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therealfuster

Seeking political correctness...

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in old films, seems anachronistic and misguided to me.

 

While watching some ads for upcoming films on TCM with W.C. Fields, I started thinking about things that William Claude does, which the thin skinned of today might get upset about.

 

As I seem to recall, there is a scene in one of his films, where he looks to be about to deck his one daughter, and when his wife tells him to knock it off, he says something like "Well she isn't going to tell me that I don't love her."

 

I may have misquoted but you get the idea. I always laugh uproariously, even though in real life I would not approve of a father decking his daughter at the breakfast table.

 

Or dinner table either, if you wondered.

 

Now luncheon ta...never mind!

 

I think putting political correctness into old films, especially ones that are comedies, is putting the cart before the horse. This is a bit like trying to take the dangerous ACME symbol out of all the Bugs Bunny cartoons, for fear that someone will want to really use ACME's firecracker line to put under the nose of their boss, just like Bugs might do to Elmer Fudd.

 

Fields, being a bit like a flesh and blood cartoon character, and a caricature of humanity, always did things which were incredibly blatant, and I cannot believe that anyone would take seriously. If he looked like he was about to deck some horrid child in the bank, and one laughs...it is probably because we have all experienced some horrid child somewhere, who is motivating murderous thoughts in passersby, since her parent will not attend to her or him.

 

Can anyone seriously fault anyone who laughs at things so outrageous, that they were not taken seriously even when they first came out in theatres?

 

I hope not....

 

Your thoughts will be appreciated. I have noticed some disagreement on this subject among film fans that I know and have met. This is not to say that some films may have attitudes which now seem offensive, but still...they are a part of history and for that reason I cannot see banning them, just like I would not ban "Triumph of the Will".

 

Just the other day, I think I saw Fred Astaire in black face, but I'll leave that discussion for another day.

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What a coincidence, realfuster. I was just addressing this topic on another discussion group, and I brought up that dance ("Bojangles of Harlem") by Fred Astaire. It is so very hard to convince some people that Astaire meant the number as a tribute to Bill Robinson, one of his dance idols from the time he was a teenager. It's true that he wears a parody of flashy Harlem duds, and that some of the sets are grotesque, but at least Astaire didn't go in for the old minstrel-style blackface makeup (the kind featuring exaggerated "lips" by leaving some of the cork off the mouth area).

 

I have an African-American friend in NY who is philosophical about even the more blatant minstrel style stuff that shows up in the movies (take "Abraham" from Holiday Inn as an example, or the big minstrel number in one of the Garland-Rooney musicals). He laughs and says it's ironic that minstrelsy (which in its heyday was much more buffoonish in its portrayal of black people than any of these movies ever are) became a parody of black people, because it began life as the slaves' parody of their enslavers. The cakewalk was an imitation of the uppity white man's walk, and the formality of the minstrel show, with its "Mr. Interlocutor," was all to make fun of "the master."

 

It is a hard thing for me to make judgment about from a racial point of view, as I have never faced racial injustice. But as a woman I can say that I see plenty of discrimination and stereotyping of women in these old movies, and it doesn't keep me from enjoying them. I watch them while keeping ever-present in my mind the social climate in which they were made. That may be impossible for some, but it couldn't fail to be historically educational for all.

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The problem I have with Political correctness is that when one person feels one way about something, it seems we all have to feel that way.

 

As far as films go, people are thinking too much and not enjoying what's on the screen. For example the W.C. Fields you were mentioning, I can sit back and laugh at something like that because it's funny.

 

Whenever something appears in a film that today's population would consider distasteful or wrong, I just let it pass by. By this I mean I don't think about it too much. To me it's just part of the film. By trying to make these films more "politically correct" (you have no idea how much I hate that phrase), you're altering not only the story, but history as well.

 

Did you know that the old "Amos and Andy" radio show was actually started by two white men? White or black, what's the difference? It's still funny as hell. And that's the way I see it.

 

Does this make sense?

If not I apologize.

 

 

 

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that is a real coincidence.

