Gone With the Wind

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Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts notes how Gone With the Wind (1940) has become a whipping boy of the intolerant advocates of tolerance:

 

Someday I’ll unpack a full list of reasons why I’m always amazed when I take time to watch this classic.  Today, of course, it is under assault along with the rest of the United States.  Per the goosestepping Bolsheviks, it is a racist movie made by racists to celebrate a racist part of a racist nation founded upon a racist document.   That’s the American Bolsheviks.
They should be a rather small minority, but they are buttressed by the press, the entertainment industry (to a point, Hollywood still seems a bit squeamish about the waves of censorship and digital film and book burnings sweeping the Left’s quarters), and our educational institutions.  Because of that, the Left’s equivalent of white supremacist militiamen holed up in a log cabin in the foothills of Montana are given a loud megaphone, and social, legal and political power. 
Of course I reject the racist notion that you can judge a racist by the color of his skin, that all whites are and were nothing but racist, and that America was Nazi racist from sea to shining sea.  I also follow the old idea that presentism is a horrible way to do history and can lead to the arrogance that underlies much of the horrors of human history.  Remember, it was arrogant political and economic philosophies and ideologies, not racism, that were the biggest killers of the 20th century.  That is largely based on the idea of knowing I’m so right, of course those who disagree are stupid, evil and a threat to the motherland. 
Because of this, I get to enjoy a wonderful movie made on the grandest of scales, and appreciate all of its complexities, especially when set against the cinematic dribble and bilge that is vomited out of the movie industry today.  In most cases, movies today are either one dimensional CGI fodder with occasional (and often shallow) human interaction, or they are Leftist sermonettes in movie form.  In either case, the important thing for a movie today is to check a laundry list of demographic labels and categories and make sure the characters conform to the Leftist narratives and agendas.  It’s like making a movie based on the ingredients list of a cereal box. 
Compared to that, the complexity and depth of GWTW’s characters (even if already watered down from the book), soars high.  It looks like a movie about people in an age when, even in the shadows of something like the Civil War, most of the drama involves personal lives, loves, and loss.  Unlike today, where more Americans see politics as the all-god, the end to all, the first and last, this is a time when people were still people, and there were other things to think on than the latest political or social issue. 
Not only do the characters, but the people who made the film, exemplify this.  If you haven’t noticed, one of the macro-threads of modern criticism from the Left is the condemnation of any artist, musician, author, filmmaker or thinker dared to produce anything without focusing exclusively on the socio-political topics we obsess about today.  Not only are they condemned for not being up to our stellar brilliance and moral perfection, but they didn’t even make movies focusing on the politics and social issues of the day.  Or at least, they didn’t so do with all the subtly of a cement block, which is what films want today.  
No, we watched it last night for my Mom.  The boys call gathered together to watch it with her.  We were going to take her to the showings at the cinema, but she felt she wouldn’t be able to sit through the whole movie in a theater.  So with the miracle of an old big screen TV, we brought the theater to Mom.  Popcorn and all.  Of course she loved it, since it’s her favorite movie.  My boys talked once again about how good it is, how tough, how brutal at times.  How real.  They’ve labeled the last ten minutes the most heart wrenching ten minutes in movie history.  That’s because it was about real people, not cardboard cutouts meant to appease a movement that would be nice not to give a damn about. 
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True confession time:  I have never thought much of the film personally, viewing it as a fairly standard Hollywood potboiler of the time, made epic by stars, Technicolor and a huge budget.  Perhaps part of my dislike of the film is that I know too much about the period and when it rings false as to the time it purports to represent, my teeth go on edge.  However, to ban it as some sort of avatar of the Confederacy is ludicrous.

 

The amusing part of this farce is that one of the major themes of the movie was how foolish it was for the South to fight a  war with the North.

This theme is underlined by the scene showing a crowd in Atlanta getting the casualty lists of the battle of Gettysburg.  The sorrow of the band director who has just learned that his son has been killed cries out from the screen as he has his band, largely made up of boys and old men, play Dixie, and the camera pans in on a fife player who is weeping.

The portrayal of blacks of course in Gone With the Wind now strikes most Americans as offensive, but Hattie McDaniel’s portrayal of the strong willed Mammy won her an Oscar for best supporting actress in 1940.  At the time there were some protests of the film by blacks, but far more blacks came out to see the film and appreciated the humanity and strength that Hattie McDaniel gave to a character who could easily have come across as a mere stereotype.

If we are now going to be judging Art by the sensibilities of twenty-first century Leftists, we will have precious little Art left to us, along with precious little History, not to mention sanity.

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. “[T]his is a time when people were still people, and there were other things to think on than the latest political or social issue.”

    There are some readers who do not actually realise Pride and Prejudice is set in England during the Napoleonic Wars.

    So, too, is Mansfield Park and the plot of Persuasion relies on the fortunes made in prize moneys by Naval officers during the war (two of Jane Auten’s briothers amongst them, Admiral Charles Austen and Admiral Sir Francis Austen). Yet this passes over many readers’ heads

  2. This is the best way to approach the issue. One of the most successful tactics of the Left is to hit hard, hit often, and hit as many targets as possible. Those who would resist, all too often, only care when it hits close to home. More than once I’ve see someone say, “Eh, don’t care about this, or don’t like it anyway.’ Yet they’ll care another time when someone else doesn’t, and be stuck on their own holding their little corner of the defense. On the other hand, I’d wager at least some calling for GWTW to be cast into the darkness have never read the book or watched the movie. They just heard the clarion call. I’m the same with John Wright’s concerns about Sci-Fi books and the Left. No fan of Sci-Fi/Fantasy, but I’ll stand against doing the same to them that is being done to GWTW, or a slew of other books or films. Unity is the best way to confront a unified attack across many fronts.

    FWIW, I never sweat historical accuracy in movies unless the movie claims to be historically accurate. After all, I love Macbeth, despite the obvious differences from the real figure. Same with films like Braveheart or Spartacus. I’m reminded of Tom Hanks explaining the difficult time he and Spielberg had convincing Richard Winters to go along with the HBO production of Band of Brothers. Hanks told Winters that he knew veterans would find a million things to complain about, since the most accurate movies are only about 13% accurate. With BoB, Hanks said, they were shooting for 18% accurate, which would make it about the most accurate movie production in history.

    Oh, and my boys noticed that the character of Mammy is likely the most well rounded character in the movie, and didn’t miss the impact that would have had in the 1930s.

  3. Some films are so good that the historical accuracy problems do not bother me. Spartacus, Zulu and Lincoln are in that category. Braveheart on the other hand I mostly found annoying with its extreme liberties with what actually occurred. My favorite is William Wallace impregnating the Princess of Wales. Isabella of France did not arrive in England until three years after the execution of Wallace and she was never Princess of Wales as Edward II was already King of England prior to their marriage. She was 10 at the time of the death of Wallace. My problem with GWTW on historical accuracy grounds is that to me it simply never feels like the actual Civil War period. It does have its moments however. Rhett Butler, the opponent of secession and mocker of the sacred cause, joining Hood’s army when the War was lost and serving bravely, off screen, at the battle of Franklin, the killing of the Union Bummer, and every scene with Mammy in it.

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