Movies & Racism: 5 Films That Should be Relegated to Museums

Racism apocalyptoRacism has been around since day one – and in cinema almost as long. Some racist films, such as Gone With the Wind (1939), are still shown on television, while others, like The Birth of a Nation (1915) are harder to find. The question I want to ask is: Should these flicks be relegated to the museum or classroom … but not the small screen? I say yes. They should still be seen – after all, how would we know what’s offensive if we’re not exposed to it – just not on the telly for context-less “entertainment” purposes. They should be taught in schools, put on exhibit. Everyone should have access to them as educational tools, and everyone should know about them.

The following pictures are five that I feel should be on display as prime examples of cinematic racism. All five feature textbook offensiveness that precludes them from exhibition without proper context on TV, yet are essential to inclusion in the Museum of Injury to Others. This isn’t a comprehensive list; there are plenty others out there that are sure to rub sensible people the wrong way. I feel, however, that these flicks are well known enough to warrant further scrutiny, academic or otherwise. So here they are:

The Birth of a Nation

Important from a narrative standpoint yet gruelling to get through, D.W. Griffith’s frightening epic is the most virulent example of racism in my list. You’ve got “evil” black people – well, white actors done up in ludicrous blackface – running rampant and the vicious Ku Klux Klan coming to the rescue on horses. There are few movies that match the dangerousness of the sentiments in this film, and that’s why it should be seen by everyone and taught in schools.

Gone With the Wind

I’ve never liked this movie, which still finds its way every so often on to TV and has legions of followers, despite its tiresome soapiness. Yet there’s another reason why I abhor it, and that is its treatment of black people and slavery during the American Civil War. They’re depicted as stupid and infantile, as well as unwilling to have a life outside of slavery. A good companion piece to this wretchedly important film would be 12 Years a Slave (2013), which is GwtW’s antithesis. Sure, the latter film is epic, but it’s also reprehensible. Therefore, it’s critical cinema viewing.

A Day at the Races (1937)

This isn’t the Marx Brothers’ best movie, though it does have a number of gems, including the famous “tootsie-frootsie ice cream” sequence. The main problem, however, is a massive, absolutely horrific musical number involving a great number of black performers doing a lot of stereotypical eye-rolling and jumping around. Although the music is lively, the treatment of the individuals is the issue here. It has to be seen to be believed, as well as seen to ensure such depictions don’t happen again.

Gunga Din (1939)

What can I say about this rip-snorter, an adaptation of the famous Rudyard Kipling poem and an account of three India-based English troops – plus one native water carrier (played by non-Indian Sam Jaffe) – in “the good ol’ days” of colonialism. Oh, yeah: The Indians who are fighting against the British are evil Thuggees … about as bad a lot as you can possibly be. You can still see this film every so often on TV, and it is a rollicking classic, though it’s also incredibly offensive. There is, however, one saving grace: The Thuggees’ leader gets a line describing India’s past military might “while Englishmen still dwelt in caves and painted themselves blue.” He’s a villain, though, and the Brits win the battle in the end. Must-see cinema.

Apocalypto (2006)

I’m no fan of Mel Gibson’s directorial forays, and this movie is no exception. The story of an innocent Central American Indian man on the run from vicious, barbaric Mayan warriors, Apocalypto clumsily paints a picture of the latter culture as debauched and criminal. Yet who rescues everyone in the end? None other than white, Christian, European explorers – years before they made contact with the area. Gibson’s point seems to be that Christianity is the element of good that ultimately will rescue the “ignorant natives,” who need civilising. An absurd, racist perspective, and one that definitely merits viewing.

Simon Hardy Butler is a writer and editor living in New York City. He has written for publications ranging from Zagat to Adweek and operates a restaurant-focused blog called Critical Mousse (criticalmousse.com) that showcases his opinions on the culinary arena. He also blogs about anti-Semitism for the Times of Israel. His views and opinions are his own.