 

Your discussion about Astaire doing a bit of a tribute to Robinson, reminds me of a lady I encountered while working at a gift store. Often someone who is totally nescient about a situation, will be the one protesting. This lady came in and was all atwitter about a line of Our Gang memorabilia. Being not much of a film historian, it apparently had not occurred to her that Hal Roach, far from being prejudiced was actually presenting an integrated neighborhood in his films, which was rather revolutionary at the time, with Porky and Buckwheat being friends and the whole gang being as one. I was put in the position by the manager to make this point to the customer, and she basically left with nothing more to say after being confronted with the true film history of the series.

 

To protest that which is really prejudiced or objectionable is one thing...but to misunderstand totally the motivation and see objections in everything, actually dissipates seeing real prejudice when it occurs on film.

 

 

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know that but then I was always a fan of Richard Rickover on "Leave It To Beaver">

 

Being that his daddy was Charles Correll, well I had some knowledge of the original show on radio, and how the tv characters were forced to copy the white men's radio types at the Mystic Knights of the Sea lodge and at home.

 

Like you say, Fields makes one laugh by being the model of what we might like to do latently, but which we know would not be acceptable.

 

Maybe someday films with Jim Carrey, Robin Williams and others will be considered not politically correct. "Mrs. Doubtfire" may be thought to be an assault on aged nannies and Carrey might be accused of insulting cable repair guys.

 

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Does anyone know whether The Paleface was aired yesterday, as scheduled? I noticed that the short documentary on Keaton played in that time slot (it was repeated later). The slot allowed for both to run, so it might well have. In my area, a local college station coincidentally ran four Keaton shorts, The Electric House, Day Dreams, One Week, and The Paleface. I'm no PC fan, but I'm not Native American either. Given today's climate, The Paleface could be offensive to some and the thought came that tcm might have pulled it.

 

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"The Paleface" did play at 8PM; because it's a short and was mistakenly (by me) put into a slot that was an hour too long, the documentary was put in until the next film started

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TCM Programmer, with the cartoon show now on the first saturday of the month, would TCM ever consider playing some of the banned cartoons? Cartoons such as "Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs", or "Bugs Bunny **** the ****"? Does TCM even have access to them?

 

I would think that showing these shorts along with a Robert Osborne introduction may open people's eyes a little. Let them know the history and Relevence if you will.

 

Thank you and keep up the good work!

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This statement is for & to the programmer: You threw away any chance of viewing Sunday nite with all those damn played and re-played silents, and then last nite, Monday AGAIN with the same silents--Apparently you are lost in a sea of titles which by now should be very worn & thrown the hell out. Maybe I can help you & tcm pick better things to show, and IF you don't have films I suggest then either buy - licence them, or simply close up shop. Thake this evening with the showing of Errol Flynn flicks: they or most were already shown last week. gaain,if that's the only in your very week selections then I could help you find the so many otheres NEVER shown. Wake up people there, once moree, is it any wonder fewer people are watching...how could you haave come so low that AMC LEADS tcm BY A MILE!!! cONTACT ME, if you dare!

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I say bravo to TCM programming. The silents are not aired enough and deserve attention. I prefer TCM by a lot. AMC reruns the same movie all week and mostly it is Crocidile Dundee or some other movie that was made in the 80s. Now that is all well and good but When I want to watch a good old movie, I go to TCM. I don't know if I am the only one doing so, but I still say well done.

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TCM is the best station on cable for film lovers and has been recognized as such by critics and awards alike. LeoB, as anyone who's spent any time on this forum knows, likes to inflame discussions. No one in their right mind who is a lover of film could defend AMC and the dreck they show, with commericals!

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Yeah for ayersorchids. Political correctness schmectness.I enjoy movies the way they are, I always take into account when they are made. Speaking of politically incorrect. In the Errol Flynn Star of the Month thing, there is a clip of him coming through a door an it seems doing a Cary Crant-Katherine Hepburn shove down of a gal. What movie is that from? I wanna see it! Also he is slapped on the face by a girl, which if everyone is equal should be just as "apalling." Which is that from? I missed a few of his movies busy with kids ya know. Ok, if ya can help great.

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I never said I prefer AMC to TCM, actually I watch mystery or western channel==all I said was that AMC as bad as it is and with commercials continually beats tcm in ratings -that's all. And another point for all you silent fans--when they are on fewer people tune in. And oh, although no one asked, I enjoy a western because it seems to me to be purer in story.

