Over the past four months a social movement has taken to new platforms. The cultural changes being requested by minority groups from all over the world have reached television and film as well.
In mid-June, HBO removed Gone with the Wind from their streaming platform. Hulu removed an episode of The Golden Girls from their platform. Both pieces of film represented black-face and racial injustices.
Continuing in the same vein, other streaming platforms have removed an episode of Fawlty Towers as well. In the episode, a major general Veteran of the second world war says micro-aggressive statements to Basil Fawlty throughout his stay at Fawlty’s bed and breakfast.
The creator of the series, John Cleese, made a statement that, “The Major was an old fossil left over from decades before. We were not supporting his views; we were making fun of them. If they can’t see that, if people are too stupid to see that, what can one say.”
I agree with Cleese. Shows like his, and films like Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles are designed to satirically attack those in the wrong. Many film professors around the country, including my former professors, have continued to teach similar films and series. This genre of media remains on the syllabi of professors in order to discuss with their classes why racist and other problematic dialogue and story arcs were allowed in entertainment in the first place.
My question is – is this the right line to draw?
I agree that shows and films depicting use of blackface or racial slurs are incorrect in doing so. However, is the entertainment industry looking at themselves in the mirror? The industry attempts to fix their previous mistakes by simply erasing them. And yet, I see no reformation.
Armando Iannucci, creator of Veep and The Thick of It, spoke to a British publication, The Observer. He mentioned that during the industry’s shutdown from the coronavirus, leaders should take the time to reconstruct the system. He is absolutely right.
While cameramen, boom guys, actors, and directors cannot film while being six feet apart, they should take their spare time to hire more women and people of color for their next job.
The industry overall, needs to do more than erase the past. It will only cause forgetfulness, and a higher chance of continuing the same problems.
There is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the entirety of the entertainment industry here. There will rarely be another time where this much free time will be available to create a significant amount of useful change. I am optimistic for change, and see those new creators finding inspiration from previous generations of filmmakers for how to make the industry more inclusive.
I simply ask that we don’t wipe away our mistakes without knowing why they are wrong in the first place, and educate ourselves on what can be better.
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