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Gone with the Wind

Gone with the Wind  

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  1. 1. Does "Gone with the Wind" belong on the AFI list?

    • ✅ Great balls of fire!
      9
    • ❌ Fiddle-dee-dee!
      9

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  • Poll closed on 07/19/19 at 07:00 AM

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7 hours ago, Jeffery Charles Nighswander said:

I'm not throwing shade on Amy, but I think she clearly had a childhood connection to this movie and was reviewing it with rose colored glasses. She clearly didn't have any connection to "A Clockwork Orange" and tried hard to judge it as misogynistic and as unsympathetic to the victims in the film. To be able to make those connections for one film and not to understand "Gone with the Wind" as the love letter to the racist confederate south that it was obviously meant to be, just seems weird. 

It's worth mentioning that Amy had A Clockwork Orange rated very high in her rankings during the 50 film check-in special, as she had it at #9 while Paul put it at #38.  Despite her criticisms, which I personally thought were largely valid, she still has a very high opinion of that movie.

As far as the rest of the conversation, it took me a little while to have the time to read through PureSly's post and the Vulture article by Angelica Jade Bastién that sycasey posted.  And my response is essentially word for word what WatchOutForSnakes said, that there is a difference between calling for a ban on a film and calling for a film to not be celebrated in the same way anymore.  I would never call for the former, and I don't think it's absurd to call for the latter, particularly since the exact same thing has already happened with Birth of a Nation.  

I referenced Gone With the Wind in analogy to Confederate statues, a charge that Bastién argued against in her article based mostly on the idea that Gone With the Wind has more to say than a statue does.  And while I see her points, my view on Confederate statues is not that they should be destroyed, but that they should not displayed in public squares where they can be viewed free of the hateful context under which they were erected.  I think it's more apt that they be put in a museum that explains how the United Daughters of the Confederacy have raised money to create these statues in order to promote a view of history that is racist and factually incorrect.  Again, as Bastién says, Gone With the Wind was not created with this purpose, but I truly feel that it has a similar effect.  I would never want to ban it, but I think too many people let it off the hook for its propaganda because they realize that it's wrong and they think everyone also realizes it, and that's enough.  The problem is that 99% of the times this is aired or screened, there's no one to point out the inaccuracy of the propaganda, and a large amount of the audience does not realize it, which allows it to perpetuate these myths.  Even the TCM airings I've seen don't properly address the problematic aspects of the film in their intros and outros.  And I know that removing it from the AFI list wouldn't fix this problem, but maybe it would cause some people to ask why this film isn't celebrated in the way it used to be.  And I'm in favor of anything that will get people to question this film a little more.

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Due to inclinations and time, I did not watch Gone with the Wind this past week, so I still have not yet seen it.  If it didn't also place within the top 250 of the Sight & Sound critics' poll (#232 with seven votes) and #109 on the They Shoot Pictures aggregate list, I'd be perfectly content to skip this altogether entirely (classic melodramas that I like, while not unheard of, are still more an exception). All I can really contribute at this point is meta-commentary, though not tonight.  Behind on my sleep.

But one thing I did note while looking, for the BFI critics' poll both Gone with the Wind and Birth of a Nation (which received 5 votes from critics*, placing it at position #323), each only received one vote from an American.  All the other votes came from other countries. I don't know if I should find that as a sign that the problems of the films haven't been conveyed as much overseas and there's just a lag... or if it should be disconcerting that America is exporting its racism.

*: One downside to the BFI practice of asking people for just their top 10 films, which for the most part I like, is beyond a certain point, the number of votes involved is small enough, it doesn't really take a lot for movies to swing a lot of spots (which could also be an argument to stop looking at somewhere like spot 50 or 100, but I find lots of good movies worth watching on the list well after that).

 

 

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13 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

I think you make a fair point that Amy is being inconsistent in her treatment of Scarlett vs. Alex (and I guess Travis Bickle too, though she mentions that in the episode), but I will also say here that in the long run you'll probably be better off if you let go of any expectation that artistic criticism is ever going to be "objective." Everyone has their biases.

Fair enough. 

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This is an epic movie. However, the way it portrays the black people is really troubling. I can only recount three black characters: Mammy, Big Sam, and Prissy.  Amy and Paul talk about Prissy being maybe mentally handicapped. This is a character written by white people for white people. It's really disturbing. The North and the carpetbaggers are the bad guys. The old South are the good guys. Slavery is addressed obliquely, and it suggests that it wasn't such a bad thing. WTF?

