valuable to see movies like ‘Gone With the Wind’. They show how some people thought, and it helps you understand the time they were made in.

    I go back to my comments on sexism. Just about every statue of a man from history depicts a man with what we now recognize are disgusting views on women. Old books and movies inevitably portray women in a misogynistic way. Scarlett O’Hara isn’t exactly a feminist, but you don’t see people refusing to show the movie for that reason. There are some extreme feminist groups who’ve called for that. They’re dismissed, as they should be. Or is the real reason they’re dismissed that women’s equality doesn’t count? Of course that’s not the case. And don’t try to tell me that it’s because there’s no more sexism. That’s like saying racism doesn’t still exist.

    Chillax people! If you don’t want to see the movie, don’t go and see it. That’s all there is to it.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted August 29, 2017 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      Quite so. There are many earlier films showing people smoking, but that doesn’t mean to say that earlier films have no artistic merit or should be censored.

  18. ladyatheist
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Never say “never.” Just because one theater doesn’t want to show it as an annual tradition doesn’t mean that no theater will ever show it.

    Scarlett O’Hara is a stereotype too. The whole book & film are outdated, though it’s a good yarn. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a good yarn, too, but it’s no longer celebrated. Times change.

  19. Craw
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Savonarola.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      Think there’s a distinction between declining to screen a flick and a bonfire of the vanities.

      Not that I approve of either.

  20. David Duncan
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    I would have thought the Regressive Left would have found GWTW salutory. After the slaves are liberated white women (can’t now remember which) are shown working in the field, slowly, and hating it.

  21. yazikus
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Is censorship really the word we want to use for this? A theater has a right (as was noted in the OP) to choose to not screen a film that they think their patrons do not want to see.

    • Craw
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      I’m happy to just call it close-minded, presumptuous bullying if that will help. It’s trying to control what other people see, and makes assumptions about how they will react.

      • yazikus
        Posted August 28, 2017 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

        Theaters are literally in the business of selecting what films they show. People are welcome to go to a different theater that does show what they want. It isn’t bullying in the slightest. GWtW is hardly hard to come by if someone wants to watch it.

        • Craw
          Posted August 28, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

          The bullying is not being done by the theater owners but to them. “All it takes is a social media campaign.”

          • yazikus
            Posted August 28, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

            They chose to respond to the campaign by not showing the film. They could have ignored it. Do you not ever let a company know if you have some issue with a product they promote or carry?

            • Craw
              Posted August 28, 2017 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

              If that’s a serious question, the answer is no. I don’t buy what I don’t approve of, but I don’t try to interfere with other people’s choices.
              I have done the reverse. After American Psycho was banned in Canada the ban was eventually overturned. I ordered a copy through a local bookstore. They, reacting perhaps to people like you, declined to order such a book. I told them they had lost a regular and frequent customer.

              • yazikus
                Posted August 28, 2017 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

                “People like you”
                People like me? How is you telling them they’ve lost you as a customer as a result of their actions any different than what we are discussing?

              • Craw
                Posted August 28, 2017 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

                They lost me as a customer because they refused to sell me a book, not because they were willing to sell someone else one.
                You say, “sell Craw that book and I’ll boycott you”. See the difference?

            • Posted August 28, 2017 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

              If I don’t like a particular product I don’t buy it, I don’t threaten to organise a boycott of their other products.

              • yazikus
                Posted August 28, 2017 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

                I think consumer feedback is useful to companies, but that might just be me.

              • Craw
                Posted August 28, 2017 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

                The consumer feedback you mean is “sell Craw a book I don’t like him reading and I boycott you.” Rather different from “I don’t like the cover.”

            • Posted August 28, 2017 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

              And had they ignored the complaints, who do you think would’ve shown up outside the theater?

              • yazikus
                Posted August 28, 2017 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

                How many would actually hoof it down there? I don’t know. I’m just struggling to drum up any outrage for this one theater deciding not to show GWtW.

        • darrelle
          Posted August 28, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

          By bullying I think Craw is probably talking about the people that contacted the theater to protest the showing of the movie. I think characterizing those people as “trying to control what other people see, and makes assumptions about how they will react” is fairly accurate.

          Regarding censorship, that a movie theater has the legal right to choose what films they show does not mean that what they are doing is not censorship. At the least this movie theater is knowingly allowing themselves to be used as a tool for censorship. Sure, they can legally do that. It may not even have any significant impact, ever. That doesn’t mean it isn’t censorship though.

