I see a lot of embarrassment and attempts to hide (NOT “cancel”) movies, shows, even music from the past – just because it doesn’t jibe with modern sensibilities.
When I watched “Birth Of A Nation” for the first time, I didn’t think “Wow – I want to go out and join the KKK!”. I thought “That approach was obviously acceptable back in 1915.” It was a window into the past. Not the past of 1865, but the past of 1915.
After I read “Snow White”, I got the original version (I don’t think Mom and Dad knew exactly what was in the Grimms’ Fairytales volume when they gifted me the Collier’s Junior Classics set) .
You know – the one where the evil Queen is forced to wear red-hot iron shoes and dance until she’s dead? With her sweet daughter Snow White (another little tidbit excised from the original story) watching in glee.
Because it was written in the middle ages, and people in power tortured their enemies by putting red-hot shoes on them. It’s how they did things back then. Allow me to display an example :
And the other original Grim Grimms’ fairy tales were worse. Rape, cooking children and feeding them to their father (Holy “Game Of Thrones”, Batman) – it goes on and on.
Sure, these stories were sanitized in 1825, and more so in later years, but a simple trip to the library would have revealed the horrendous original versions of these delightful “children’s stories”. Trying to hide it doesn’t work.
When I watch “Gone With The Wind”, I don’t cringe at the “Mammy” character, because it’s a pretty good representation of how things were back then. I just enjoy Hattie McDaniel’s performance, and move on.
When I see Caucasian actors playing Asians or Africans in old films, I shrug and remind myself that men played all female parts in Shakespeare’s plays at the Globe Theatre. The real “Lone Ranger”? A black guy. And so on…that was then.
This brings us to NOW.
I cringe when I see real diversity dishonoured by casting POC as historical figures who were white as milk. This doesn’t undo anything, and comes off as pandering at best. Picture Jackie Chan playing Benjamin Franklin. And I’m still waiting for the version of “Hamilton” where the Congressmen from the North and the Congressmen from the South have it out over slavery.
That would be quite a bit of fourth-wall-breaking, no?
And I’m also still waiting for the movie starring Neil Patrick Harris as Nelson Mandela. Or Ed Begley, Jr. playing Shaka Zulu.
“Whitewashing”, and sugar-coating bad people are (for the most part) things of the past.
And we need to remember the past.
All of it.