Also:

 

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I got kicked off of the Facebook group for pointing out that it was cowardly for the podcast to pretend that the forums and such were talking about how unlikeable Ashley was, and not the truth which was how Amy's apologist review of the film was problematic. That's what the majority of the comments here, and on the Facebook group was about though. Every other time Amy or Paul caught heat for their take on a movie they talked about, but when it made Amy look like a white privilege recipient making apologies for a film that glorifies a film about the Confederate South they suddenly pretended like the majority of comments weren't about what they were about. Sad. Sad that the podcast took such a cowardly out in ignoring the truth, and sad that the try-hard groupies on the facebook group kicked me off for pointing it out. I mean, if you can't stomach the truth then fuck you. Feel free to trash me for pointing out the facts...perhaps it will earn you some points with your celeb crushes. 

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3 hours ago, Jeffery Charles Nighswander said:

I got kicked off of the Facebook group for pointing out that it was cowardly for the podcast to pretend that the forums and such were talking about how unlikeable Ashley was, and not the truth which was how Amy's apologist review of the film was problematic. That's what the majority of the comments here, and on the Facebook group was about though. Every other time Amy or Paul caught heat for their take on a movie they talked about, but when it made Amy look like a white privilege recipient making apologies for a film that glorifies a film about the Confederate South they suddenly pretended like the majority of comments weren't about what they were about. Sad. Sad that the podcast took such a cowardly out in ignoring the truth, and sad that the try-hard groupies on the facebook group kicked me off for pointing it out. I mean, if you can't stomach the truth then fuck you. Feel free to trash me for pointing out the facts...perhaps it will earn you some points with your celeb crushes. 

Is that all you did, or did you also use phrases like "fuck you" in doing so? Because if so I think the latter is why you would have gotten banned. In my experience people are not kicked out of that group merely for disagreeing with the hosts.

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18 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

Is that all you did, or did you also use phrases like "fuck you" in doing so? Because if so I think the latter is why you would have gotten banned. In my experience people are not kicked out of that group merely for disagreeing with the hosts.

I don't remember using such phrases. On the other hand, let me help people such as yourself, understand why we are at this point...For a few years, around 2011-2015 we made people really scared to be called out for being bigots...and then people got mad that they were made to be scared and that their money got threatened based on their personal conduct and thoughts... Then they fought back...and in the meantime, Donald Trump got elected. #Facts. 

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20 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

Is that all you did, or did you also use phrases like "fuck you" in doing so? Because if so I think the latter is why you would have gotten banned. In my experience people are not kicked out of that group merely for disagreeing with the hosts.

I am beginning to see why people get banned. I appreciate moderators. 

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I sometimes get obsessed with certain podcasts, and one of my recent favorites was “Unspooled.” I was shocked and saddened when the show got to “Gone with the Wind.” While the podcast hosts differed on how racist the film was, both of them had plenty of praise for it and agreed it belonged on the AFI list.

I wrote a short note responding to the episode for the “Unspooled” Facebook group but my post was declined and I got this message back from the Admin of the page: “I’m sorry but the group has proved recently that they are not in a place to have mature conversation about this. It’s already been discussed a lot, and any new posts are going to cause more drama and more fighting.”

Film discussions shouldn’t shy away from drama. So I decided to post what I was going to write for the “Unspooled” page here.

“Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell is a racist movie based on a racist book by a racist author. The movie, the book and the author helped popularized dangerous lies about the South–that blacks enjoyed their enslavement (untrue), that slavesholders were benevolent (they weren’t), and that the Civil War was about maintaining a romantic way of life (the so-called “Lost Cause”) when it was actually about maintaining slavery.

After the release of her novel “Gone with the Wind,” Mitchell responded to a fan letter from Thomas Dixon, author of “The Clansman,” the hateful book that inspired the racist film “Birth of a Nation.” “Dear Mr. Dixon…I was practically raised on your books, and love them very much,” she replied to him. “For many years I have had you on my conscience, and I suppose I might as well confess it now.” In “Gone with the Wind,” the Klan kills “a negro who had boasted of rape” so his white victim doesn’t have to testify in court–and the lynching is portrayed sympathetically. (Note: I first learned a lot of the historical material in this post from reading “The Wind Goes On: Gone with the Wind and the Imagined Geographies of the American South,” a dissertation by  Virginia Tech instructor Taulby H. Edmondson.) 

