This is new.
John Wayne — who died 40 years ago — is all over Twitter and various news sites due to comments he made eight years prior to his death. Yes, the same Wayne who put on yellowface to portray Genghis Khan in 1956’s The Conqueror made racist comments in 1971 and everyone is pissed today.
What Wayne said to the publication was horribly racist, yes.
“With a lot of blacks, there’s quite a bit of resentment along with their dissent, and possibly rightfully so. But we can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people. “
“I don’t feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago these people were slaves. Now, I’m not condoning slavery. It’s just a fact of life, like the kid who gets infantile paralysis and has to wear braces so he can’t play football with the rest of us. I will say this, though: I think any black who can compete with a white today can get a better break than a white man. I wish they’d tell me where in the world they have it better than right here in America. “
Like, heinously so:
“I’ve directed two pictures and I gave the blacks their proper position. I had a black slave in The Alamo, and I had a correct number of blacks in The Green Berets. If it’s supposed to be a black character, naturally I use a black actor. But I don’t go so far as hunting for positions for them. I think the Hollywood studios are carrying their tokenism a little too far. There’s no doubt that 10 percent of the population is black, or colored, or whatever they want to call themselves; they certainly aren’t Caucasian. Anyway, I suppose there should be the same percentage of the colored race in films as in society. But it can’t always be that way. There isn’t necessarily going to be 10 percent of the grips or sound men who are black, because more than likely, 10 percent haven’t trained themselves for that type of work.”
Wayne was also homophobic:
PLAYBOY: What kind of films do you consider perverted?
WAYNE: Oh, Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy—that kind of thing. Wouldn’t you say that the wonderful love of those two men in Midnight Cowboy, a story about two f**s, qualifies? But don’t get me wrong. As far as a man and a woman is concerned, I’m awfully happy there’s a thing called sex. It’s an extra something God gave us. I see no reason why it shouldn’t be in pictures. Healthy, lusty sex is wonderful.
He was a Republican who held many views still familiar as talking points today:
“Years ago, I didn’t have all the opportunities, either. But you can’t whine and bellyache ‘cause somebody else got a good break and you didn’t, like these Indians are. We’ll all be on a reservation soon if the socialists keep subsidizing groups like them with our tax money.”
“I believe in welfare—a welfare work program. I don’t think a fella should be able to sit on his backside and receive welfare. I’d like to know why well-educated idiots keep apologizing for lazy and complaining people who think the world owes them a living.”
This is a special gem:
“PLAYBOY: What do you think of Nixon’s performance since then?
WAYNE: I think Mr. Nixon is proving himself his own man. I knew he would. I knew him and stuck with him when he was a loser, and I’m sticking with him now that he’s a winner. A lot of extreme rightists are saying that he isn’t doing enough, but I think he’s gradually wading in and getting control of the reins of government.”
As is the way of the internet — and people at large — several tweets flew concerning the new fascination with the interview and its subject matter.
No!!!!! Not well known civil rights activist John Wayne?!— Ronald Funches (@RonFunches) February 19, 2019
Hearing reports that John Wayne, who has been dead for 40 years, is cancelled— Patrick Monahan (@pattymo) February 19, 2019
Feel compelled to add that I'm not a John Wayne fan by any means (exception for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) and he was indeed a huge prick; I just think we have better things to do than denounce his long-since-mouldered corpse https://t.co/vPbNzrNUSi— Kat Rosenfield (@katrosenfield) February 19, 2019
Were times different then? Yes. Does that make it okay? No. Do we have several people in high government positions that we should focus on instead of a dead dude? YES. Holy crap, YES.
The blow-up, meltdown, and fallout from unearthing Wayne and his twisted life view from 40 years ago showcases everything wrong with social media right now. If there isn’t enough outrage, spark some. If there isn’t someone to pile on or bitch about, find a person — even if you have to dig their ass out of the ground.
Whenever one “side” pulls out something from the past, the other uses it to point out the ridiculousness of “the liberals/progressives/far right/socialists/etc.”. People argue back and forth, the rift grows deeper, and Wayne is still so long dead that Jesus couldn’t resurrect him as a party trick. Let go of the things you cannot change and focus on what you can.
You’re allowed to be angry about this. It may be wise, however, to save your true outrage for important things, especially as we come to the long run toward the 2020 election. We don’t have time to be this exhausted when we have so much work ahead of us. Use things like Wayne’s interview as fuel for the fire and not a way to burn yourself out.
Header Image Source: RKO Radio Pictures