NY Post Film Critic Misses The Point Over Charleston, Wants Iconic Film Banned (VIDEO)

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Gone with the Wind is an iconic piece of cinematic history. It also is based on a very romanticized, idealistic interpretation of the Civil War, the old South, and slavery. As such, it has lost its luster over the years, as America progressed away from its racially biased past, as have other cinematic masters such as Birth of a Nation and Song of the South.

This, however, appears to have been lost on New York Post film critic Lou Lumenick. In his June 24th column, titled ‘Gone with the Wind’ Should Go the Way of the Confederate Flag, he presents an argument against the film which fundamentally shows that not only does he not understand the current issue of race in America today, but does so in a manner which is both condescending and disrespectful to those who lost their lives in Charleston last week:

“If the Confederate flag is finally going to be consigned to museums as an ugly symbol of racism, what about the beloved film offering the most iconic glimpse of that flag in American culture?”

He refers, of course, to the iconic shot over the wounded soldiers, the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia flapping in the breeze.

But Gone With the Wind, like any other film made, is a reflection of the time in which it was created. Let us look for another cinematic masterpiece set within the Civil War, Gods and Generals, which sought a more realistic, rather than romantic, viewpoint on the Civil War. In it, we find a variety of southern flags used, even including this song written about one of the first flags of the Confederacy, called the Bonnie Blue Star.

In both cases, the directors made choices to present the war in a particular way. In Gone with the Wind, the producer, David O. Selznick, presented the flag not as a triumphant statement, but instead as a brutal symbol, flapping in the wind over the dead and dying, while a lone bugle plays taps. That is not glorifying the flag, it is destroying the glory some sought to gain from it.

Lumenick also has mistaken the criticism against the former Battle Flag of Northern Virginia as one against the flag as an absolute, rather than against its use by our government. Warner Brothers is not part of the government, and nor did the government make Gone with the Wind. As such, the romanticized Civil War it shows is not on the public’s mind.

Gone with the Wind was considered the fourth best movie ever made in a 1998 poll of film experts, but dropped when they were re-polled a decade later, a sign of America’s progress as a nation. Not that new movies had been released in those ten years which were superior, indeed, the movies which entered into the top 5 were older films as well, but that America’s attitudes about our past have changed. No longer is the Civil War romanticized by the majority of this nation. Instead the brutal truth, that it was a bloodbath caused by greed, avarice, and humanities inhumanity to itself, is accepted.

As a result, movies such as Gone with the Wind and Birth of a Nation are now viewed not as inspiration, but in the context of the time they were made. After all, they were done to tell a take of a romantic past. Compare against 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is designed to give an inspirational view of where we could go, rather than an idealized view of the past. But all of them are rooted not in the eras presented, but in the contemporary of the times they were produced.

Lumineck criticized Warner Brothers as well for what he claims is their resistance to analyzing the film’s racial presentations. But in checking the history, we find them cooperating with multiple critiques of the film’s sanitized slavery and race relations – indeed the film stripped out the overt racism from the novel, such as Rhett and Ashley’s membership with the Ku Klux Klan. The Atlanta Historical Society has in particular been very vocal on the film’s inaccuracies in regards to slavery and race relations, and operated exhibits without a word of dissent from the owner for decades, and Warner Brothers included a featurette discussing the racial impact of the film with the 75th anniversary release. Hardly resistance at all.

Any cinematic piece must be taken in context of the environment it was created. In the 1930’s, overt racism was accepted by the population. In 2015, it is not. Gone with the Wind would not be a successful movie if it was released today. Instead it would be mocked, satirized, and ignored. Its romanticized depiction of a horrible chapter of American history is an anachronism, and out of character for the world today.

That does not mean we bury it, like Atari cartridges in a New Mexico landfill. It can and should be released when the owner desires, and watched when the audience wishes. Indeed, Fox Theater in Atlanta, GA is planning on showing Gone with the Wind this Julyas part of their celebration of historically significant movies, joining a lineup which includes other great films such as Dr. Strangelove and The Wizard of Oz.

In all of this, Lumenick has ignored that the entire fracas over the rebel flag was not over its existence, but over its prominence at a government building, flying at full staff while a city mourned, due to a law passed in 2000, the “Heritage Act.” The law was written such that it requires the legislature to reach a supermajority vote to either take the flag down, or to fly it at half staff out of respect for the dead. The flag then became a rallying cry not over its racial overtones imposed by hate groups such as the KKK, but over the disrespect it flying at full staff meant.

In other words, the law was written from an arbitrary position, and written so badly that it now has caused the current complaints, which have resulted in the flags being pulled from stores nationwide. As a result, the authors of the law are now having the very thing they feared, the removal of the flag from the public space, happening. They got what they wished, and it cost them in the long run. This is why the forced embrace of such symbols, by pushing them into the public square, ultimately will always backfire.

Unless we are going to have state offices require Gone with the Wind in history classes, or the KKK broadcasting it across people’s homes at 2 in the morning, then Lumenick’s call to hide it away and forget about it does not fit the debate happening today. There is a place for Gone with the Wind in the long overdue discussion our nation is now having. To hide it, to embrace historical revisionism and pretend it does not exist, is no different from the law which caused the current debate to begin with.

 

Reprinted with permission from Addicting Info

 

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