          • Randy schenck
            Posted August 28, 2017 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

            On the exact same side as you and Craw. I think the old saying is – beating a dead horse.

    • GM
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      The most successful mechanisms of mind control are those that leave the controlled unaware of their existence and influence.

      You calling for this not be labeled censorship strays exactly into that territory

    • GM
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      The most successful mechanisms of mind control are those that leave the controlled unaware of their existence and influence.

      You calling for this not be labeled censorship strays exactly into that territory

  22. Dianne Marie Leonard
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    What do you mean that Gone w the Wind is “not a bad film”? It’s a horrible film! Yes, racist (as it was in the 30s here), but the rape scene is totally sanitized. That’s the critique of GWTW from back in the 70s, when sanitizing rape was a horrible thing to happen. (Remember women didn’t have rape crisis centers then, either.) I hated it when I saw it in the late 60s, hated the book too, which was assigned in high school. Disgusting! (Of course, it’s your right to love hateful, disgusting films and books. It’s a free country, after all.)

    • Sarah
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      There is no rape scene in GWTW. There is an offstage session of love-making between Scarlett and Rhett when their marriage is on the rocks, but it is quite clear in the novel that it was not rape.

    • BJ
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      You realize that saying something is a great film is not condoning everything within it, yes? Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will is a great film because it is remarkable and groundbreaking from an artistic perspective.

      • Posted August 28, 2017 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

        TRIUMPH OF THE WILL is a magnificent cinematic work (Riefenstahl’s OLYMPIA even better). It’s also highly informative as to how cleverly the Nazis appealed to the general public — in addition to the impressive pageantry, the speeches included in the film all talk about jobs, public works, and peace.

    • Posted August 29, 2017 at 6:39 am | Permalink

      DML’s comment is an uncivil comment, and by that I mean its last sentence. Since I don’t expect you to apologize, I urge you to find other sites to post on, ones where you can be rude to your host.

  23. Sarah
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    The film of Gone with the Wind doesn’t necessarily reflect attitudes in 1939. It is set in the 1860s and it would be ludicrous to portray black slaves according to some modern notion of them. The film has distorted and simplified the novel, but Margaret Mitchell went to enormous trouble to get the details right, including attitudes of her black and white characters. She read unpublished diaries and extensive archives and sifted through photographs of the period. She created characters, not stereotypes (although she admitted that Rhett Butler was something of a stock villain). Mammy and Prissy were both slaves. (And yes, Scarlett O’Hara is a proto-feminist if you read GWTW carefully.)

    • Posted August 28, 2017 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      Such is the problem with bringing written work to the screen – much of the complexity and nuance is lost. The Mammy character in the book is well written and complex though very much from a sanitized view of slavery common at the time. In the movie, Mammy is more a caricature.

      • Sarah
        Posted August 28, 2017 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

        I don’t know if we can call the slave characters “sanatized”. We are seeing society through Scarlett’s eyes. She has been taught to be nice to the house slaves and she doesn’t have much to do with the field hands. GWTW is not a sociological study, but I think some readers suppose that it should be.

      • Diane G.
        Posted August 29, 2017 at 2:20 am | Permalink

        “Such is the problem with bringing written work to the screen – much of the complexity and nuance is lost.”

        Exactly.

        Having first read the book, I was very disappointed by the movie.

    • Historian
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

      It is virtually impossible to compose a work, whether fiction or non-fiction, that does not reflect to some extent the contemporary values of the composer. Thus, Gone with the Wind, book and movie, reflect the values of the 1930s as much as the 1860s. During the 1930s, a highly romanticized view of the South was prevalent when “Lost Cause” ideology ruled the land. For instance, slavery was viewed as not so bad, if for nothing else it civilized and Christianized the savage. In other words, the premise of Gone with the Wind was thoroughly racist. Such a movie could never be made today and the book would never become a best seller. People today who see the movie should understand that it tells more about the 1930s than the 1860s. The trouble is how to get people to understand this.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 28, 2017 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

        In the same way that the westerns made by John Ford and Howard Hawks in the ’30s & ’40s & 50s differed from the ones made in the ’60s & ’70s by Sam Peckinpah and Sergio Leone — and all of them say more about their own times than about the late 19th-century West.

