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Should offensive dialogue be removed to satisfy political correctness?

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The only downside of that is it would tend to propagate the mullet (internal shudder).

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> {quote:title=heuriger wrote:}{quote}If we can amend or abolish laws from the past that were codified why can't we ( as a society) change

> or eliminate words from a film to reflect a more enlightened present? Is Art more sacred than the laws by which we are governed? Silent movies get new film scores (Phillip Glass) so isn't that also altering the artistic vision of the original work?

Huge difference here.

Laws from the past are amended or abolished because laws profoundly affect everyone living today.

A law is not an artifact, or a piece of entertainment, which you can choose to pay attention to or ignore. Laws cannot be ignored, and unjust and discriminatory laws that were made in the past must be altered or deleted altogether because the type of society we currently live in does not tolerate such laws.

To compare our society's laws with our society's "art" and entertainment from the past is faulty reasoning.

Unlike a law, which regulates social behaviour and (hopefully) reflects a society's values (not always the case, I know), movies, books, and music are created and exist to entertain, to (sometimes) enlighten, to amuse, and yes, to make money.

Whether you partake of them, be they from the past or the present, is entirely your choice.

 

As for the argument that to edit old films to "reflect a more enlightened present", here's the thing:

The times in which those films were made were not enlightened; that is a fact. And there is something vaguely disturbing, creepy even, about the idea of altering those films to make it look as though they were.

Rascism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry were so endemic to most of the 20th century that if we were to start deleting passages, scenes, and bits of dialogue from the movies made then we'd have a sort of ragged patchwork quilt of a movie, with so many pieces snipped out and stitched up again that it would hardly be worth the trouble to do it.

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Not to nitpick, or, rather, yes to nitpick, there are many laws on the books on all levels of goverment througout this country today that are either not enforced, forgotten about, made obsolescent by the passage of time, court judgements, or constitutional ammendment. I am sure all the readers are familiar with the ocasional newspaper article about laws relating to the conduct of horses on city streets, or a jim crow-era law finally being abolished by a tardy legislaure.

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Right, we have similar such obsolete laws in Canada, which for some reason - probably just that their existence has been forgotten - are still "on the books".

But I am sure that if any such technically still-existing law was discovered to be in any way racist or otherwise discriminatory, it would be revealed and deleted immediately.

 

Anyway, interesting though your point is, it does not in any way refute what I was saying.

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

>

> As for the argument that to edit old films to "reflect a more enlightened present", here's the thing:

> The times in which those films were made were not enlightened; that is a fact. And there is something vaguely disturbing, creepy even, about the idea of altering those films to make it look as though they were.

> Rascism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry were so endemic to most of the 20th century that if we were to start deleting passages, scenes, and bits of dialogue from the movies made then we'd have a sort of ragged patchwork quilt of a movie, with so many pieces snipped out and stitched up again that it would hardly be worth the trouble to do it.

>

I agree, but I think a two-part response is called for, and we seem at times only to think of the first part.

 

That first part is easy: Don't edit / censor the racist / sexist comments / scenes. As I think we all seem to agree, these comments / scenes reflected (in part, anyway) what we were, and to pretend otherwise is wrong on a hundred levels.

 

But the second part requires a bit more effort, which would entail *also* giving more exposure to those films from the past which went (at least somewhat) against the grain: Intruder in the Dust; Nothing But a Man; Raisin in the Sun; and other movies that actually recognized and confronted the realities of their day, rather than just treated blacks and other minorities as part of a neverending minstrel show.

 

It's always seemed to me that TCM has a twofold mission: To entertain and to educate. These two aren't necessarily conflicting, but at times the second value has to be placed before the first one, in cases where the best movies aren't necessarily the most familiar to a modern day mass audience.

 

To be specific: It would be nice to show more movies like Intruder in the Dust, more independently produced movies by black studios and directors, perhaps as a SUTS day as an attention-getter but then also scattered more frequently through the course of regular programming. I realize that many of these films are lost, and that others are technically substandard and in need of restoration, but OTOH plenty of them are also both available and in the public domain, and if the will is there, there's no reason why they can't be introduced on a fairly regular basis.

 

It's often said that the way to counter misinformation is with *correct* information rather than *censoring* the misinformation, and I think that the same reasoning should apply here. Why shouldn't the films of Oscar Micheaux be shown at least as often as (for instance) the films of Al Jolson?

