By Mike Canavan
It is with great concern that I read this last week HBO Max has seen fit to remove one of the greatest movies ever made from its regular playlist. They wantingly bowered to pressure from minority activist groups from the ‘Black Lives Matter’ lobby, who claim it to be racist and deeply offensive.
An apologist for HBO had the following to say: “Gone with the Wind is a product of its time and depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American society,” He went on to say: “These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today, and we felt that to keep this title up without an explanation and a denouncement of those depictions would be irresponsible.”
The vocal minorities also claim: “the movie — with its glorification of the antebellum South and its glossing over the horrors of slavery — hasn’t aged well.” They say it looks back at the Confederacy with a certain nostalgia and fondness.
But ‘Gone With The Wind’ is not only one in their sights. Following vocal minority protest, other programs have fallen under the social scrutiny of the leftist do-gooders. As a result, some films and TV shows that have allegedly controversially glorified police, like Cops and Live PD, or perpetuated racist stereotypes, like the British sketch show Little Britain and Fawlty Towers (Don’t mention the War) have been cancelled or removed from their platforms.
But why is it so?
But back to ‘Gone With The Wind’. Experts and critics alike agree that this movie is one of the most important, most acclaimed and most valuable pieces of Hollywood history. It won ten Oscars (along with two honorary awards) after its 1939 release, including the first one to be “shot in colour”. It went on to win Best Picture. Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to win an Oscar and whilst the film remains the most popular motion picture of all time in terms of (adjusted for inflation domestic box office,) the only movie to sell over 200 million tickets in North America. It is generally held up alongside Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz and Citizen Kane as one of the defining movies of the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood.
Let us be frank; the producers of ‘Gone With The Wind’ did not set-out to make a historical documentary. They set about making a love story set in the rollercoaster of a period in history which was one of the most hideous of all possible times — a civil war, that pit brother against brother: and tore at a fragile Nations very soul. When it all boils down to it, it’s a story about a spoiled Southern girl’s hopeless love for a married man. It was not then a political narrative. Nor was it an expression of socio-political ideologies. It’s a love story!
Producer David O. Selznick managed to expand this concept, together with Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling novel, into nearly four hours’ worth of screen time. On a then-astronomical 3.7-million-dollar budget, he created an epic that has become one of the most beloved movies of all time.
In short ‘Gone With The Wind’ opens in April of 1861, at the palatial Southern estate of Tara, where Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) hears that her casual beau Ashley Wilkes plans to marry “mealy mouthed” Melanie Hamilton. Despite warnings from her father and her faithful servant Mammy (Oscar winner Hattie McDaniel), Scarlett intends to throw herself at Ashley at an upcoming barbecue at Twelve Oaks. Alone with Ashley, she goes into a fit of histrionics, all of which is witnessed by roguish Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), the black sheep of a wealthy Charleston family, who is instantly fascinated by the feisty, thoroughly self-centred Scarlett: “We’re bad lots, both of us.”
The movie’s famous action continues from the burning of Atlanta (actually the destruction of a huge wall left over from the set of King Kong) through to the now-classic closing line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Hardly the match to insight ‘book burning’ (unless of course they were Mills and Boon), nor riots in the street.
What next — ban the Beatles, for inciting defiance of social distancing laws: remember the lyrics from their song that sold 12 million copies: “When I’ll say that something… I want to hold your hand”. Laugh as you might, but almost nothing will escape the scornful eyer of the PC- illuminati.
The last hideous dictator who practiced revisionist ideology and social engineering on mass was the evil and maniacal Adolf Hitler, who held his own revisionist revolt, when on May the 10th 1933 in Berlin he supervised a book burning rally where books that were in conflict with his with German “ideology” were put to the flame.
Under his incitement, students, watched over by brownshirted storm troopers, tossed thousands of books into a bonfire while giving the Hitler arm-salute whilst singing Nazi anthems. Among the 20,000 volumes were hurled into the flames. Writings of Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, John Galsworthy, Ernest Hemingway, Erich Kästner, Helen Keller, Jack London, Emil Ludwig, Heinrich Mann, Thomas Mann, Karl Marx, Arthur Schnitzler, H.G. Wells, Theodor Wolff, to name just a few were burnt in this depictable outrage.
Propaganda Minister of the time; a lickspittle to the evil Hitler, Joseph Goebbels joined the students at the bonfire and declared: “The era of extreme Jewish intellectualism is now at an end…The future German man will not just be a man of books, but a man of character. It is to this end that we want to educate you. And thus you do well in this midnight hour to commit to the flames the evil spirit of the past. This is a strong, great and symbolic deed – a deed which should document the following for the world to know – Here the intellectual foundation of the November [Democratic] Republic is sinking to the ground, but from this wreckage the phoenix of a new spirit will triumphantly rise…”
George Santayana; the famous philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist once wrote: “Those who cannot remember and learn from the past are condemned to repeat it”.
Revisionism is an extraordinarily dangerous practice in almost every situation — but especially when it focuses on historical periods in isolation. It neither takes into account the laws and policies of government of that time; nor the political, social and cultural circumstances of that period. It makes no provision for the technological change nor evolutionary developments that have bought us to where we are today. It ignores the lessons that history has taught us since these times past.
Most of all, revisionists judge the actions and morality of a given period by the standards that they claim today are to be civilised. That is if you countenance rioting, burning, bashings or looting as civilised behaviour.
Today we are seeing an agitated and vocal minority, who in so many ways are self-serving and blindly politically correct with an egotistical myopic view. The profounder evil is opening our long-standing traditions to a burgeoning relativism that seeks to dismantle anything in its path for no legitimate end beyond temporarily appeasing its own insatiable appetite.
Who is to say future generations won’t be more readily susceptible to lapses in moral judgment given modern predispositions to expunge even the slightest of disquieting truths from the public consciousness? Have we as a civilisation finally reached a level of moral apotheosis that allows us to purify our past with total confidence that no future generations will commit an equally abhorrent sin? By establishing this precedent to remedy our past as it comports with today’s moral framework, are we not effectively giving future generations total leverage to erase from today what they deem morally impermissible by tomorrow’s standards?
The exercise of moral revisionism is as ridiculous as the perverted ideology of those who advocate its doing. This habit of tarnishing the legacies of historical figures purely and simply due to a position or belief we now find unacceptable also does a disservice to the many positive contributions that came from these men whose legacies are under attack.
Lastly, if we take this moralising to its extreme, who from our history books can be spared from the towering judgment of today’s self-righteous demigods? As the Lord said in John 8.7
“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”.
The key point is that there will always be ugly truths in our past, since mankind has and always will continue to be imperfect. As difficult as it may be given today’s politically correct zeitgeist, we must face these harsh truths head on, simultaneously taking pride in all that we’ve overcome and yet mindful of the complex legacies of some flawed, but great, men in our history.