42 thoughts on “Movies & Racism: 5 Films That Should be Relegated to Museums

  1. Pingback: A Tale of Two Racisms: ‘Jud Süß’ and Stepin Fetchit - CURNBLOG

  2. I protest the description of GWTW as a racist film. A racist film sets out to harm a race; a racist film intends to encourage its viewers in racism. I cannot believe that either was the intent of the film’s four creative mainstays: Sidney Howard, David Selznick, Victor Fleming and Vivien Leigh. Margaret Mitchell’s intention in her novel is another matter, as is the film’s arising from an era consciously accepting racism and unconsciously promoting it. But to shelve GWTW is to deny access to Vivien Leigh’s timeless artistry; to erase an early use of color as an emotional, thematic and integral part of a film: the red sky over Atlanta becoming the red carpet that covers the Scarlett/Rhett mansion and splashes onto the dress Scarlett wears to Ashley’s birthday party. Removing GWTW from view on the basis of race also overlooks the fact that Mammy is the moral center of the film; the person whose respect Rhett says he would like to have; the only person whose disapproval Scarlett is afraid of; the person who at the end brings Melanie to pull the family back together; and the favorite character of any audience I’ve ever sat with.

    I enjoy your writing, Simon Butler, and look forward to more of it. But I must say to you, with a smile, that I hope you are never empowered to decide the future of Remarque’s ALL QUIET or Riefenstahl’s TRIUMPH OF THE WILL or Shakespeare’s THE MERCHANT OF VENICE or Eisenstein’s POTEMKIN or Spike Lee’s MALCOLM X.

    Rick’s Flicks

  3. The coming of the ships from Europe at the end of the Mel Gibson Mayan film represents exactly what the Europeans did, destroy and brutalize. What did Pizarro do to the Incas? He enslaved them and destroyed them for gold. You’re reaching when you suggest Mel Gibson was telling movie audiences the ships at the end of the film off the shore defined them as a good thing or a group of saviors. Also, your research when you showed that The Daily Mail ( a notorious tabloid rag) in England showed support of your opinion that the Gibson film was “racist,” I read what they said and frankly, the article showed a very limited justification for this claim. If you check on a film entitled, Fort Apache (1981) starring the very open minded and sensitive and caring, Paul Newman, and also the very caring and open minded American actor, Ed Asner, you will find that the movie was harshly condemmned by a local ethnic community in the South Bronx during its production for being racist. View this movie and I can’t believe you will think it is such. I was told by an actor living in Manhattan of Italian heritage who was a veteran of early television, that The Sopranos HBO series defamed them. Also, another Italian person I know thinks the Godfather also shows this. How far do we have to go with the issue of sociology and cinema? Will it lead us to lousy, but unoffensive crap? Oh, we’re there already!!!

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  5. Anyone else find this sort of soapbox preachiness annoying?

    Maybe the kind of people who think that movies like this somehow spread racism to “the masses” are also the kind of people who think that movies like Atlas Cloud teach tolerance to “the masses”. I don’t know. It all sounds very 1984 to me.

    • I agree with you bro. “Gone With The Wind” is not being accuratley labelled as a racist film, it is simply a boring soap opera that I never sat through for more than 18 minutes, and audiences today of all kinds only watch it in film schools, TCM (which is for people who like “the classics” and are intelligent enough to comprehend that things were different in 1938) and a few people who buy it in video for snob appeal to show their friends how many high falootin movies and books they have on their shelf. Why not attack “The Wizard Of OZ,” for being hurtful and making a mockery of people of short stature.

  6. I disagree about the dance scene in “Day at the Races” . It’s notable for its length and sets and just the amazing jitterbug dancing. All ages and sizes are represented. Okay, it may be a little much that the Marx brothers don blackface to fit in at the end of the scene. But take into context that this was 1937, The sad thing is that until now, I have never seen that dance number, I’ve always seen the movie on TV and it was cut.

    • It’s a splashy scene, no doubt–but it’s offensive nonetheless. The black performers are singing and danicing in some kind of shantytown, and the idea is that they’re naturally musical and rhythmic … a concept that feeds into a very offensive, antiquated stereotype. There were a lot of talented performers in that scene; it’s just that the overall treatment was problematic.

      I also think it’s disturbing that any movie would be cut to be shown on TV–cut so that the offending material is chopped out. That suggests to me that the movie would be OK if it didn’t have its racist elements–and I feel that a movie is an entity that can’t be separated from its parts. It’s a complete creation, and if one part is offensive, that needs to be explored.

  7. I like “Gone With The Wind.” I’ve seen it about 5 times, and no, I’m not white. I’m a sucker for long, soap opera-type movies. Plus Rhett Butler is one hell of a character: a self-made man who speaks his mind. Also, not all the blacks in this movie are portrayed as stupid and infantile. Scarlett’s maid often speaks her mind, and she makes a lot of sense.

    Regarding “Apocalypto”: I also belong to the camp that believes that the arrival of the Europeans at the end of the movie represents the true Apocalypse for these people. And yeah, I like this movie also.