      • Sarah
        Posted August 28, 2017 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

        Margaret Mitchell was of course writing in the 20s and 30s, but she was also very scrupulous about getting the facts of the historical period right. GWTW was sometimes lumped in with the romantic, nostalgic vision of the Old South, but if anything is anti-romantic and anti-nostalgic. Among other things, it is about resisting the lure of nostalgia for a lost world.

        • Historian
          Posted August 28, 2017 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

          In July 2015 noted constitutional scholar Cass Sunstein wrote a review of Gone with the Wind, the book, in the Atlantic in the context of displaying Confederate flags. He notes: “To be sure, its presentation of slavery is appalling. But at its core, it’s much less about politics than it is about the human heart. “I actually read the book a long, long time ago. I remember liking it since it was very written and had compelling characters. But, its interpretation of the Old South as a backdrop to the romantic tale, presents a world that did not exist except in the minds of those who have an inclination to defend it.

          Margaret Mitchell may very well have done a lot of research and gotten most of the facts correct. Many other researchers of Mitchell’s era did lots of research well. The problem is that the ethos of the age and individual biases affect how the facts are interpreted. Mitchell interpreted the facts regarding slavery in a way you would not see today except from neo-Confederates.

          So, Gone with the Wind is a great read for a romantic novel, but leaves the reader with a fantasized view of the Old South, particularly in regard to slavery. As Sunstein points out: “Not one of Mitchell’s slaves complains of slavery or welcomes freedom.”

          https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/gone-with-the-wind-confederacy/398663/

          • Sarah
            Posted August 28, 2017 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

            This view of the novel has a long history and goes back to Malcolm Cowley writing in The New Republic in September 1936. His review makes one suspect that he simply had not read the novel, or not past the first few pages. He thought it was all about a romantic view of the Old South, plantations, magnolias and so forth. (Margaret Mitchell thought his review was hilarious.) GWTW became a kind of political football then and later. Speaking of him and some other critics she said, “I wish some of them would actually read the book and review the book I wrote–not the book they imagine I’ve written or the book they think I should have written.”
            (Disclosure: I have just written a book of essays about GWTW [“The GWTW Fortnight”] and so it is fresh in my mind.)

      • Posted August 28, 2017 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

        People today who see the movie should understand that it tells more about the 1930s than the 1860s. The trouble is how to get people to understand this.

        Well, stopping folks from seeing it at all sure ain’t the answer.

      • Robert Bray
        Posted August 29, 2017 at 8:56 am | Permalink

        ‘It is virtually impossible to compose a work, whether fiction or non-fiction, that does not reflect to some extent the contemporary values of the composer.’

        I would argue that it’s ACTUALLY impossible, though the goal of historically real representation is more approachable in fiction than film. The first is (of course) the work of a single creator, while the second is a product of a rather large collective, many of whose most powerful members care not a whit for, say, all the research that Margaret Mitchell did in preparation for GWTW. In my experience films almost always decenter and enervate the books they are putatively based on, leaving the audience with a version of ‘historical reality’ calculated to garner a wide audience, which in turn pays the actors’ salaries and makes oodles of money for the studios.

        Historian’s point is, I think, a very good one: it is impossible to make anything cultural about the past–statue, painting, novel (is music an exception?)–without the sub-text of the maker’s life informing that which she makes. Trouble is, we can’t fully know how context is working in her, or us if we’re doing the creating, since it is largely memetic and unconscious.

        While thinking of Mitchell and GWTW, it is natural for me also to think of Faulkner, a couple of hundred miles to the west, drinking, thinking and writing late into the Mississippi night in his eccentrically brilliant attempt to get to the root of the evil patrimony of slavery that so cursed him and his white forebears. The resulting fiction, to my taste, comes much closer than GWTW to a perfect integration of past and (his) present, and remains a warning sentinel for our future.

        Yet, like Twain’s ‘Huckleberry Finn,’ Faulkner’s ‘The Sound and the Fury’ has come under attack for no other reason than its use of the ‘N-word.’ When I assert that we NEED Faulkner’s and Twain’s fictional worlds the better to understand our own, I really mean it. NEED, for our moral salvation!

  24. Richard Jones
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Dickens seems to be trying to make amends for his portrayal of Fagin with Mr Riah in Our Mutual Friend. He is forced to be a front for the villain, Fledgeby the money lender, but comes to realise he is giving Jews a bad name.

    Dickens was an abolitionist and a complex character who could perform great acts of kindness (not to mention his literary genius) and at the same time treat his blameless wife horribly.

