One of the most revelatory moments in my life happened when it dawned on me that for basically all of time, critics have been white dudes. That means what they elevate and consider classics are by and large a moot point.
They don’t matter, because what I enjoy and what they enjoy rarely intersect.
I mean, it’s beyond stupid that in 2019 the two Oscar frontrunners are a racist story about a white dude finding out racism is, in fact, bad, and a sanitized biopic about a gay icon, directed by an alleged serial abuser (we all read the Atlantic piece, if you haven’t here’s a reminder)— yet here we are. Again. It makes so much more sense once you accept that while the cultural discourse is finally starting to have amplified voices from people whose name aren’t “Chad” or “Bruce” we still have a long ways to go to getting diversity into the default cultural narrative. This basically explains why Gone With the Wind is still considered a classic and gets trotted out for rerelease every decade or so—including now, in 2019.
Can we just not, with this one, please? We have a racist in the White House, at least one unabashed racist in Congress (and undoubtedly dozens more who keep their hoods in the closet at home) do we really need to trot out a movie that glorifies slavery that was made 80 years ago, in 2019?
Can’t we move on from this bulls*it, yet? There’s nothing noble, or splendid about our racist history. While Gone With the Wind is an “important” film in our grand cultural tradition, it’s not because it’s the pinnacle of what art can achieve. It’s a reminder of a bygone time—both in its subject matter and in its production—and should be understood and digested within its contemporary context. Not in f*cking 2019 with a tub of popcorn on date night. Its narrative hurts people. It reinforces a horrible system of white supremacy that is still very much alive today.
We should no longer ignore “classic” cinema and shrug off very valid complaints of the inherently unfair systems it reinforces because it was a bygone time. We have to be better than this. We won’t be able to become better than this until we accept that some of the things we (read: white people) love and consider “classics” are harmful to other people. For f*cks sake, Hattie McDaniel and Butterfly McQueen weren’t even allowed to attend the premiere of the damn movie was they were in, because of segregation. Is this really a movie we need to keep rereleasing?!
It’s time to retire some of the old classics, because embracing them hurts all of us. I find no comfort or joy in watching a movie that makes women of color slaves to white protagonists, and then has the audacity to show that as a loving and caring relationship.
So…can we just not with this movie? Like, ever again? Instead of doing an 80th-anniversary rerelease for Gone with the Wind, let’s celebrate movies that make us better or embrace the best that humanity has to offer. Gone With the Wind does neither.
Header Image Source: MGM