There is no denying that Gone With the Wind is a certified classic, and considered one of the greatest movies ever made. But its head is firmly on the chopping block in the wake of racial tension and protests around the country. The events of Charlottesville have left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. And now this 1939 drama is being shown the exit door at one theater in Memphis, Tennessee before it screens for the 34th year in a row. The reason? It's too racially insensitive.
As it stand, fans in Memphis have wildly mixed feelings about it. As one would imagine. You probably have mixed feelings about it as well, if you remember the movie. Most millennials don't, though, and that's the problem. Though the movie has been around for nearly 80 years, some newcomers are finding it beyond shocking. Though, for its time, it isn't shocking at all.
Gone with the Wind is an adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's classic novel. The story follows Southern belle Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh), who lives on a slave-owning plantation. She is deeply in love with a Confederate soldier played by Clark Gable, the iconic Rhett Butler. The movie traces the time between the Civil War and Reconstruction periods. Already, you can see where problems might arise in our current social climate. So the movie has been yanked from the Orpheum Theater for their 2018 summer movie series. Memphis is known for having a racially diverse culture made up of whites, blacks and everyone in-between. And there are arguments coming from all sides on the issue.
The movie screened as usual on August 11. And that's where problems began to arise as the theater was struck with a number of complains. The theater board decided it was best to retire the Golden Age classic for next year's roster. The Orpheum Theatre Group had this to say in a statement shared with Entertainment Weekly.
"While title selections for the series are typically made in the spring of each year, the Orpheum has made this determination early in response to specific inquiries from patrons. The Orpheum appreciates feedback on its programming from all members of the mid-south community. The recent screening of Gone With the Wind at the Orpheum on Friday, August 11, 2017, generated numerous comments. The Orpheum carefully reviewed all of them. As an organization whose stated mission is to 'entertain, educate and enlighten the communities it serves,' The Orpheum cannot show a film that is insensitive to a large segment of its local population."
Gone with the Wind is a Best Picture winner at the Oscars. And Hattie McDaniel won Best Supporting Actress for her work, the first African-American to ever receive an Oscar, which has historical merit of its own. The movie has always maintained a swirl of controversy. But never more so in recent years than right at this very moment in time. Critics have long bashed the movie for perpetuating racial stereotypes, and many believe that its colorful portrait of Southern plantation life is a joke that has few too laughs and is very backwards in its thinking. The black characters in the movie are referred to as 'Darkies', which is disturbing to many. And the way the film handles African-Americans is said to be 'broad, demeaning and stereotypical' for the time.
When the movie screened this past summer, many cited the film as racist. And some have posted Facebook comments about the movie saying it should be abolished altogether. And that it perpetuates 'white supremacy'. Film critic Lou Lumenick believes that Gone with the Wind needs to follow the Confederate flag into the trash bin of history, and that the movie stands as 'an ugly symbol of racism."
Not everyone is for banning Gone with the Wind though. Just as many are upset that this decision has been made. Sherrye Britt is one of those people, writing a rebuttal on Facebook, protesting The Orpheum's decision.
"My grown daughter and I went together to see this movie during the summer screening 5 years ago. It is an epic movie that no one should miss on the big screen. Stop trying to rewrite history. The next thing you know they will ban To Kill a Mockingbird, Driving Miss Daisy, and other iconic movies."
The Orpheum is planning to announce its full 2018 summer series line-up soon, with a replacement for Gone with the Wind. They will be showing a mix of old and new releases. And it's already being murmured that Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained may be a good alternative.