The USC School of Cinematic Arts will remove the controversial John Wayne exhibit. Wayne attended the university and played football there in the 1920s before becoming a Hollywood superstar. The exhibit was protested late last year by a number of students who found it to be offensive, mainly over the fact that an old Playboy interview with the late actor resurfaced. In the interview, Wayne says, "I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don't believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people."

Back in October 2019, USC's School of Cinematic Arts knew they were going to have to make a decision about the John Wayne exhibit at some point. Protestors were given a safe place to openly talk about their reasoning for taking down the exhibit, and now the university has decided to follow through. The removal was announced today, July 10th, by Evan Hughes, USC's Assistant Dean of Diversity & Inclusion. He had this to say.

"Conversations about systemic racism in our cultural institutions along with the recent global, civil uprising by the Black Lives Matter Movement require that we consider the role our School can play as a change maker in promoting antiracist cultural values and experiences. It has been decided that the Wayne Exhibit will be removed."

All of the John Wayne material from the exhibit, which includes posters, movie memorabilia, and personal items, is being moved to the Cinematic Arts Library for research and scholarship, where it will stay with other Hollywood artifacts. The Wayne exhibit had been up without much of a problem since 2012. An article by The Daily Trojan covered the protests in October 2019 and included some of Wayne's comments from the Playboy interview. When asked about Western movies and fighting Native Americans, Wayne said, "There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves." He was 63-years old at the time of the interview.

In the same 1971 Playboy interview, John Wayne spoke of casting Black actors in movies. "If it's supposed to be a black character, naturally I use a black actor. But I don't go so far as hunting for positions for them," Wayne said. "I think the Hollywood studios are carrying their tokenism a little too far... I don't feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago these people were slaves." It's comments like these that had USC students angry about the John Wayne exhibit. Wayne died of cancer in 1979, seven years after the Playboy interview.

In addition to the John Wayne exhibit getting shut down, Orange County, California is considering changing the name of John Wayne Airport. The Democratic Party of Orange County wants to revert the name of the John Wayne Airport to its original Orange County Airport. However, changing the name won't be easy and has already been met with opposition. Ethan Wayne, the actor's son, maintains that his father was not a racist. You can read the USC School of Cinematic Arts Twitter statement above.

Kevin Burwick at Movieweb
Kevin Burwick