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jonkun77 - we would like to play those cartoons, but the context has to be exactly right; it's a very sensitive issue and the company as a whole is nervous about how it would be done

 

it's my hope that we will be able to play them at some point (we're working on it), but nothing is iminent

 

Leo - sorry you don't care for the silents; you're right, ratings would be better if we never played them (in fact, they'd be higher if we just played action movies from the past 20 years and a few color westerns - but that's not who we are or want to be and since we aren't ad-supported we don't have to do it)

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tcmprogrammer,

As for your reply to Leo......

Well spoken!! Being 70+ years old, your programs have been, and still are,a pleasant trip down memory lane .Thank you!

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tcmprogrammer wrote: >

> Leo - sorry you don't care for the silents; you're

> right, ratings would be better if we never played

> them (in fact, they'd be higher if we just played

> action movies from the past 20 years and a few color

> westerns - but that's not who we are or want to be

> and since we aren't ad-supported we don't have to do

> it)

 

TCMprogrammer, will you marry me?

 

 

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I agree, Ken. I'm 35 and if I wanted to watch films shot in the last 20 years, I'd go elsewhere. But what draws me to TCM is the variety of true classic films with the brilliant and beautiful actors that I love that I can't get anywhere else - particularly AMC with their constant regurgitation of the same films and commercial interruptions.

 

That said, and back to the subject at hand, as a person with a dual minority background who has been enjoying classic films for as long as I can remember, I can't say that I have ever placed any importance on political correctness within these films. I go along with those who have responded with an enjoyment of the film for entertainment's sake. Why should I pull apart the scene in "Shriek in the Night" where Louise Beavers emphatically refuses to view a dead body and proceeds to hot-foot it at high velocity down the street, far, far away from said dead body - a black stereotype so old it has 100 feet of dust on it. I fall off my sofa every time I see it because the scene is hilariously performed by all involved. Nor do I tie myself into knots over Sidney Toler (a non-asian) playing Charlie Chan - I think he's great. And I love Eleanor Powell's tribute (in black-face) to Bill Robinson in "Honolulu" - from what I understand, they were great friends. "His Girl Friday" a HIGHLY popular film and one of my absolute favorites, has what would be perceived today as one of the most inflammatory scenes in which one of the reporters goes on about a 'pickaninny' being born to Phoebe DeWalt or some such business, but it doesn't bug me.

 

Whenever political correctness is brought into an issue, everything gets all tense and wonky and everyone starts tripping over their tongues. There are enough films out there with deliberate political statements engineered to make me think without me taking it upon myself to get excited over Magical Maestro (a VERY un-PC and quite hysterical Tex Avery cartoon).

 

The way I look at it, these films were created for entertainment and, to a lesser degree, as a reflection of the sign of the times in which they were made. We can't very well go back and change history and to be fair we can't very well inflict today's ideas of social correctness on those of 50 - 70 years ago. So I just sit back and enjoy. ;-)

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Touche, tcmprogrammer, you managed to say in one sentence what all the rest of us have said in many....so now go away, leo.

 

You're all alone in your opinions, leo, so once again, go....away......leo or Ruben, or whatever you are.

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TCM Programmer, I (and I know that i'm not speaking only for myself) really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions. The fact that you do so shows that you are really interested in what we think.

 

Thanks to you I actually feel as if i'm part of the channel and not just a viewer.

 

Once again, THANK YOU!

 

Now back to the topic at hand, with all the PC around this country today, has there ever been a film that caused a problem with the PC community? (One that you later showed of course.)

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before I came to TCM (I've been here about 7 1/2 years) they were planning on playing "Birth of a Nation" and there was a bit of an outcry; the network handled it by bringing on film historians and members of the African-American community to talk about the film's place in history and how it's still so offensive to African-Americans today - the discussion preceded the airing

 

we often receive complaints about films that contain blackface, or that portray Native Americans inappropriately (particularly when they're played by white actors), and we try to reply honestly and respectfully, but making sure that everyone understands that we don't intend to stop showing the films

 

one of the festivals I did a few years ago was devoted to classic documentaries, and it included "Triumph of the Will" - there were complaints (very passionate) about it and I spent about an hour and a half on the phone with a holocaust victim; I certainly came away with an appreciation for his point of view, but am very glad that we played the film in that context

