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Old movies? Offensive? Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn

Opinion

We can’t change our history by pushing it under the doormat and pretending it never happened. So why all the cultural cleansing, asks Michael Blucher

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So … we’re getting rid of Gone with the Wind, one of the all-time cinematic classics.

An Oscar-winning production, filmed 80 plus years ago, but now deemed out of step with what modern-day society dictates to be acceptable.

No need for us to be reminded of that – of how we used to think, how we used to behave.

So we’ll erase it. We’ll remove it from the shelves of the HBO library and pretend it never happened.

And while we’re at it, Chris Lilley, you and all your offensive stereotypes – Mr G, Ja’mie, Jonah, and S-Mouse – you’re gone, too.

Over in the UK – Little Britain – Ting Tong, the portly Thai bride and Desiree DeVere, the black woman brought to life by David Walliams – delete. delete. delete.

No reason to have them offending … well … whoever they could be offending. So whooshka – into the bin it goes.

And as just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, Fawlty Towers, Basil upsetting his German guests, mentioning the war,  just once, but getting away with it…John Cleese cops it in the neck too. Fawlty Towers – unacceptable. Stop the world. I want to get off.

Call me old school, but I’m not entirely sure this drastic artistic cleanse is necessary.

As my 14-year-old reminded me, in a rare moment of adolescent clarity … “If people are offended by it Dad, why don’t they just turn it off? Not watch it?”

Sadly, I couldn’t combat his logic with any confidence.

“Mate, that’s not the way it works these days,” was the best I could come up with.

There are of course a couple of different issues we’re addressing here – the first, the appalling way that white man once viewed and treated his fellow man, on account of the colour of their skin.

Then more recently, there’s the ridicule of individuals on the strength of their nationality, their profession, their sexual orientation, even their socio-economic grounding.

In Summer Heights High, it’s Ja’mie King, the Sydney North Shore princess, with all her patronising, pre-conceived ideas of what’s normal.

“Some of you come from povvo families, but that’s not your fault. Some of you, I know, don’t even have Foxtel,” she reminded us, empathetically.

Out of interest, how would all the princesses on the North Shore of Sydney go about filing a class action, based on the humiliation and social pain they experienced while watching Ja’mie take the P I double S?

A long bow, clearly, but where does the nebulous notion of “offence” start, and where does it finish?

Back to Gone with the Wind, a production that I’m led to believe was for some time, critically acclaimed? Ten Oscars? But now it’s not?

Out of respect to Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh and the rest of the cast, instead of erasing the movie, how about we use it to reflect?

It is after all, depicting history. History being what once happened. In the past. We’re not saying it was right or wrong. We’re just confirming that it happened.

The moment we start trying to retro-fit everything that once went on, into today’s very different societal standards is the time we’ll all become emotionally, socially and intellectually constipated.

Nothing will make any sense.

Channel 9’s eminently sensible entertainment reporter Brooke Boney weighed in on the debate this week, describing the decision to remove the shows as a “slippery slope”.

And Brooke is an Indigenous woman – she speaks with a damn site more authority than a baldy middle age, middle-class white guy, who’s never experienced any form of racial vilification.

“If we’re going to go back through history and start removing things that are inappropriate by modern standards, then we will need to get rid of all those movies by Harvey Weinstein or the music by Michael Jackson,” Boney explained.

Bingo. Where do we draw the line? Do we delete World War I and World War II from the record books as well? Some pretty bloody appalling human behaviour served up in those 10 years.

I’d like to think we could be using what’s gone before us as a point of reference.

When we’re sitting down around the dinner table with our children, talking about what’s right and wrong, what’s cruel and what’s kind, what’s acceptable and what’s not, we can highlight just how far we’ve come, what progress we’ve made as a human race.

Pretending it never happened – not sure that helps anybody.

As for those who are offended by comedians – people whose job it is to poke fun at EVERYTHING. And EVERYBODY .

“Frankly, my dear. I don’t give a damn”.

“After all, tomorrow is another day”.

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