Blacks in “Gone with the Wind” are described in racist, insulting ways. Mitchell calls blacks “scarcely one generation out of the African jungles.” Mammy’s face is described as having “the uncomprehending sadness of a money’s face.” When Scarlett and the once-enslaved Big Sam are reunited after the Civil War, Mitchell writes that “his watermelon-pink tongue lapped out, his whole body wiggled, and his joyful contortions were as ludicrous as the gambolings of a mastiff.” Blacks in the movie, like Butterfly McQueen’s character Prissy, are just as crudely drawn. “I hated that role,” McQueen once said. “I thought the movie was going to show the progress black people had made, but Prissy was lazy and stupid and backward. She needed to be slapped.”

The movie’s entertainment value, if there is any, can’t possibly outweigh the actual harm the movie has done in helping to spread stereotypes and justify racial terror and segregation.

Malcolm X hated “Gone With the Wind” and said its stereotypes made him feel like “crawling under the rug.” James Baldwin called the movie obscene and argued that it promoted “the myth of the happy darky.”

Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., once wrote “I distinctly remember when I first saw the film. I was 17 years old, and I was astonished as I sat in a movie theater in Keyser, West Virginia, to see the white patrons weep loudly at the death of ‘The Old South.’ If you are a black person, as I am, the death of ‘The Old South’ meant the liberation of one’s ancestors! It is an occasion for celebration. And the embarrassing depictions of characters such as Mammy and the character played by Butterfly McQueen…have taken decades for black authors to overcome.”

The black press recognized “Gone with the Wind” as racist propaganda from its release in 1939. In the Washington Tribune, Black poet Melvin B. Tolson wrote that “‘Gone with the Wind’ is more dangerous than ‘Birth of a Nation.’” He blasted it as nothing more than “anti-Negro, anti-Yankee, KKK propaganda…a falsification of history…‘The Birth of a Nation’ was such a barefaced lie that a moron could see through it. ‘Gone with the Wind’ is such a subtle lie that it will be swallowed as truth by millions of whites and blacks alike.”

In 1805, abolitionist Samuel Wood published a broadsheet cataloging first-person accounts of some of the atrocities of slavery. Enslaved men and women were routinely and systematically raped, their families broken apart and their children sold. Enslaved people were branded with red hot irons and tortured with the drippings of molten lead. Pregnant enslaved women were whipped so severely that they died of their wounds. Enslaved people were “put into the stocks, a cattle chain of sixty or seventy pounds weight put on them, and a large collar round their necks, and a weight of fifty-six pounds fastened to the chain, when they were driven afield: the collars are formed with two, three, or four projections, which hinder them from lying down to sleep.” 

I can see why some people embrace “Gone with the Wind” despite its flaws–it’s a film with a feisty female protagonist at its center and that’s a powerful lure. The movie also pushes racial buttons we might not even realize are being pushed–we may think we’re responding to the film’s sweeping “romance” when really we’re giving into something deeper and uglier and possibly unacknowledged within us. Pulitzer-prize winning critic Margo Jefferson once offered this advice for watching “Gone with the Wind”: “Watch it well armed with political, social and race history, and approach it as real critics of how film manipulates, how it can turn even your own impulses and instincts against you.”

Critics who embrace “Gone with the Wind” have to ask themselves—why are you entertained by this film despite the fact that many Black people (as well as people of other races) see it as an attack on our humanity? What is in your soul that finds slavery, rape and racism as something romantic and entertaining? Why are you so in love with a racist film that you feel a need to honor it above all the films by women and people of color that have a better claim to be honored?

I’m hoping that “Unspooled” does a follow-up episode and talks to an expert in African-American history and the Reconstruction era to put “Gone with the Wind” in the proper social and historical context.

Wood wrote at the end of his antislavery pamphlet: “Let now every honest man lay his hand on his breast, and seriously reflect, whether he is justifiable in countenancing such barbarities; or whether he ought not to reject, with horror, the smallest participation in such infernal transactions.”

“Gone with the Wind,” by promoting slavery, is a participant in these “infernal transactions.”  Critics who embrace this movie are part of the same cruel legacy.

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