  25. Katiness Everdeen
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    When movies portraying sexism are pulled from the theaters, the end of a paradigm will have arrived.

  26. jimroberts
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    YouTube says “This video is not available in your country”, which is Germany.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      “Gone with the Wind”, or the Nazi film?
      The latter may well fall under the anti-Nazi symbology laws.

      • jimroberts
        Posted August 29, 2017 at 2:28 am | Permalink

        Sorry, I didn’t make that clear. I meant the Nazi film, and you’re probably right that it’s due to anti-Nazi laws.

        • Posted August 29, 2017 at 6:38 am | Permalink

          That’s unforgivable: part of Germany trying to erase its Nazi past. Why shouldn’t Germans be allowed to see that movie?

          • Michiel
            Posted August 29, 2017 at 7:45 am | Permalink

            Well, Germany is still pretty caught up in it’s guilt complex from WW2. Freedom of speech is not as absolute as in the USA (it isn’t really in most of Europe) and yes they do censor Nazi stuff, as well as violent video games (at least they used to, not sure if that still continues). Holocaust denial is a crime, and it seems that criticizing islam is also dangerous these days and can land you in jail.

  27. Sarah
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I think the reason we get excited about seeing slaves depicted in 19th century America as though they were a normal part of life–as they were in north Georgia where GWTW is set–is that it is so close to us. If we saw a realistic film about ancient Rome we would not be so shocked by the slaves in that society, because that society is safely in the distant past and nothing to do with us. The film departs a bit from the novel here and there, but the depiction of the slaves is about the same, given the different medium.

    • GM
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      Yes, but still, if you are outraged that there are slaves in GWTW and that the movie isn’t all about the horrors of slavery, you have to apply the same criterion to all movies about Ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt, about the Arabs, Ottomans, Berbers, the various tribes in Africa, North and South America, etc.

      It was still slavery, people were still sold, chained, flogged, castrated, raped, beaten, etc.

      If you don’t apply the same criterion you are a hypocrite, plain and simple.

      Of course we already know that hypocrites is precisely what these people are, after all for them manspreading is a bigger problem than the attitudes towards women in Islamic societies.

    • Posted August 28, 2017 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

      It’s important to recognize how unremarkable slavery was for such a long time in such a large part of our nation. Mitchell has been criticized for placing slavery as merely a backdrop, scenery, to her story. Yet that was exactly what it was, and we should wrap our heads around that.

      And no, I agree with GM — the outrage is about something else.

      • GM
        Posted August 28, 2017 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

        It is indeed

        Let’s mention another unmentionalbe — there are still millions of slaves around the world even if slavery is legally outlawed everywhere.

        Basically all of the are owned by “people of color”, mainly in the Arab world and Sub-Saharan Africa, plus quite a few in South Asia, and Latin America.

        The only slaves owned by white people are women victims of sex trafficking, they are mostly white themselves too, and they are used for a very specific purpose and are generally not slaves for life (while modern-day slavery in Africa is much closer to what was practiced in the South before the Civil War).

        I have yet to see a race activists touch that subject.

        • Tim Harris
          Posted August 29, 2017 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

          In fact, I have come across mentions of contemporary slavery in many places. On what grounds do you say it is unmentionable? How did you learn about it?

        • Posted September 4, 2017 at 10:39 am | Permalink

          Engaging hyper-jump out of cognitive dissonance zone in 3, 2, 1 ….

      • Tim Harris
        Posted August 29, 2017 at 7:51 am | Permalink

        What unpleasant nonsense. Sarah’s point is a valid one, and to pretend otherwise is a mere evasion. And then there is the immediate recourse, because Sarah is a woman, to a disgustingly prejudiced and unwarranted remark about feminists.

        As for GM’s remarks, slavery was not of course unremarkable for the slaves.

        Thank Whatever for Mark Twain, who, particularly in ‘Pudd’nhead Wilson’, did not sentimentalise slavery or try to justify it on the grounds that it was a mere ‘backdrop’ which we should ‘wrap our heads around’. Perhaps we should learn to wrap our heads around the slaughter of European Jewry because it was after all a backdrop to the real action that was going on in Europe…

        • Diane G.
          Posted August 29, 2017 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

          “And then there is the immediate recourse, because Sarah is a woman, to a disgustingly prejudiced and unwarranted remark about feminists.”

