How racist is Gone With The Wind actually?
A decision that only causes headaches. HBO has announced that it is taking one of the most important film classics „Gone with the Wind“ out of its program for a while and is putting on the hat of the wryneck. The program provider had decades of time to show attitude, but preferred to make financial profits from the film’s unchecked demand instead.
Turning the flag to the wind
One question arises: Does this mean that, for a limited period of time, once racism has been fought, the film is allowed back into the programme and is then no longer racist? Or do we simply wait until the waves have calmed down again and then tacitly put the film back into the programme?
„Gone With The Wind“ is the confrontation of American history
One has to twist the main accusation, the „denunciation of racist representations“, very much to make such a statement. Because also in 1939 for filmmakers like David O. Selznick, George Cukor, Victor Fleming including the actors racism was a topic that was discussed during the shooting. It wouldn’t be possible otherwise. Because the entire plot of the film is based on the controversy of 19th century enslavement, which was followed by the civil war. Therefore the film would be completely useless without black actors, corresponding dialogues and actions.
So there is the scene in which Vivien Leigh slaps her butler. The butler complained that Vivien had slapped her butler a bit too hard, and not only Vivien Leigh apologized but also the production. The scene was shot again, with a weakened slap and reworked in the sound.
Vivien Leigh, by the way, apologized from the bottom of her heart and explained that she had no racist intentions whatsoever. Her apology was gratefully accepted, the actors had a good relationship with each other anyway. To the point, however, is the fact that black actors were not allowed to watch the premiere of the film in the cinema because only white people were allowed to enter. Interestingly, it’s not true that it’s those who make profits with the film who pull the racist strings.
Gone With the Wind is a work of art in every respect
You don’t have to be a lover of romantic movies. But everyone who is even remotely interested in film, acting, dramaturgy, lighting and storytelling should have seen „Gone with the wind“. There is no other film that has been as successful as „Gone with the wind“ for about 80 years. This success is the result of an unprecedented total work of art, created in a creative process never seen before.
There is no other film in the world in which 2000 actors and extras were equipped with hand-sewn 19th century dresses like in „Gone with the Wind“. Vivien Leigh was amazed that even the petticoats of the rushing dresses were real and noticed that no one in the cinema would see these petticoats. O. Selznick replied: „But YOU know. And you move differently in a real petticoat.
The scene of the big fire in Atlanta could only be shot with various sets from other films. Let’s consider the limited technical possibilities of the 30’s. The scene had to sit the first time, a repetition would have been unthinkable. Seven cameras were set up to shoot the huge fire from different perspectives, which resulted in the famous scene of the escape from Atlanta. So the scenery from the then version of „King Kong“ burned brightly in the Atlanta scene.
Do you have just two years time and money?
David Cukor, the first director searched with the producer Victor Flaming, later also with O. Selznick for the leading actress of the film for two years! Thousands of young women and aspiring actresses were cast until the perfect appearance of Scarlett O’Hara was found with Vivien Leigh.
Art is the confrontation with the present
Those responsible for making such index decisions today should turn their flag less to the wind and instead use their head more often. Taking the film „Gone with the Wind“ out of the programme does not change any social processes. Above all, because neither the book nor the film gloss over racism against blacks, but instead deal with the subject matter. And this is exactly the point. Dealing with issues does not mean taking their position. Instead, it is a learning process, in which understanding for processes develops, knowledge matures.
You must know the past to understand the present
If you want to understand American racism today, you have to deal with history. The enslavement of black people was already an issue in the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865. How is one supposed to understand the origin of American racism if new translations do not make the heated explosiveness of 1861 clear in language? Certain terms like „Negro“, which were used in books and films, may no longer be relevant today. However, they were central to the discussion of the subject and represent the time before the Civil War. That’s why we also speak of „performing arts“.
I wonder at this point, would we put something on Michelango’s David today, because it doesn’t fit into modern times to present ourselves naked?
It is here, and even much earlier, that the origins of the racism that still exists in the USA today can be found. It was precisely that war that was the result of a long discussion about enslavement. Whoever removes „Gone with the Wind“ from the program today, rather deprives the public of an important part of American history: the roots of racism in the USA.