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Banning of Films


Kinokima

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Bringing this over from the Audrey Hepburn/Emma Thompson thread since it was a bit off topic.

 

Should a film ever be banned or destroyed because it is offensive/racist? Films talked about were Birth of Nation, Triumph of the Will, and Breakfast at Tiffany's

 

I say definitely no but then I am against all forms of censorship. I do think you can learn something from these films even if the racist portrayals/messages are hard to watch.

 

Also quoting Roger Ebert again

 

"The Birth of a Nation' is not a bad film because it argues for evil. Like Riefenstahl?s Triumph of the Will, it is a great film that argues for evil. To understand how it does so is to learn a great deal about film, and even something about evil."

 

Discuss!

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Why would anyone want to ban or burn these films? Many films were banned in certain places upon their initial release, but Roger Ebert is right: we CAN learn a great deal from older films, no matter what the topic is. These films reflected what was going on and the attitudes people had in the particular societies and times in which they were made. It's all about looking at films with a certain perspective. Birth of a Nation and Breakfast at Tiffany's are both ridiculous and offensive when looked at today, but Birth of a Nation sheds a lot of light on not only 1910's attitudes toward racism, but DW Griffith's own personal attitudes. Leni Rifenstahl was, like many people of her generation, caught up in the mesmeric power of Hitler's speeches, and Triumph of the Will, while looked at as evil propaganda by viewers today, was not seen that way in 1930s Germany. When studying film or German history, I think Triumph of the Will is a key film that shows great insight into political and social attitudes of the time, no matter how horrific it may seem to us today. Is Birth of a Nation a "good" film? No, but it's an important film--it was a landmark in cinema history. Does Triumph of the Will show evil in progress? yes. but it's also an innovative film as far as Riefenstahl's style, and it's important to German post-Weimar cinema.

 

How many silent films were tossed out or destroyed because no one cared about them at the time? Now a lot of film buffs mourn the fact and get excited when films that were thought to be lost are found.

 

Film is history, and history should be preserved so that we can take note and learn from the past.

 

Edited by: porcelina on Aug 12, 2010 1:51 PM

 

Edited by: porcelina on Aug 12, 2010 1:52 PM

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I find it almost impossible to believe that anyone could seriously think that burning, banning, whatever, is an appropriate step for something that may be objectionable to some people. I really have never read anything more preposterous. Who's idea of what is objectionable are we to take into consideration? Because, I can assure you, that there are factions of who can find all manner of things, objectionable or hurtful. Are we to destroy everything that depicts a gay male as swishy and limp-wristed? Are we to destroy everything that depicts an Italian-American as a member of the mafia? Are we to destroy everything that depicts an Irish-American or Native American as a drunk? And on and on and on. These things are objectionable and hurtful to many people. I refuse to believe you are serious. It's so preposterous as to defy any normal discussion on the matter.

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History is often recorded and preserved in a biased way.

 

There is such a thing as revisionist history. Dismantling some of the old films is a form of revising our collective conscious as a society. It may be scary, but it also may be paramount to the advancement of civilization.

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But I think there are people who do want to remove those kinds of limp-wristed, offensive representations. Is that not one of the aims of GLAAD, to quash hurtful stereotypes?

 

I don't think what I am saying is terribly radical. I am sure that these thoughts are at the heart of most politically-correct individuals.

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I don't think GLAAD has ever proposed banning or burning films that portray gay people as "limp wristed" (correct me if I'm wrong). Rather, I'm willing to bet that GLAAD or any other group representing minorities, wants to bring this sort of thing to the attention of the public at large to dispel stereotypes. Have you seen The Celluloid Closet? Good documentary about LGBT representations throughout cinema history, and how those representations have changed dramatically over time.

 

Edited by: porcelina on Aug 12, 2010 2:02 PM

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I would say GLAAD is probably more proactive. They would rather see films that contain positive images of gay men and lesbians. And stories that further societal acceptance and civil rights for all. Those kinds of films will not have characters with limp wrists getting bashed, unless it is a tale meant to deter discrimination and victimization.

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> {quote:title=ClassicViewer wrote:}{quote}

> But I think there are people who do want to remove those kinds of limp-wristed, offensive representations. Is that not one of the aims of GLAAD, to quash hurtful stereotypes?

>

> I don't think what I am saying is terribly radical. I am sure that these thoughts are at the heart of most politically-correct individuals.

 

 

I'm not authority on GLAAD, but it is my understanding they try to quash these stereotypes via education. Banning, burning, etc., equals ignorance. The opposite of education. To deny the existence of history, is to surely doom it to repeat itself.

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I did not say we act like history never existed. But we rewrite some of it and dilute some of it. We can have text about these films and even museum exhibits with pictures of the more controversial scenes in BIRTH and TIFFANY'S. But do we need to screen the entire picture to understand its evil? Not necessarily.

 

I think some people are afraid to obliterate the past, because they are still clinging to the old paradigm where it's easier to get one's power by abusing a group that may seem weaker, subordinate or less valuable.

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The Man from GLAD. Time to take a second look at what that dude was really

up to. The somewhat ironic thing is that in the novel Holly is a bit of a racist,

not of the extreme variety, but it's still there.

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I don't think things should be banned or burned . It might just make it more appealing. I'm to young to have seen Convention City (but I'm sure it's not as bad as some of todays films.,but since it's lost it seems to have a mystic.