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Slayton, there was a thread going sometime a while ago in which I related a news story some years back where a young man was arrested and fined for cussing in a public place( in this case, a park). The law under which he was prosecuted was one that dated back to the 19th century. BUT still on the books.

 

 

But in the case of ART, if we can call old WWII movies "art", what are you gonna do? ALTER all "offending" art? You gonna put BOXER SHORTS on the DAVID? Put black "censor" bars over "LEDA AND THE SWAN"? Change the story line in "Figaro"?

 

 

Because people thought differently in the past, and movies MADE in those times reflect those thoughts, altering or censoring them to fit in more contemporary times is nonsense. Would it make sense, or be honest of you if you photoshopped old pictures in your family album so that everyone is wearing up-to-date clothes and hair-dos? Of course not. Seeing those old pictures with representations of the TIMES we were living in are a large part of the FUN, and actually who we WERE back then. Even IF they are sometimes hard to look at.

 

 

Same with movies. Seeing, in old movies, how we treated blacks, thought of Asians, and responded to sex, violence and all the other long abandoned ideas we can at least take some satisfaction in knowing that we, in either small ways or huge strides, have overcome that silliness, just as we take satisfaction that we've abandoned the hair and clothing of days gone by.

 

 

The cat's already out of the bag. Changing how we see it NOW won't change the facts of how it really was.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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Great point, Andy, and one that NoraCharles and others have made on this thread.

 

Yes, Part 1 of dealing with offensive matter in old movies and books etc. is to acknowledge that those attitudes existed, they are (shamefully, perhaps) a part of our history and pretending otherwise won't change it.

 

But you are right, that Part 2 is required. Part 2 being to talk about it, bring awareness to the racist and/or otherwise bigoted material in the film being presented, and "educate" the viewers with a "then and now" perspective.

Although I don't want old movies to have offensive dialogue edited or censored, I don't want films that contain such dialogue to just be screened as though there's nothing wrong or racist in them from the point of view of anyone watching such a film today.

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> {quote:title=Dargo2 wrote:}{quote}

> > Dargo, baby, believe me, I'm not "out to get you" today. I just seem to be reading posts of yours' that I don't agree with.

> Don't worry MissW. I'm not getting the impression you're "out to get" me here today.

>

> (...but If you WERE, then you can CERTAINLY expect as little resistance as possible here!!! groucho.gif )

>

> LOL

>

> But yes, in answer to your rebuttal here, you and the others in this thread who have agreed with your opinion have made some good points. It's just that I feel sometimes AND in some instances "molehills can be made into mountains" in defense of some opinions. And I've felt that in THIS specific case, AND using this rather forgettable movie as an example is doing exactly this.

>

> (...trust me, I'm usually the last one who'd ever be "overly considerate" of other people's feelings...as you might have surmised after all this time) ;)

Dargo, I'll try to stick up for you a little bit here. ;)

 

I agree that people can be eager to feign outrage over so-called "political correctness" (see:*Christmas, War on* :D ), and the "slippery slope" arguement is in itself a slippery slope (that kind of makes my brain hurt :| ).

 

While I didn't see this particular movie, it sounds like just a case of a throw-away line being scrubbed at some unknown point in the print's history. In other words - it wasn't like trying to pretend that Birth of a Nation *wasn't* a glorification of the heroic **** and their valiant efforts to save helpless white women from lecherous former slaves in blackface (I would insert some sort of "gag" emoticon here if I had one, by the way).

 

There are words and attitudes that don't belong in a modern society that should be at least striving for enlightenment. And there are circumstances when criticizing someone's word choice is warranted. But to me, there's a huge difference between saying something is offensive, and going back and disinfecting the past, so to speak. Andy, I hope you don't mind my stealing this from you, but you put it perfectly (at least I think so, I'm actually sports-metaphor-illiterate ;) ) - *"Cutting words like that out of a film is like giving us an undeserved mulligan."* I have a real issue with attempts to make bygone decades all apple pie and sunshine. In some aspects, society is worse today. In others, better. Change, in and of itself, is agnostic.

 

It's not condoning a word or action to leave it in a film. The rampant racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. on display was not "okay" because it was 1940. It was just as wrong at the time. The fact that it took decades for us to realize that is sad, but a step in the right direction.