 

I'd like us to take a more comprehensive look at race in Hollywood, so we can address this topic as directly as possible; it's something we might do next year (I hope)

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Well thanks programmer for at least acknowledging if silents weren't ever on ratings would be up BUT don't assume I'm talking that I'd like action flicks--actually I prefer drama's and since were on this yopic, why do you have to repeat as often as U do? You said you been there for over 7yrs, surely don't you look at the titles and wselct something that hasn't been shown in the last 4 months...that would be novel. And is there so little money that tcm can not acquire new fare?

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Leo,

I will not engage you in a war of words. Nothing is accomplished by that. Rather let me state a few opinions.I believe tcmprogrammer was merely stating a fact about the ratings.I dont think he was making a personal assumption. I'm also of the opinion that he is very knowledgable of the selections.TCM must think so too since hes been at the job for over seven years.TCM could easily make concessions to the mighty ratings game and come out ahead dollar wise.It takes courage to stand by your convictions.Thanks TCM and TCMprogrammer for doing just that!

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Once again, Leo just doesn't get it. We are all here on this message board because we watch and enjoy Turner Classic Movies. We will find things we want to watch or tape and the rest we stay away from. Why complain about the programming?? Where else are you going to see classic films sans commercials, outside of renting them or seeing them in a theater? You get the feeling that Leo will never be happy regardless of TCM's programming. What a trivial thing to get uptight about. TCM does so many things right, which is why we are interested in coming to this message board to discuss the channel and the many great things we get to see on it. I'm just glad that the programmers at TCM aren't as selfish and limited in their taste as Leo is. But since Leo so obviously lives to annoy us here, we are probably going to be subjected to these rants indefinitely. Can anyone suggest a hobby for Mr. Bertucelli??

 

....and now, back to the original topic of this thread, before it goes flying off of the rails, I agree and applaud the TCMPROGRAMMER'S suggestion that TCM take a look at race in Hollywood, and it's place in cinematic history. Also, it should be looked at in a direct a manner as possible. Thankfully, Hollywood has come a long way since the days of Amos and Andy, and Al Jolson in blackface. It would be interesting to see how things have changed for the better by viewing the many examples of race provided by films from the past.

 

In doing this, one wonders how politically-correct a process this would have to be. It's hard to say. It is definitely a touchy subject. Directness just seems to be the most honest approach. I have enjoyed the many thoughtful opinions given on this thread (Thanks, therealfuster!). Although I lean more to the left politically, I personally cannot stand the whole concept of political-correctness. I feel someone should have the freedom to say what they want in any art form, and if they end up offending anyone, those offended will either discredit their work, or in some cases even ignore it completely.

 

But I think it's dangerous to censor anyone artistically. If someone wants to shoot themselves in the foot by their words or actions, as long as it isn't physically damaging to anyone, they should have that right, because we can always learn something about ourselves in the process of forming an opinion of the offensive material. If that makes sense.....But, yeah, it does seem that we as a whole are a great deal more 'sensitive' than we used to be. I am amazed by some of the things that have watchdog groups flooding TV networks with letters of protest these days. These groups threaten advertisers of shows they deem offensive and lobby to have some programming banned. That is completely abhorrent to me. What ever happened to changing the channel??

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Leo Bertucelli says: "And is there so little money that tcm can not acquire new fare?"

 

This statement demonstrates his idiocy - the entire month of April is filled with newly acquired/licensed fare, not to mention recently shown dramas which are TCM premieres (SIGN OF THE CROSS, CLEOPATRA, LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER). Leo, stop trying to inflame the board with your stupidity.

 

And I applaud the idea of a month devoted to race in Hollywood - fascinating to track the days of blackface, white portraying Asians and Native Americans, etc. It mirrors our society's changes over the last 80+ years.

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As I was reading the recent posts, I started thinking again about radio programs. One of the best loved programs was Amos and Andy. They were played by Caucasians. Same for Fu Manchu, Charlie Chan and so on. I dont remember any flap about that. Of course, that was a different era.I think it commendable that there were talks before the program to prepare the audience.

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