    Bottom line, a movie’s main job is to entertain, not to educate, or to bring about justice or world peace. I’ve seen many movies that angered me for a variety of reasons, but as long as I’m entertained and felt that my time wasn’t wasted, I’ll give any offending movie a pass.

    • I agree that Gone With the Wind is long and soapy, and that Rhett Butler is a strong character. I dislike it intensely, though, and I’m probably in the minority on this, as it’s a very popular movie. I disagree though, with your interpretation of the black characters in the film; the scene appearing above shows one of the main characters speaking her mind, but it’s all for the benefit of Scarlett. They don’t have existences other than to serve their “masters.” Plus, they’re treated as ignorant–the line “But Miss Scarlett, I don’t know nothing about birthing babies” strikes me as one example. I can’t support that.

      As for Apocalypto, I don’t subscribe to the idea that the arrival of Europeans in the movie heralds the coming of the Apocalypse. I see it as the coming of salvation, pure and simple. A movie’s main job may be to entertain, but if it offends in the process, that needs to be examined and questioned.

  8. I felt that the coming of the Europeans at the end of Apocalypto was meant to symbolize the actual apocalypse. The movie was about a civilization in decline and the main character’s world being shattered. He thought his world had ended when his village was attacked and then when he was almost sacrificed, but when the Europeans show up, its the REAL end of their world.

    It was like an inside joke with the audience, because we know what the end result of Europeans reaching the Americas meant for the people who already lived there. They weren’t rescuing anybody. A very dark ending, but not really racist in my opinion.

    • I never thought about it that way, Caleb. It’s certainly a different perspective, but I still feel strongly about my own interpretation. There’s nothing jokey or darkly humorous about the scene where the Europeans arrive in the film; in fact, it’s treated quite seriously, and I don’t find it ironic at all. Jaguar Paw is allowed to get away after all three pursued/pursuers stop and stare at the Europeans in awe, and he starts a new life. The idea, I think, is that he and the others are being delivered.

  9. While there is a grain of truth in your words, I feel that the movies you listed above (except for Apocalypto which I’ve never been able to watch) should be viewed in another way.
    Birth of a Nation may have racist points in it, I’ll admit it, but it’s an amazing film when you realize that it was the first full length movie made. Without this movie it might have been much longer before we started making long movies.
    Gone with the Wind is another work of art, it features the largest battle scenes to that point as well as the burning of Alanta being epic as well.
    A day at the races is just a Marx brothers film, it wasn’t made to be a nothing more than plain entertainment, they made fun of everything, stereotypes included.
    As for Gunga Dun, it wasn’t that great of a movie, but don’t forget that the native attached to the Brittish soldiers died heroically, that has to excuse some of the rest of the movie.
    Just my two cents.

    • I think you make some good points, Colin. I agree that The Birth of a Nation is a seminal film, but it’s so tied to a racist agenda that I feel it’s nearly unwatchable. Gone With the Wind is definitely epic, and it has a great shot of the Confederate dead and wounded, but I find it tiresome and offensive. I actually like a lot of A Day at the Races and Gunga Din, but they’re problematic for me, too–the former in ways that other Marx Brothers films aren’t.

    • “but it’s an amazing film when you realize that it was the first full length movie made.”

      No … it wasn’t. There are a lot of remarkable things about “Birth of a Nation” … like the way in which it used intercutting between sequences to portray action … but it was not the first full length film, not by a long shot. To pick one example, the 148 minute Italian film “Cabiria” had been made the previous year.

  10. The oracle prophesys that the ones Jaguar Paw will lead the Mayan’s to will destroy them. The opening stanza of the movie is “a civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within. So yeah, he clearly paints the Christians as “saviors.” The 10 commandments, heck even the new exodus movies feature all white casts. THOSE are racist. apocalypto would be racist if Gibson had cast all whites in the lead.

    • I definitely agree with you, Mike, that the Europeans are painted as saviors. As for The Ten Commandments, I just think “Yul Brynner as the Pharaoh,” and that’s enough for me to snicker. 😀

  11. I was interested in seeing if a lot of other people share my perspective on the ending of Apocalypto, and I found a couple of sources from some years ago that resonate:

    http://www.theguardian.com/film/2007/jan/10/news.melgibson

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-421096/Gibsons-film-Apocalypto-racist.html

    There’s definitely something here, I think. It’s interesting also that something I thought was so obvious–the inherent racism of the conquistadors coming to the rescue, and the ultimate salvation of the protagonist by their arrival–could have so many different interpretations.

