Friday, July 3, 2015

Political Correctness And Classic Film

The inspiration for this post is the recent movement to eliminate the Confederate Battle Flag in response to the horrible murders in Charleston, South Carolina. This movement has spread into the world of popular entertainment, with the cable channel TV Land deciding to no longer air reruns of THE DUKES OF HAZZARD.

For those few of you who do not have any knowledge of The Dukes, the show's main characters, Bo & Luke Duke, drive around in a car named the "General Lee" (after the Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee), which has a Confederate Battle Flag painted on its roof. Apparently the flag is so offensive the entire series can no longer be shown. I watched the Dukes regularly when I was a kid, and I certainly wasn't the most sophisticated kid in the world, but I fail to remember any incident in any episode that struck me as racist.

The Confederate Flag controversy has even moved some to suggest that the venerable GONE WITH THE WIND should at the least be "re-examined". I find this to be somewhat ironic, considering that GWTW has been in the spotlight ever since it was in pre-production. I don't know what else you can re-examine when it comes to that film.

I'm not exactly the most liberal guy in the world, but I am definitely no fan of censorship. There's plenty of TV shows, movies, books, and songs that annoy me....but I don't feel the need to demand that they be banned, simply because I don't watch or partake in things I don't like. It would really be nice if I never heard the names "Kardashian" or "Jenner" used in any type of context whatsoever--but I should not have the right to force other people not to watch them. And by that same token, someone else should not try to demand what I should or should not watch.

I know that some will say that because the Confederate Flag is a racial matter, it goes beyond just simple freedom of choice. And I also know that some will say that a White Guy cannot even have an informed opinion on this matter. Nevertheless, I don't believe that banning certain TV shows or movies is going to stop racism.

If you really want to get rid of any filmed entertainment that offends you in some way, you'd better get ready to do some work. Even if you put aside the racial element for just a moment, just about every movie ever made in the 20th Century (and most of the ones made in the 21st Century) can be considered politically incorrect.

For example....are you part of the LGBT community? If you are, you probably wouldn't enjoy any movie that features Edward Everett Horton and his "prissy" act. Do you hate the tobacco industry? Well, you certainly wouldn't like all those old movie actors puffing away like factory chimneys. Do you consider yourself an anti-gun person? You might want to avoid watching TCM, since it appears that everyone in old movies packs heat. Are you a feminist? You can't be too happy with all those stay-at-home wives & mothers, and all those single women making fools of themselves while trying to snag a man. Are you offended by body shaming? Then you certainly won't like the hundreds and hundreds of Golden Age Hollywood cuties who have perfect faces and figures, or the numerous classic comedies that make fun of overweight individuals.

I could go on and on and on. Every movie has the capacity to offend someone in some way.

Many old movie buffs have wrestled with the problem of how to express their love for classic cinema without seeming to endorse some of the less-than-appealing sentiments that show up in certain films. I don't think anyone has to apologize for loving older films. I have to admit that I have had several cringe-inducing moments while viewing older films and TV shows. You have to put those moments into context. I fully realize that to some, those "moments" are totally unacceptable.

But to say that because of those moments, a film or a TV show must be suppressed...well, I just can't agree with that. If anything, censorship makes the product being censored even more appealing (according to social media maven Will McKinley, who broke the TV Land-Dukes story, the home video collections of the Dukes show are now selling like crazy). Remember the whole bugaboo about THE INTERVIEW? I'm still convinced it was all a ploy to get a lousy movie some attention.

I feel that cinema, particularly classic cinema, is an art form. I would hate for that art form to be wiped out, or even marginalized, simply because of political correctness. If social media has done anything, it has given millions of people a voice...but it has also allowed those people a platform to whine, moan, and complain about everything under the sun. It amazes me the inordinate amount of time people on the left & right spend disparaging the other side on the internet. What the average person is really offended about is the fact that there are people out there who do not have the same views as they do. If a certain movie or TV show offends you in some way, might I humbly suggest that you...just don't watch it?

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