          I’m glad other people recognize this pattern.

          • Posted September 4, 2017 at 10:43 am | Permalink

            And … here come the accusations of thinkcrime. That didn’t take long.

            • Tim Harris
              Posted September 4, 2017 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

              Perhaps Matt, instead of proceeding by innuendo and cryptic quip, would like to spell out what he means.

  28. Craw
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Some find GWTW offensive because of how it shows slaves. But there are others who find it offensive because of how it shows women — without burkas.

    • GM
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      Let’s talk about the hypocrisy of finding it offensive because of how it shows slaves.

      By that logic the great majority of movies about the ancient world should be banned too. Because slaves were even more a standard part of life back then (there wasn’t really an abolitionist movement in the vast majority of societies that held slaves) and that is how it is portrayed in the movies too. With some exceptions, primarily movies that focus on the lives of slaves, but those are a minority. In the ones that center on the grand historical figures of the times slaves are just background part of normal life, and even more so than in GWTW.

      So why is GWTW causing outrage but something like Cleopatra isn’t?

      Isn’t that hypocritical if slavery is the real issue? Or maybe slavery is only an issue when certain people are slaves and not when others are…

      • Posted August 28, 2017 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

        In SPARTACUS we all know where the non-consensual bath scene with Tony Curtis and Laurence Olivier is heading. Ban that one, too.

      • Robert Bray
        Posted August 29, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

        ‘So why is GWTW causing outrage but something like Cleopatra isn’t?’

        I’ll assume that this isn’t a rhetorical question (although it probably is). My answer:

        Whoever Cleopatra may have been, she and her civilization are no more. The eponymous film depicts, with no attempt at historical realism, something that is well and truly over (if it ever existed at all).

        The African descendants of those whose actuality as slaves lay behind GWTW, however, live on as citizens of the U. S. today. Second class citizens, too often, subject to overt racism, covert racism and, in the South, the ‘New Jim Crow’ and the Republicans’ ‘Southern Strategy.’

        In other words, the link to the past is organic: the great- great- great- great-grandsons and granddaughters of slaves still feel the pain, not of chattel slavery, but of white racism.

        Generalize all you wish about the universality of slavery in human society. But at least admit that there are differences in kind–both historically and in its popular cultural representations. GWTW is not like Spartacus–because Roman slavery is long dead, and has no aftermath. I certainly don’t want to see GWTW ‘banned;’ but I just as certainly do want it properly placed in the living chain of American memory.

        • Diane G.
          Posted August 30, 2017 at 3:08 am | Permalink

          Very well said.

  29. Posted August 28, 2017 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  30. Posted August 28, 2017 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    As silly as it is at times, GWTW is a valuable historical resource on the romanticization of the Antebellum South. But it also contains some unforgiving depictions of that milieu, such as when Rhett Butler notes that the North is very strong in manufacture; the South bereft of even a single cannon factory. His fellows deem that unimportant — they must fight as they have been “insulted.” The famous arial shot of the wounded in Atlanta, and the general ruination that the war brings, deliberately juxtapose with the initial jauntiness and naive brio of the young gallants.

    Yes, slavery is portrayed as somewhat benign (at least for the house slaves), but Mitchell did not write a polemic defense of slavery per se. Mitchell’s depiction should not be feared as heretical; rather explored, debated, and understood.

    • Sarah
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

      It is also good to remember that almost everything (there are a few small exceptions) is seen through Scarlett’s eyes. She is 16 when the novel opens and 28 when it ends. She has been through a lot in those years, but she hasn’t necessarily seen every corner of society and we shouldn’t expect a comprehensive view of it. We see only the slaves that Scarlett knows personally, and they are not a cross section. We are obsessive about the “peculiar institution” but Scarlett is not.

  31. Posted August 28, 2017 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    The Merchant of Venice is undoubtedly anti semitic, but redeemed somewhat by Shylock’s great “Hath not a Jew eyes?” speech.

    • Posted August 28, 2017 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

      And Portia’s wonderful “quality of mercy” plea. It is a play with great merit. It is too bad the antisemitism of Shakespeare’s time, which the play reflects, ruins it for us.

  32. kevin7alexander
    Posted August 29, 2017 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    … denounced the film’s portrayal of blacks and its romanticized view of the Old South….>/blockquote>
    Romanticised!? Did they miss Rhett Butler’s speech to the idiots celebrating the war?

