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New Yorker Facebook Movie Club discussion on the cancelling of "Gone With the Wind"

Lois Ambash
 shared a link.
August 30 at 7:29am
How do you feel about this?

The theater will no longer show the film as part of its summer series because of concerns of the film’s racial insensitivity.

Jocelyn Dunphy You know here's the thing: making any movie part of an annual screening sets it apart. I say cancel the annual screening but periodically screen it along with any other classic Hollywood films.

Julia Lagrua You're right, an annual screening gives it cultural stature. It's just a movie and one that was dated culturally at the time it was made. The movie, and the book it was based on, portrayed slavery and the confederacy as a noble cause and white southerners as victims. Well made movie, big glamorous stars, beautiful costumes and the first oscar winning performance by a black actor but not a film to admire for it's cultural message.

Patrick McEvoy-Halston Julia Lagrua But to be fair, we should probably expect for every movie that we really favour before, say, 1960, to receive the same treatment. There's not a film out there before that date that matches our expectations for... that aren't compared to contemporary standards, more patriarchal, that communicate adverse cultural messages. We have to be careful we're not deliberately shaming the South because we need it for our own equilibrium--that is, to demonstrate that there's nothing guilty about us; it's all out there in hillbilly territory. So I say yes, but also whisk away, say, Vertigo, from "cultural stature," and rather periodically screen it along with other films, to show that part of what we're up to isn't to keep ourselves hoisted over the imbeciles in hillbilly country--a kind of violence itself, so to keep ourselves feeling stately/statue"y."

Jocelyn Dunphy it's tricky, that's for sure. Different people even within a culture have different 'tolerances' for racism, sexism, etc., in film even while we acknowledge the film's historical context. Makes it all that more difficult to make decisions about where to draw the line.

Virginia Kelley I don't like any kind of primitive book-burning impulse but right now this seems necessary so I wouldn't object.

The intensification of real recognition of our slave history is important, raw feeling is at the surface, it's okay to put this aside for awhile where heralded publication events are concerned.

Vlasis Kalabokas well,that is a good point

Patrick McEvoy-Halston I agree. But there are two things happenings now: one is Charlottetown, and the other is the squashed-down, white working class worker. We could de-emphasize "Gone With the Wind," but perhaps also, to demonstrate fidelity with their plight/concerns, contemporary films we've recently enjoyed which make the white working class seem odious; as people we should want to disregard and harm. If we have a tough time doing that, we should ask ourselves if we still have a need to hate... somebody, at least, even as we can cloak it so that it is absolutely invisible to ourselves. If racists reformed themselves so there was nobody out there for us to hate at all, we should know if this would actually make us feel ill at ease, because suddenly we can't disown things about ourselves into other people. Could we really do without our yearly arrival of Oscar-fetted "Spotlight(s)," with dollops of favour for us and without an ounce of empathy for the villains?

Celine Adrianna Negrete This is a non-profit independent movie theatre in a Memphis neighborhood making a decision based on what their community asked for. 
This is not the "soviet union".
Clearly, some of you have no understanding of the film exhibition business, in particular as to how independent non-profit theatres operate.

Patrick McEvoy-Halston I think you need to fit what this non-profit independent movie theatre, reacting entirely to what their community asked for, within the larger contemporary context where icons that were esteemed in the past are being dismantled, regardless of what a considerable portion of the population -- the larger community -- thinks: "you liked Andrew Jackson--tough f*cking luck: he's off the d*mn bill." If I posted this link, and I gotchaed them by saying, hey, why is it you easily-upset people can't even handle what a small non-profit, in full correspondence of its members asked for, has done, I'd feel a bit ashamed, for I'd of used it as bait to draw in a lot of reasonable people, reacting reasonably (or, rather, at least understandably), for my orgiastic censure. I don't reify the constitution, I really don't ultimately care whether George Washington is forever respected, and would prefer he not be deified, but if I was beginning to make him a symbol of America's racist past... in an environment, where some who were esteemed aren't merely losing a bit of their previous foothold but being cast as objects of shame, I'd know I was imposing upon a lot of people, thinking I knew better than them. It might be FOR the better, and I might be better, more considerate, more evolved, but I'm not exactly going at things with therapeutic niceness but rather casting people whom I don't really like all that much, completely astray.