  12. Simon – two of your selections have the same final line.

    That crucial detail out of the way, you’ve obviously raised a good debate. Education and context are always good things, but I don’t know if they are always practical within the realm of film, given many of the arguments already offered here. Start putting some titles in the “restricted” area and you can be certain bootleg copies will thrive. They will become martyr pieces. In the long run, they may become more potent than if left alone.

    I wish we could educate film audiences that all movies, even documentaries (especially documentaries sometimes), are subjective works and not absolute fact.

    • I think you raise a good point, Jon, about works becoming “martyr pieces” when taken out of the mainstream for use as teaching tools. But I wonder whether all movies are subjective works. I think art to a certain extent has to have a subjective element, but there are criteria determining what is great and what isn’t. Similarly, there are criteria determining racism, and I think all of the movies above reflect those. The main question is: Where should we draw the line? Are there movies out there that are completely inoffensive — without fault in that regard? I wonder.

    • Definitely an interesting perspective. I just don’t think it applies in the case of Apocalypto. But it’s obvious that this films stirs up different interpretations. I’d be interested in hearing more.

  13. Though APOCALYPTO is not, by any stretch, an accurate representation of the time or culture it’s portraying, the writer misrepresents the meaning of the film’s final shot. It is not by any stretch a “rescue.” It’s a really big sick joke on the hero. It’s more like, “I’ve been through all that terror, and now here comes something else, something even bigger.” It’s the PLANET OF THE APES ending. The look on the hero’s face, the tone of the music, and the whole ominous mood — there’s no evidence within the film itself to suggest a “rescue” by Europe. I think maybe the writer is conflating Gibson’s real-life ignorance and racism with the film he directed, which admittedly is an easy thing to do. I don’t think the “Europe to the rescue” interpretation is there in the text, as it were, and (while the artist’s interpretation is never the final word) Gibson’s made no comments in interviews that I know of suggesting that that was the film’s intention.

    • That’s an intriguing perspective, Matt–and it’s one I never considered–but I’m afraid I can’t agree with it. The look on the protagonist’s face is a mixture of incomprehension and reverence, and the Europeans are shown as benign. I didn’t get a feeling of ominousness at all; instead, the connotation was that this was their “saving grace.”

      It’s funny–I feel like I’m discounting my argument by expressing what can be construed as a subjective opinion of this film! This definitely opens up a lot of questions.

      • It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen it, but I just went and read the detailed synopsis at IMDB, and it matches my recollections of the last bit of the film (NOTE: spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen it):

        “When they catch up with him, they stop, staring at the sea where a small fleet of Spanish ships is anchored. Soldiers and missionaries are rowing to shore in small boats. Mesmerized, Monkey Jaw and Ten Peccary approach the shoreline while Jaguar Paw races back to the cistern. He finds that Seven has just given birth and pulls his family out of the cistern.

        Later on, when the rain stops, Jaguar Paw carries his newborn son, followed by Seven and Turtles Run. They look back towards the Spanish ships and Seven asks if they should go to them. Jaguar Paw says that they should, instead, go to the forest and seek a new beginning. ”

        I agreed with Matt’s interpretation of the final scene when I saw it, and I still do. The Mayans are the ones, IIRC (and this agrees), who do the incomprehension and reverence thing–and for the record, I saw that as Gibson’s stab at that ridiculous urban legend that South Americans didn’t see the European ships coming because they had no frame of reference, and so “their minds couldn’t comprehend them”–and the Europeans aren’t shown at all, beyond those boats. Assuming your reverence idea is correct, and given history it certainly might be where Gibson’s head was, it was the Maya who were ready to welcome the Europeans with open arms (or, possibly, open cook pots, not realizing they weren’t prey). Jaguar Paw, OTOH, makes a very conscious decision to turn his back on the Europeans in the final scene. That final line is pregnant with the weight of a recent resurgence of interest in the idea of uncontacted (and thus “pristine”) tribes; viz. the work of John Zerzan, for example. It should be obvious why that sort of racial purity would appeal to someone of Gibson’s mindset, though that’s a far cry from the respect given to said tribes by the anarchist/anti-technological/anti-agricultural movement (all of the members of which I know personally are extreme leftists–but then extremities do tend to meet at the top and bottom of the circle).

