When studying history, one of the first things students were warned not to do was to judge the past against the standards and morals of the present. It interferes with objective reasoning. This lesson has been largely lost these days. The cool, detached study of the past seems to have been replaced by “Offence Archaeologists” looking at the past, seemingly determined to find something that upsets them today.
Nowhere is this more prevalent that in Hollywood. Hoisted by it’s own progressive petard, it is now shaking like a leaf and combing it’s own back catalogue, terrified that the mob will come for them next if they aren’t seen to be doing something… anything!
Some are cancelling their own movies. Hiding them away from the offended deep in their vaults. Others are taking a different route. The disclaimer. Recently movies such as Gone with the Wind have received a warning about outdated portrayals. This has even led to Looney Tunes cancelling swathes of their back catalogue and The Muppet Show receiving a warning on Disney+. Disney has a group of advisers who oversee such decisions.
The Hollywood Reporter is now reporting that TCM (Turner Classic Movies) is the latest to follow suit, which could be extra problematic for them given their entire reason for being is old movies. A series called Reframed: Classic Films in the Rearview Mirror will showcase eighteen movies that are now deemed to be, as they say, “problematic”.
Movies that are an issue? Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Psycho, Rope, The Searchers, Sinbad the Sailor and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers are included in the series. TCM’s host Ben Mankiewicz says:
“Nobody’s canceling these movies. Our job is not to get up and say, ‘Here’s a movie that you should feel guilty about for liking.’ But to pretend that the racism in it is not painful and acute? No. I do not want to shy away from that. This was inevitable. And welcomed. And overdue.
“I don’t think we ought to be afraid of irritating some people. Putting a movie into context does not mean saying, ‘Hey, look, man. People were racist in 1939, so let it go.’ Ultimately what we end up doing is making sure that these movies stay as part of the conversation.”
The THR article points out that 80% of the demand on Disney+ and 90% on HBO Max is for the classic movies and content. So new shows may pull people to the platforms, but the classics keep them there. So here we have a classic example of Hollywood trapped between itself and it’s insatiable need for money.
It turns out that an AI program has been deployed to analyze films and shows for issues like gender representation, racial slurs and violence. So the machines are judging human art. Itself a terrifying idea.
Who is next after TCM?