HBO Max, the streaming service that bundles all HBO productions together, have made an interesting announcement.
The civil war American classic film, Gone With The Wind, will temporarily not be available on HBO Max. When it does return, they’ll have disclaimers concerning ‘historical context’ and a ‘denouncement’ of racial character depictions.
This decision comes after weeks of riots and protests concerning Black Lives Matter. You can read a recent article by Snowy Fictions that discusses said group. However, the controversy surrounding Gone With The Wind has lasted for decades, not a few weeks.
Many deem the film, and the book by Margaret Mitchell, to glorify slavery. The film is widely considered to have ‘problematic’ elements in it. Of course, there is no way to go back in time, and stop the book and film from ever being created. (Yet). This leaves the public in a tough position: What do we do with ‘problematic’ media created decades, or even centuries, ago?
My position is clear. We accept fiction in whatever form it takes, regardless if the content is offensive. Also, we must show mind to the time period Mitchell wrote in. History, after all, is not a garden bed of flowers. It’s often bloody and merciless.
But we learn from it, and that means we need to acknowledge films like Gone With The Wind. Besides, we are not infants at playschool. It is infantile and rather insulting to our intelligence that HBO Max assumes that we need ‘disclaimers’ and ‘warnings’ over racist content.
Why can’t we watch Gone With The Wind and make up our own minds? After all, that is what the censor fears. People thinking for themselves, and coming to their own conclusions. To those who call for censorship, disclaimers, and warnings, they have the arrogance to assume that they know what is best for everyone else.
Whoever writes the disclaimer will probably have a comfy job, and the arrogance to tell those ‘lesser’ than them how to think. HBO Max is insulting their viewers, and doing it under the pretense of ‘education’ and ‘racism.’
I look over my bookshelf, and see beloved American works by Mark Twain and H.P Lovecraft, two authors often accused of racism. Will their fiction come with warnings? And why stop there? Why not censor them, and remove words?
Don’t put it past them.
In January 2011, NewSouth Books edited Huckleberry Finn, and removed ‘offensive’ content such as the use of the ‘n’ word. That was nearly ten years ago. If anythings, things have only gotten worse.
Worse, is that the authors of classical literature are often dead, and are in the public domain. No one can protect the fundamental right of authors to not fall to censorship, or have their own works rewritten.
All of this contributes to a longstanding trend in the West: trying to airbrush history to make people feel more comfortable. As said earlier, history did not happen so we can go to sleep at night with ease. HBO Max’s attempt at disclaimers feels like an insulting attempt at rewriting art to make it less ‘disturbing.’
To that, I say art is meant to disturb. From the books we read, to the paintings we see, to the statues that adorn our town squares, art, like history, works well when it is confronting.
This article is written in a time where people are defacing statues and tearing them down: as if that will make the past less horrifying. Writing ‘Churchill was a racist’ won’t convince me, or anyone else, of your virtue. But it will make you look thuggish, and appear ignorant of history and the nuances of art and culture.
You can’t rewrite or change the past, no matter how many books you change, how many films you edit, how many statues you deface and tear down. No matter how intense the mob gets, they can’t change history: only the record of history.
There’s a great quote by George Orwell in 1984:
“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”
During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, tyrant Mao Zedong butchered historians and academics, and his most loyal followers tore down statues and historical relics. Why? Because they got in his way, and posed a threat to his dictatorship.
That’s why I am not assigning positive intentions to HBO Max, or anyone who censors media. We think that our censors have our best interests at heart, when the reality tells us that it’s about orthodoxy, power, dogma and control.
How we interpret history determines our future and present. We all know this quote from Orwell:
“Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”
Here’s the thing. The past is not meant to be simplified into an easy disclaimer. It can’t find itself edited or manipulated. Humans that require a dumbed down version of history will never advance their morals or intelligence. Instead, they degenerate.
A good way to describe history is by applying Dickens’ A Tale Of Two Cities:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
Such complexity is too hard for any mob or power-hungry tyranny.