        • Intriguing comment, Robert. I just watched the end of Apocalypto right now, and in the film, all three of those characters–including Jaguar Paw–stare into the distance in awe and surprise at the incoming Europeans. Although I see your point, I stand by my interpretation of the scene. I believe the sequence is meant to show how beneficial the advent of Europeans and Christianity was to the native populations. The music even takes on a reverent, mystical feel to bring home the point. I’m definitely in the minority in thinking this, but I can’t deny the feeling I have about it — and this is separate from any personal reactions I may have to Gibson’s public outbursts. The scene suggests colonization and conversion was a good thing, and that’s just off to me. It’s definitely interesting to hear how other people interpret the film, though.

          One thing that I didn’t mention that you allude to, however is the interesting dichotomy in the film between the brutal, urban-dwelling Mayans and the simple, rural Central American Indians of Jaguar Paw’s village. This is actually a kind of infantilization, too; it suggests the old myth of the “noble savage”–that the native is at his or her best in the forested, uncivilized element … and that such populations make a mess of any attempts at civilization, as attempted by the Mayans in the picture. I think this is a problematic, antiquated viewpoint, and it certainly is inauthentic when one considers the heightened cultures of the region. So that’s another point I’d like to make.

  14. Simon, I think that you have sneaked open the lid of a cinematic ‘Pandora’s Box’ here, and part of me thinks that the controversy is deliberate, and to engender debate. I will be very surprised if anyone on this blog agrees with your thoughts on this one.
    With the exception of ‘Apocalypto’, these films must be seen in the context of their time and place. Things were not very nice for minorities back then. We all know this now, and those films reflect that.

    What’s next though? Do we do the same with Riefenstahl’s films, because they glorify the Nazi’s? There are some in society who will always be unduly influenced by film and TV to do bad things. That should not mean censorship for the majority who don’t. Do we ban all sex scenes, in case they inspire lust in weak men? The list is endless.

    In the UK, there is always a lot of controversy about the portrayal of young black men in TV drama.. They are shown as gangsters, robbers, drug-dealers, and pimps. But then so are East Europeans, Russians, and many other white ethnic groups. As someone who worked for the police for a long time, I could argue that these programmes are just reflecting the reality of arrests and convictions. But that is not what some groups want to see or hear.
    We have to trust ourselves to understand the difference. Not everyone will, that’s obvious, but we cannot go back to the bad days of censorship because of that.

    Good argument as always. Just not a winning one this time.

    Best wishes from England, Pete.

    • Ha, ha–I know, right, Pete? I didn’t expect this kind of reaction when I was writing it!

      I’ll tell ya: I’m not advocating censorship of any kind. There is the question of: What constitutes being offensive and what isn’t? Certainly, in the films I cite above, the racism is blatant. But what about in David Lean’s Oliver Twist, which was criticized by Jewish groups when it came out because of what was considered to be an anti-Semitic portrayal by Alec Guinness of Fagin … big nose and all. I’m Jewish, and I consider that film to be a classic; while I do feel the portrayal takes advantage of Jewish stereotypes, I also realize that Fagin is portrayed as a much better person than, say, Robert Newton’s Bill Sykes, who is vicious. So there’s texture there.

      I’m definitely not, as I’ve expressed in other responses, advocating censorship. I’m merely suggesting that these and other films where the racism is blatant should be used as teaching tools in schools and museums rather than just shown on TV. Apocalypto, Gunga Din and Gone With the Wind all find there way to the TV now and then here in the U.S.; on the other hand, you rarely–if ever–see The Birth of a Nation and A Day at the Races. Why? Surely, their offensive qualities are equally hurtful … though The Birth of a Nation repulsively suggests violence toward black people is good, which is the most extreme example of racism in this group.

      You’re right, though–where does it stop? Should the original 1968 The Producers be used as a teaching tool because of its homophobic characters? Should Auntie Mame be sent to the museum because its attempted egalitarian attitudes toward people of Asian and Irish heritage is dated? It’s a difficult question. In my opinion, all should be taught. Film classes should be essential part of the school curriculum — everywhere. The fact is, they’re not, and I think it’s something we’re lacking.

  15. I am usually against censorship, but art is not morally neutral nor an excuse for bad messages.

    Some very good art has been created by bad people and even good people can say bad things.

    Film is different from fiction and drama, since it is not re-created each time by readers or directors and actors. I agree with Simon Butler that we have an obligation to teach–or at least point our–context and values.

    • I agree with you on our obligation to teach these films in the context of racism. I definitely think great art can be created by not-so-great people–Richard Wagner is one such example–but I also think that when the message is specifically geared toward infantilizing or marginalizing a certain group, that warrants further scrutiny. I think it’s interesting that you point out the difference between film and theater; there is a permanence to film, and that’s definitely part of the reason why it’s important to view these films in the appropriate framework.