 

Okay, I think I've been verbose enough on this subject. :8}

 

Dargo, I love your Groucho emoticon, by the way. Where did you find him? :D

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> {quote:title=slaytonf wrote:}{quote}Not to nitpick, or, rather, yes to nitpick, there are many laws on the books on all levels of goverment througout this country today that are either not enforced, forgotten about, made obsolescent by the passage of time, court judgements, or constitutional ammendment. I am sure all the readers are familiar with the ocasional newspaper article about laws relating to the conduct of horses on city streets, or a jim crow-era law finally being abolished by a tardy legislaure.

I don't know if this is at all pertinent, but you made me remember that Mississippi only got around to ratifying the 13th amendment earlier this year! :0

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/18/mississippi-13th-amendment_n_2712289.html

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I've been working on a new thread that I plan to introduce down the road. I am going to call it Classic Studio Inventory, where I will examine the hits and misses of all the major studios for each calendar year from 1930 to 1959.

 

Recently, while conducting research about 20th Century Fox, I came across a film I had never heard about before-- and I am wondering if it has been forever pulled from circulation.

 

It's called LITTLE TOKYO U.S.A. with Preston Foster and Brenda Joyce. Essentially, it's a B-film, heavy on the propaganda. Very heavy on the propaganda. The whole point is that all Japanese Americans may have been guilty of conspiring with the enemy. It is told in a semi-documentary style, adding to its supposed 'realism' or historical accuracy. Of course, in hindsight, it's a whole lot of bunk.

 

Has anyone seen this film? It was released in August 1942.

 

For more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Tokyo,_U.S.A.

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>NoraCharles1934:

>I don't know if this is at all pertinent, but you made me remember that Mississippi only got around to ratifying the 13th amendment earlier this year!

 

Indeed.

 

>misswonderly:

>But I am sure that if any such technically still-existing law was discovered to be in any way racist or otherwise discriminatory, it would be revealed and deleted immediately.

 

Not here.

 

Sepiatone, it was not my intention to comment on the subject of this thread. It was misswonderly's observation that laws, being effective, must be expunged, while words in moives, not being effective, must not be expunged that prompted my response. It is for others to wonder that if there are laws that are not effective, might there not be words that are?

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I think this situation is unique because it doesn't say, "Hey, if a need a sneak, I'll get Mr. Hayakawa down the street for the job." No, it's not saying one person is a sneak who happens to be Japanese. It is damning all Japanese people (military, civilian et al) by saying the epitome of a sneak is a Japanese person.

 

Profanity is edited on network TV when theatrical films are aired. Is that depriving people of the reality of the world by not including those words? It's a fallacy to think that editing hateful words is attempting to whitewash history. We commemorate December 7, 1941 every year, so there is no way people will ever forget the history of that event. But to insist that editing a single word from a film is whitewashing history is simply balderdash. The historical event always will remain with us long after that word is no longer in some film.

 

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Miss W,

What about writing new scores for silent films? Doesn't that somehow alter the original artistic vision?

What do you think?

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MissWonderly wrote:

> if we were to start deleting passages, scenes, and bits of dialogue from the movies made then we'd have a sort of ragged patchwork quilt of a movie, with so many pieces snipped out and stitched up again that it would hardly be worth the trouble to do it.

It already has happened. Someone has deemed that word offensive enough to eliminate it from the film. It's not simply my choice to watch or not to watch a movie if it offends. Broadcasaters have to abide by FCC laws and regulations. Films broadcast on the airwaves don't exist in a vacuum. There are broadcast standards, and obviously this word in that film did not meet the standards. It goes way beyond my choice to watch the film or not.

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slayton wrote:

 

... it was not my intention to comment on the subject of this thread. It was misswonderly's observation that laws, being effective, must be expunged, while words in moives, not being effective, must not be expunged that prompted my response. It is for others to wonder that if there are laws that are not effective, might there not be words that are?

 

 

It seems to me there's a lot of sophistry being used on this thread.

 

 

For instance, my point regarding obsolete discriminatory laws and language in old movies:I stated that with laws, our lives are profoundly affected whether we like it or not, whether we agree with "the law of the land" or not, it has an impact on how we live, therefore unjust laws that condone or promote injustice and bigotry towards a particular racial, ethnic, religious, or sexual orientation minority (have I left anyone out? if so, just add them ) must be eradicated. I'm sure that, slayton's reminder notwithstanding, the vast majority of them have been, the rest are sure to follow.

 

 

But regarding the latter - the language used in pre-1970 films (an arbitrary date I picked, I just got tired of always saying "old" movies) : the dialogue in these films is a product of its time, and causes no harm to people watching them today, other than the jarring effect of hearing a racist (etc.) term used. We know these terms are not used now,; we can arm ourselves against their offensive impact by remaining aware of that fact. That was then, this is now.