Mark Schaffer Interestly enough, this film and the book depicts the end of the Confederacy and the subsequent end of slavery in the country.

Marianne Roken

Laura-Jean Kelly Oh great you found it! Thanks!

Julia Lagrua Excellent article.

Laura-Jean Kelly Be great if everyone on this thread will read it

Marianne Roken It is a good article. It makes the point, more cogently than I, that the movie is revisionist history, yet it is also "an uncontested cinematic achievement based on its artistic merits alone."

Patrick McEvoy-Halston It is a very timid article, guys, saying all the right things. Plays to various galleries. The artistic merits of the film surely have been contested, so why is this argued, if not to flatter some, and appease some rising apprehensiveness even amongst Salonistas that comes from reading the article--your populist tastes are awesome, and film-snobs are bad? Why end the article saying, things that were once popular don't always last, but never quietly? Is this 'cause always true, or because that's how we like to drift away from what we read: that nothing has to be settled just now? Why suggest that Charlottetown means the film needs to hid for awhile, when our larger situation is the one the film represents: people surviving with verve when their worlds are turned upside down. Isn't that why the Depression audience connected to it? And what era are we in? Are we bringing up the film now because we're toying with the adverse step of perhaps, en total, "Bill Cosby" banning it, or because unconsciously we're registering that it has more relevant appeal than ever?

Laura-Jean Kelly Salonistas now hehe. Hey check out the next article posted...has a bit more to it.

Patrick McEvoy-Halston Laura-Jean Kelly Okay. Done.

Ellen Geller I don't agree. It is a great movie.

Elizabeth Blakeslee Ann Hornaday, Washington Post Film Critic, makes an excellent case for the theatrer making the showing of GWTW part of a series of films showing other looks at the period and slavery.

Do we remove them? Or put them in a proper context?

Patrick McEvoy-Halston What I'd like to read from an article is a willingness TO ban things outright, if the situation called for it... a lack of trepidation to cast off, if called for. If I don't sense this within a reviewer then I'm never sure whether when they say they'recontextualing and offering an adult, mature response, if what they're actually doing is working around what they're psychologically unprepared for: a good argument for making much of what they've been attracted to and felt social esteem in having mastered, suddenly be rendered useless. (I think perhaps also I sense people sensing we're all being drawn into a vortex, and hoping to keep their Obama years of tiptoeing around the edge kept going as long as possible, for it's the environment in which they've lived well and prospered.) I've read my Milton and registered its art, but also read critiques by some who've done so and decided... the art doesn't balance out the abhorent... cast aside, now, and felt there was nothing ill-considered and immature about their response. What I like about Frederick Crews's new book about Freud is for example that I sense this willingness... no fear in surveying the life of someone considered great, and whom he spent years in mastering, saying, "no, if you picked up Freud and knew immediately there was something fraudulent about him, despite your ignorance you're a step ahead of where I was most of my life... and I'm glad you weren't waylaid by his considerable art in thinking and writing." I say this myself AS a Freudian... but also as someone who senses and respects personal strength, rather than (perhaps?) playing to widespread conventions of what "mature" behaviour is--let's negotiate, not cast aside; let's show the bad so we know it within ourselves -- to keep your own well-situated societal hoist intact. (Would honesty with ourselves ever mean being honest about how apparently little daring is required these days for a lot of people like this reviewer to explore the troubled legacies of times past? What would be harder for her: knowing even more about how awful slavery was, or admitting that there have been times when professions that were full of esteem were cast-off rather abruptly, and art history could become one of them, and rightly, for it being about tethering oneself, finding oneself within, regressive times? [I'm also left to wonder how many people who supposedly are arguing for awareness of their own conflicted nature, have ever felt their way into Hitler and found correspondance... or do they just do what's couth) If the new temperament is to abolish and never turn back, rather than mature-minded they will be made to seem passé, temperamentally rigid, panicky at change, implastic.


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