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ClassicViewer wrote:

 

"...these thoughts are at the heart of most politically-correct individuals. "

 

Aha, there you have it. I am proudly not politically correct, and I loathe political correctness, at least as I define the term. This does not mean that I am racist, sexist, gendre-orientationist (made that one up -the term, not the concept ), or any other "ist" you can name. It means that I regard those who espouse extreme "political correctness" as the new millenium's version of thought police. (no offence to any present company).

 

I'll give one example of how wrong-headed this kind of thinking can be: Every now and then the issue of banning Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn comes up. This is a great novel, and contrary to what many people think, an anti-racism one. Yet because the word n***r is used in it, there's a movement to ban it. That word was freely used at the time the book was written. The book does not advocate slavery. The most noble and admirable character in the novel is Jim, the runaway slave. It makes no sense to ban this great contribution to American literature because it uses the "N" word. This takes the whole story out of context.

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It wasn't that far back in time, that many states and cities had laws that required all films to be screened for a censor board which had complete authority, within its jurisdiction, to either require cuts or ban films outright. In many cases, the members of the board were political appointees who simply acted as puppets for the official that appointed them.

 

Here in New York, as late as the mid-1960's, it was still a normal thing to see the censor's seal spliced on to the beginning of every film shown in the state.

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> {quote:title=ClassicViewer wrote:}{quote}

> I would say GLAAD is probably more proactive. They would rather see films that contain positive images of gay men and lesbians. And stories that further societal acceptance and civil rights for all. Those kinds of films will not have characters with limp wrists getting bashed, unless it is a tale meant to deter discrimination and victimization.

I would say GLAAD is probably more proactive. They would rather see films that contain positive images of gay men and lesbians. And stories that further societal acceptance and civil rights for all. Those kinds of films will not have characters with limp wrists getting bashed, unless it is a tale meant to deter discrimination and victimization.

 

Of course they're more proactive in wanting LGBT portrayed in a positive light (as they should be anyway), but I don't think GLAAD would have decades of cinema history destroyed because of the negative stereotypes those films portray. I agree with the person who said they would use such films to educate.

 

Edited by: porcelina on Aug 12, 2010 2:32 PM

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The prospect of banning films, not to mention the shocking image of burning films, is very, very disturbing, and harks back to the days of book burning and dictatorship. If we are to learn anything from the past, it is that the censorship of certain materials leads to disastrous consequences. We cannot hide our heads in the sand and pretend that events like the ones taking place in "Birth of a Nation" never happened, we cannot pretend that there was no propaganda filmmaking for the Third Reich. If we were to destroy these films, we would be denying our children (and ourselves) the evidence of these realities, making them simply intangible oral stories, and leaving open the opportunity for these horrific events to happen again.

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> {quote:title=ClassicViewer wrote:}

>

> I think some people are afraid to obliterate the past, because they are still clinging to the old paradigm where it's easier to get one's power by abusing a group that may seem weaker, subordinate or less valuable.

 

I don't think this is true at all. Look I am Jewish and a film like Triumph of the Will makes me very uncomfortable. I am not sure if I could bring myself to watch it. But I would be a hypocrite if I wanted to destroy it. Yes the film offends me but it is part of history and I think people can learn important things from these types of films. These films might also be well made despite having negative messages.

 

As for banning Breakfast at Tiffany's as I said in the other thread do you also feel the same about Gone With the Wind? I think the depictions of blacks can definitely be seen as racist today. There are plenty of films with negative stereotypes. Should we burn them all?

 

Have you seen the film The Awful Truth with Grant & Dunne? It is one of my favorite films but it has in my opinion a negative portrayal of an Asian in one scene. Should that film be banned too? Where do you draw the line? And who decides what films are okay and what films are not?

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Another example, since nobody was too excited about the Huck Finn comment.

 

Shakespeare: At least three plays that, viewed through today's sensibilities, are offensive in some way:

 

*The Tempest* (racism towards the native population, albeit of one, Caliban)

 

*The Merchant of Venice* (anti-semitism, poor Shylock)

 

*The Taming of the Shrew* (outrageous sexism -the concept of sexism simply didn't exist back then)

 

These are all great plays; surely we wouldn't dream of banning them or prohibiting their live productions based on the offensive nature of some of their scenes. Every now and then someone talks about banning them or worse, doctoring them up , removing the offensive speeches, etc. To do so would be to deprive ourselves of some of Shakespeare's most beautiful verses, and also to miss the point.

 

What these plays offer in beauty, wisdom, and insight into human nature more than compensates for the racist, anti-Semitic, and sexist nature of them. Same goes for *Huckleberry Finn* and many others.

 

Sorry all my examples are from literature. Same idea goes for film. I'll try and think of some examples from film; there are many.

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Aug 12, 2010 3:01 PM

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I thought your Huck Finn comment was a good one as was your Shakespeare example.

 

As for books I can also mention Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky (who I love as writers) often had anti-Semitic moments in their stories.

 

 

I thought of another film example: The King and I. It is offensive to the people of Thailand for its inaccurate depiction of their king. Should that be banned too?

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Where is there evidence that suppressing anything is going to lead to it happening again? When you take medicine and suppress a cold or a cough, does it come back the very next day worse than before?

 

I think some of us are going to dramatic lengths to say that nothing must ever be forgotten or removed from society. But isn't there a natural selection, in terms of box office appeal and just the organic way that films stay in favor from one generation to the next which indicates what we carry forward? If fifty years from now, GONE WITH THE WIND or TITANIC are forgotten motion pictures, what are we going to do about that? Time evolves and it does sideline things that have fallen out of favor.

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