 

I will repeat, - this is to address heuriger's as well as slayton's idea - the words used in old films are part of the film, they are a reflection of the time the film was made, I see little to no corollary between the laws of society and the language used in old movies.

 

 

With the former, we have no choice. With the latter, we do. We can turn the movie off, or choose not to watch it in the first place.

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jun 17, 2013 10:42 AM

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> {quote:title=Dothery wrote:}{quote}There are other examples, but Joel McCrea tells a prying neighbor kid, " I'm a ****!" when he's asked what he's doing with binoculars (something like that) in The More the Merrier. I'm not aware of any instance when TCM has edited a movie's content.

>

> That was in what I consider the only weak part of my favorite movie, where Stash Clements, playing a kid, is saying he doesn't know whether to join the Boy Scouts. He was so obviously NOT a kid that it turned me off even when I first saw it. ...

>

The main topic here is very interesting, so I hope you won't mind too much if I address a tangential point: Stanley Clements was only 17 when he played his role in THE MORE THE MERRIER. He may have been slightly old in real life to be deciding whether to become a Boy Scout, but he was still a kid. (Apologies if someone has already addressed this.)

 

This has never been my favorite part of this great movie, but it's always been more because Clements' character is so frustratingly foolish, not because he seemed too old for the role. (But I guess it's all a matter of opinion!) And I would acknowledge that reporting McCrea to the cops at this point in the plot is an essential part of the overall story.

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> {quote:title=heuriger wrote:}{quote}Miss W,

> What about writing new scores for silent films? Doesn't that somehow alter the original artistic vision?

> What do you think?

Well, unfortunately, I am not familiar enough with that many silent films that I feel I can have an informed opinion about it.

 

But my feeling is that it doesn't bother me too much. The silent movies themselves, the actual films, are not altered. I suspect that for most silent movies there was always a great variance in the music that accompanied them, since most of it was played live.

Silent movies that had music specifically composed for them were, I suspect, in the minority, probably reserved for "big" pictures. (gagman, is that right?)

 

While I'm usually a purist when it comes to messing about with altering classic films in any way ( I have an apoplectic fit every time the topic of "colourization" comes up), for some reason I don't think it's that big a deal to write new music to accompany a silent film, especially if it is in sympathy with the tone of the movie (hey, "tone" - an unintended pun!)

 

Too bad the guys who came up with the soundtrack for "The Great Gatsby" didn't keep that in mind.

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jun 17, 2013 2:29 PM

(spelling)

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The FCC has broadcast rules that TCM has to abide. Someone has deemed that word offensive, otherwise why was it edited out? Some entity has determined that it's more harmful to leave it in than to edit it out. So we are talking about the airwaves because TCM doesn't broadcast in a vacuum. Maybe TCM did it themselves so as not to alienate their Japanese-American viewers.

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If the word was so innocuous why was it removed? But we all have to accept it was removed. We're powerless to do anything about it. I never said just because it has been removed from the film that prejudice is being white washed from the past. It's folly to think that.

 

That's why we commemorate Dec. 7, 1941. Honoring that day means we will never forget what happened, regardless of what a station does to edit a single word in a film.

 

I don't think because a word is edited out means people are unwilling to accept the truth of how people felt back then. Like I said, if we need to look for the truth we have Dec. 7, 1941. Removing a hate word from a film doesn't change or make people forget Dec. 7, but it's a way of moving forward.

 

No one is concerned when a film isn't accurate with historical events .People say, "It's just a Hollywood film." Accuracy isn't expected, but who is to say that some young viewer might not think that fictionalized movie is in fact reality. TCM movies are not the only source for history. ;)

 

 

 

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I'm tired of waiting around for DARGO to bring this up, but he never did, so I WILL...

 

 

So, it's NOT OK for Joan Crawford to say "****", but it's OK for Don Knotts to say, "NIP IT, in the BUD!"?

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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Ooooh...I'm not sure if I should laugh or GROAN at THAT one, Sepia?!!! ;)

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misswonderly wrote:

 

With the former, we have no choice. With the latter, we do. We can turn the movie off, or choose not to watch it in the first place.

 

As I stated previously, I can turn off a movie if I wish but the issue goes deeper. TCM has an obligation to not offend its viewership so I take it they approved of this edit or did it themselves. It's a nice debate but the reality is TCM is removing offensive words whether we like it or not.

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