While many Old Hollywood films have stood the test of time, certain aspects of these classics are now considered outdated and problematic.
For years, there's been a battle over what to do with old racist, sexist and homophobic films. But finding a middle ground has been hard to find. That is, until now.
In a recent interview for "LA Times Today," Associate Editor and Op-Ed Columnist Nicholas Goldberg joined host Lisa McRee to share his thoughts on how these movies can be used to learn through a "modern lens."
Goldberg said that watching these classic films may be shocking to viewers today, given the awareness of systemic racism.
"The most famous is probably "Gone With the Wind," which is unquestionably a film that glorifies the slave system and romanticizes the old South. And, it is really shocking to watch these days," he said. "But there are plenty of others, and the ones I have been thinking about are 'The Searchers,' which paints Native Americans as vicious, violent and animalistic. There is a racist scene in the Aubrey Hepburn movie 'Breakfast at Tiffany's,' and I recently watched the movie 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.'"
This debate on finding a "middle ground" between filmmakers, movie lovers, film critics and broadcasters has been going on for years.
"We are in the middle of a broad culture war; some people call it cancel culture, and others call it political correctness," he said. "We are in the middle of a war on how to treat old statues and old buildings that are named after people who were slaveholders or were racists or eugenicists. It is not a surprise that the film industry has been under the same scrutiny. There is one side of this debate, and there are people who look at these old films that are racist, sexist or homophobic and refuse to watch them because they send wrong messages. Then other people say getting rid of those movies is considered cancel culture. So, you have this clash between these two sides at the extremes, and I got interested in the subject because I thought maybe there was some middle ground."
The network Turner Classic Movies found a way to deal with what it called "problematic" or "troubling" old movies in a series called "Reframed," which took place back in March.
"Turner Classic Movies picked 18 films they considered troubling, that people loved over the years, but that raised issues. They decided to show the films with more context and history. They got movie experts to discuss the movies before and after. They did it for four weeks, they showed these 18 films, and it was interesting to watch them and hear discussions about the problematic parts of them," Goldberg said.
After the summer's racial justice protests, Hollywood is rethinking what gets made, who gets to make it, and what should still be shown from the past.
"The whole industry is wrestling this question. They are wrestling with finding diversity within actors and writers and how to deal with these old movies," Goldberg said. "Some studios and streaming services are putting content warnings on films before they show them. Disney has a monthly meeting with a committee of outside advisors to talk about diversity, inclusivity and all these issues. I am sure all the studios are doing this. It is a time of reconsideration; we do not want to make movies in the future that are offensive. We do not want to just slap things up on the screen—old movies for people to watch—without any context and understanding about what they are about to see. I think this is a step in the right direction, that there is a middle ground to be found, so we do not have to bury these movies forever."
Click the arrow above for the interview.
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