  33. Tim Harris
    Posted August 29, 2017 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    I recommend reading Kieran Ryan on ‘The Merchant of Venice’ in his book ‘Shakespeare’, in which he points out the justice of Shylock’s charges, in particular in the great speech beginning ‘Hath not a Jew eyes?’, and the manner in which Shylock lays bare the actual values of Christian Venice, as opposed to those the Christian citizens would like to think they live by. The play is far from being straightforwardly anti-Semitic.

    ‘Oliver Twist’- Fagin is a disgracefully anti-Semitic portrait, and I find the book painful to read for that reason, partly because Dickens is, unlike Margaret Mitchell, so good a writer. And then there is the film with Alec Guinness…

    • Posted August 29, 2017 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      I’m an outsider, so I’ve always wondered if I was missing something when reading _Merchant of Venice_ (I’ve never seen it performed). It struck me as being very sympathetic to Shylock. Apparently people complain (for example) because his daughter converts to Christianity, but I don’t see that including that makes the *play* (nevermind Shakespeare) AS. It makes the fictional (but realistic?) environment such, of course, as it no doubt well was, but …

      IOW, I wonder if people commit the “pathetic fallacy” here.

      • Tim Harris
        Posted August 29, 2017 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

        One very clear thing about Shakespeare is his ability to look at issues from virtually every side and not to reduce them to some easy conclusion. You can see this, too, in Othello, where Iago assumes in his soliloquies (directed to the audience in Shakespeare’s day) that the audience are as racist as he, and then proceeds to tear down before us a man who for all his faults has great natural nobility and authority. The turning-point in the play is Iago’s delivery of a disgustingly racist insult which he pretends not to have really made.

        Shylock’s power and depth of feeling shows up the shallowness of the Venetian world, as Henry Irving, the great Victorian actor, saw and showed.

        Rather than Shakespeare, who in those plays examines anti-Semitism and racism and calls them into question, it is the constant and virtually unnoticed (though have come to notice it) racism and anti-Semitism that infects much popular literature that infuriates me. For example, the denigration of Asians as treacherous that you find rather too often for comfort in G.K. Chesterton’s ‘Father Brown’ stories, the mild anti-Semitism (but no less anti-Semitism for that) which you find in writers like Agatha Christie, and the pervasive racism and misogyny of Ian Fleming’s stories; in these ‘works’, racism and anti-Semitism and misogyny are seen – well, they are not really seen – they are presented as more or less norms, the sort of thing all right-thinking people (particularly in the case of Fleming if they are male as well as white) naturally feel.

  34. CJColucci
    Posted August 29, 2017 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I remember protests back in the 70’s against Merchant of Venice being assigned in high school and against a celebrated production, resulting in an awkward and disingenuous prologue by the star.

  35. Posted September 3, 2017 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    I have a suggestion. Everybody who believes in freedom of speech, let’s create a GoFundMe site to purchase a big, very secure, warehouse — and in it, store all the statues, books, films, recordings, etc. that thin-skinned professionally Sensitive people whine about. Keep the assorted works carefully preserved and protected until society moves on to a more mature culture. Perhaps we can call it a cultural Time Capsule to preserve it. In a century or two, wiser and more mature people will rediscover an amazing treasure.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted September 3, 2017 at 1:02 am | Permalink

      ‘Rohingya children have been beheaded and civilians burned alive, according to witness testimony amid claims that Burma’s military and paramilitary forces are committing “genocide” or a “pogrom” against the Muslim minority in the country’s western Rakhine state.’

      Francis Wade, the author of a book about violence against the Rohingya, said on Twitter: “What’s happening in Myanmar can be dressed up as counter-insurgency campaign, but in design and purpose, it’s a pogrom and has popular support.”’

      You know, Mr Fish, you are a rather lucky man, from a rather lucky country (for people like you at least). Others are neither lucky, nor living in countries are that are lucky. The pogroms against the Rohingya did not start and are not continuing in some sort of peculiar space where words and action exist in two wholly separate worlds. There has for a number of years been a constant stirring up of violence against the Rohingya by means not of sign language of telepathy but of words. ‘…thin-skinned, professionally Sensitive people who whine’ – only someone who has small understanding of what free speech genuinely is and no understanding of what integrity in speech in could have written those words, with their lazy appeal to prejudice and the supposed superiority of Mr Leslie Fish and people like him.

