Hot on the heels of yesterday’s post about Dr. Seuss books whose printing will be discontinued due to questionable stereotypical caricatures (you can read that here), Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is set to host a new series in which they present, and explore, 18 classic films which, in this day and age, may be viewed as problematic in the way they depict certain events/people.
The New York Post offers a story regarding this, if you’re curious:
The 18 films they will present are:
Gone With the Wind (1939)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
The Four Feathers (1939)
Woman of the Year (1942)
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
Gunga Din (1939)
Sinbad, the Sailor (1947)
The Jazz Singer (1927)
The Searchers (1956)
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Swing Time (1936)
Tarzan, the Ape Man (1959)
My Fair Lady (1964)
The Children’s Hour (1961)
Dragon Seed (1944)
I’m familiar with almost all the films and have seen a number of them.
The ones that stick out, to me, are Gone With The Wind, a magnificent, epic film that nonetheless perpetuates the idea of a “noble” Confederacy in its Civil War loss. Its tough, especially these days, to view this bucolic vision and ignore the fact that the Civil War, and the Confederacy, were about keeping the hideous institution of slavery. Not to mention, in the novel -though they kept that from appearing in the movie- Rhett and several of the male characters within it were members of the KKK!
I noted before that when I went to High School I went to a boarding school in Jacksonville, Florida and was rather shocked to see trucks with Confederate Flag stickers on their bumpers or on the side of the cars.
This has changed over the years and my most recent excursions to Jacksonville, taken within the past year, have shown the city has moved on. I don’t recall seeing a single car with a Confederate flag on it.
Similarly, I remember in one of my first years in College attending a film appreciation/analysis class and we were offered different movies across different genres and for musicals we were given the Astaire/Rogers musical Swing Time.
When I saw the film, I recall it was an animated, rather typical musical and, truthfully, I didn’t think much of it afterwards, forgetting most of the story.
Many, many years later, it was on TCM and I wrote about my incredulous reaction to the blackface “Bojangles” number in the film.
Now, maybe close to twenty five years or so had passed since seeing Swing Time but it sure does show how with the passage of time opinions of things can change.
I don’t recall when I originally saw Swing Time in that class, likely in the mid to late 1980’s or very early 1990’s having any issues or even thoughts about the Bojangles number and the blackface employed. Mind you, it was wrong then and it remains wrong now -the use of “blackface” is deeply offensive- only back then I suppose I was so sheltered and/or oblivious that it didn’t register to me at that time.
However, when I watched the film again for the first time since then back in 2020, that scene totally shocked me and, worse, I couldn’t believe how it didn’t do so back then.
Anyway, there you have it. If you’re interested in seeing any of these classic films with problematic elements and want to hear interesting analysis about these elements, TCM is the place to go!