Censorship has been a hot topic in the American consciousness as of late.
Divisive debates over free speech and the removal of Confederate monuments have blown open yet another chapter into America’s ongoing culture wars where liberals and conservatives are pitted against each other on a whole slew of controversial subjects ranging from race relations, LGBT issues, women’s reproductive rights, and many other touchy topics that I just don’t have the damn time or patience to get into.
Unsurprisingly, the never ending battle between the nation’s two primary political ideologies impact the way the American populace watches movies as well. Just very recently, many moviegoers were enraged when Memphis, Tennessee’s Orpheum Theatre pulled screenings of GONE WITH THE WIND, a controversial film that unrealistically romanticizes the southern perspective of the Civil War via the Lost Cause myth, due to how the 1939 classic was racially insensitive.
And this is where the trouble starts…
As if on cue, numerous right wing news outlets predictably retaliated against the Orpheum Theatre by stating that the Memphis theater’s reluctance to showcase one of cinema’s greatest achievements was yet another sign of how liberals were erasing history via censorship and disregarding the popular adage of how “those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.”
Personally, I think the accusations of “censorship” whipped around by right wing rags in full tantrum mode are a septic tank’s load of bullshit. As much as many people like to whine about how GONE WITH THE WIND being rejected by the Orpheum Theatre constitutes a form of free speech suppression, the reality is that no person or government entity is preventing cinephiles, movie buffs, or casual observers from buying or renting GONE WITH THE WIND and watching the cinematic masterpiece at home. Sure, it would be cool to see the four hour epic the way it’s meant to be seen on the big screen (which is something I’m proud to admit whilst I tear big theater chains a new one), but my point remains because you can still experience and enjoy the film sitting on your own couch without any fear of government agents kicking down your front door.
Additionally, the Orpheum Theatre has every right as a business to reject screenings of any movie that may offend their customers, and seeing as Memphis’s African-American population is around 63 percent, the Orpheum Theatre most likely has a quite sizable clientele who find many aspects of GONE WITH THE WIND morally reprehensible due to the film’s heavy racist undertones that sweep aside the barbarity of slavery in favor of presenting the soppy tale of a downtrodden southern belle who comparatively doesn’t deserve much sympathy from the audience.
Even worse is that GONE WITH THE WIND champions the thoroughly debunked “Lost Cause” myth where the south and the confederacy were the supposed “good guys” who waged war against the Union not because they enthusiastically supported the enslavement of people they deemed lesser but for the supposed “morally virtuous” reason of state’s rights that in reality morally white washes the confederacy from any wrongdoing by separating itself from white supremacy and slavery.
GONE WITH THE WIND is representative of this bastardized view of historical events. The film is an ode to a romanticized south where slaves happily served their “good” slave owners and is an effective propaganda piece that ignores a holocaust that has haunted many Americans for generations, and it’s incredibly ironic that the people pissing and moaning about how the Orpheum Theatre is committing supposed censorship are neglecting to admit how GONE WITH THE WIND is emblematic of a skewed historical perspective that constitutes an actual erasure of history.
The Orpheum Theatre had just cause to remove GONE WITH THE WIND from its lineup of classic films for this reason alone. While I don’t begrudge a theater that screens this film, there is too much fake information contaminating public discourse as is, and way too many white southerners (and even some northerners) actually still believe in the Lost Cause myth and neglect to admit how their ancestors were racist sacks of shit, further proving that its these whites, not “the oversensitive easily triggered social justice warriors,” who need to be educated on how “those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.”
Hopefully, the attempt to teach them won’t be a lost cause.