      • Diane G.
        Posted September 4, 2017 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

        Tim, this comment of yours has lingered uncomfortably with me and I wasn’t sure why; only that it seemed harsher than anything Mr. (Ms.?) Fish deserved. (Based on the single comment above…perhaps you’ve been following his/her input and have more context than I do.)

        It seems to me that in the discussion here it’s been assumed that we’re speaking of first world democracies, which perhaps we can hold to different standards than the rest of the world. While the situation in Rohingya is appalling, I don’t think any of us in this discussion were thinking of tormented peoples under despotic reign while addressing the topic of whether or not GWTW should be publicly screened…

        That other parts of world are in far more dire straits doesn’t mean the West, et al, should not continue trying to improve their own critical thinking. (Without denying their many other world-wide obligations, and certainly without considering first world problems as in anyway comparable to genocide.)

  36. Tim Harris
    Posted September 5, 2017 at 1:36 am | Permalink

    Dear Diane,
    I am sorry if what I said was overly harsh , and apologise also to Leslie Fish, too, if I was too harsh to him (or her). Still, it really does not seem to me that L. Fish’s comment, with its recourse to a thoughtless and bigoted cliche, designed to appeal to like-minded people, about ‘…thin-skinned, professionally Sensitive people who whine’ could be regarded as any sort of contribution to an improvement in our critical thinking about such issues as free speech. Such recourse to insulting cliches stops thought; it doesn’t encourage it. Who are these contemptible people? Very often, it seems they are people who disagree with you and labelling them as belonging to some group you dislike for some reason, right or wrong, allows you the luxury of not bothering to listen and see if they have anything worthwhile to say.

    I am afraid I think it is worth making reference to other countries and cultures, as well as to different histories, since the idea that words and physical actions exist in two wholly separate spheres seems dangerously wrong, and all too often people in the First World seem to think that the First World is all that exists and that ‘free speech’ is some kind of theological imperative handed down from above, and not something that has been historically fought for and achieved (to a degree) and that needs to be protected in our continuing history.

  37. Tim Harris
    Posted September 5, 2017 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    I should like to add, regarding the First World business, that Germany was at the outset of the last century quite definitely a member of the First World, as it is now. That did not stop it collapsing into barbarism. At present, Hungary & Poland, having thrown off the shackles of Communism, are moving more and more towards some sort of tyranny, as of course is Turkey. Censorship is certainly metastasizing in these places, to borrow PCC’s words. Britain has voted for BREXIT, the USA for Donald Trump. It was not very long ago that massacres were taking place in the heart of Europe, after the break-up of Yugoslavia. There is Ukraine and Russia (no doubt neither are respectably First World).The First World is not necessarily immune to the kinds of dangers that afflict other ‘worlds’.

    In the US, censorship is being used with respect to, among other things, climate change, and life is not so easy, I understand, at the Environment Agency, under Mr Pruitt. Scientists and others are being silenced. This sort of censorship seems to me to be far more important than attempts to stop the Confederate flag being used or to remove statues celebrating Confederate ‘heroes’, or even a certain movie festival’s decision not to screen ‘Gone with the Wind’. I wonder at this constant bashing away at entities like ‘the regressive left’, feminists who complain about ‘man spreading’,‘…thin-skinned, professionally Sensitive people who whine’, ‘hypocrites’ who are unable to see that since slavery has been so common throughout human history, that American slavery is somehow all right, a background that we should ‘wrap our heads around’, or that since everything is purely individual and slave-owners were individuals, some nicer than others, slavery as an institution, or a variety of rather different institutions, didn’t really exist and slavery in whatever age was (and is) always somehow the same… And yet the censorship I have mentioned scarcely seems to impinge upon certain commentators here, who seem rather to regard themselves as members of a sort of Huffington Post through the Looking Glass than readers of a website that purports to address important issues thoughtfully and responsibly.

  38. Les Faby
    Posted October 3, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    There is one screen out of the 40,000 here that showed the film this year but decided to stop showing it. That is their right. The film remains one of the most screened classic films and has not been banned. If enough people want to see it, one of the 40,000 screens will fill a theatre, sell you $10 popcorn, and show it. If you want to make money, rent a theatre and the owners will gladly rent you a print.
    I enjoy the movie and saw it in a movie palace a year ago. That theatre in uber-liberal Palo Alto will show it again.
    As per your headline “You’ll never see gone with the wind in a theatre again”, if I want to, I can. I’d put money on that.


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