  16. Feel free to feel however you want about any film, but start to dictate what can be viewed, or under what context or circumstances a film ought to be viewed, and you’ve strayed into dangerous territory. I don’t want anyone “teaching” me right from wrong. It’s patronizing and arrogant to presume one knows better than another about such things – you can’t “teach” morality. It can be learned, but not by force. Only personal experience can change one’s sense of morality. If anything, trying to force one’s sense of morality on others is as likely to backfire as succeed.

    Films can be an illuminating window into the mindsets and worldviews of prior generations, flaws included. Just as they serve as a window into our own paradigm, and can illuminate our flaws and blemishes. The onus to take anything significant away from any viewing is, as always, on the viewer, as it should (and must) be.

    • I’m definitely not advocating teaching right from wrong “by force.” The way I learned about The Birth of a Nation was via a class in high school, and that may have spurred my thoughts on this matter. I do think, however, that racism–such as expressed in the films above–can be blatant and ought to be taught rather than just viewed on TV…which in the US it is sometimes with Gone With the Wind and Gunga Din. My question about that is: why? You rarely, if ever, find The Birth of a Nation on TV. The racism there is virulent, but is it any more dangerous than the offensive stereotypes perpetuated in GWtW and Gunga Din? Both are hurtful to people. Both infantilize the “other.”

      We do have museums that exhibit paintings and sculpture. Aren’t they, in a way, telling us what’s art? Why should film be any different? There are museums that showcase films as well–I was just at one in Astoria, Queens, recently. The racism in these films isn’t subjective. They’re objectively offensive, and I believe I’ve illustrated why. Therefore, I feel they belong in museums or schools. I’m not advocating censorship; in fact, I’m for the opposite. These films SHOULD be shown–just not on TV, where a contextual framework is limited.

  17. It’s a tough one, Simon. Who does the censoring, and what are the criteria? The problem is, you could make a case for regressive representation of race and/or gender in most of the film and television ever produced.

    Perhaps, a rating system would be more appropriate. You know… this film rated R for offensive depictions of race… But even then… uncomfortable territory that possibly produces more problems than solutions.

    • It’s funny–when I was writing this, I didn’t realize it would be so controversial, James! I’m certainly not advocating censorship of any kind. But I do believe that certain films, such as Gone With the Wind and Gunga Din–both of which are shown on TV in the U.S. every so often–should be used more as teaching tools than modes of entertainment … and that people understand how offensive they can be to certain groups. I do think many people may watch Gunga Din without realizing that; Gone With the Wind has more notoriety in that regard. But depictions of the “other” that are so blatant need context.

      I realize that I made a subjective list of films according to certain criteria. But I do believe it’s impossible to justify the racism in all of them. It’s a lot harder in, say, The Merchant of Venice, which provides a textured Shylock who’s both sympathetic and bad. The rating system is an interesting alternative, but I think it may be unrealistic. Using racist films for learning, to my mind, is a healthier solution.

      • This might be a case where you need to learn to trust your species. You’re not the only person who ever used these movies to learn something rather than just be entertained. A lot of times we think that humans are cattle with their mouths hanging open, chewing their cud, waiting for some awful signal to rise up and destroy everything that’s good and just. This simply isn’t the case. We already have so many forms of limitation and warning and censorship and self-censorship, and we’ve had them for thousands of years; looking at the human species is like looking at a dozen rats stuffed in a cage and trying to draw conclusions about how rats behave in the wild. I say let’s just relax and stop letting the ego try to control so much.

  18. “They should still be seen – after all, how would we know what’s offensive if we’re not exposed to it – just not on the telly for context-less “entertainment” purposes. They should be taught in schools …”

    Be careful what you wish for. Who provides that context? Is there a school or a government somewhere that is miraculously bias-free? Nobody “teaching” the lessons of said film will have their own agenda to advance?

    I think most people trust their own instincts and their abilities to see a film for what it is without having some overlord guide them in the process. Nobody ever thinks he or she is without these abilities … the “context” is always for the benefit of the other people who don’t see things with the same clarity, bias, and agenda.

    • It’s an important question you ask, and it’s one I can’t easily answer. But I do believe that guidance can be provided without bias and agenda. I got that guidance in high school when I was shown The Birth of a Nation as part of a class. That same kind of schooling can be provided everywhere. Perhaps that’s a hopeless dream of mine, but I do think it’s important.

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