(AP) – Loving classic movies can be a busy hobby. Just think of the “Gone with the Wind” cultural storm last summer.
No one knows this better than the moviegoers of Turner Classic Movies who are confronted daily with the complicated reality that many of Hollywood’s most famous old movies are also often a kitchen sink of stereotypes. This summer, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter protests, the channel’s programmers and hosts decided to do something about it.
The result is a new series, “Reframed Classics,” which promises extensive discussions of 18 culturally significant films from the 1920s to the 1960s that also feature problematic aspects, from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” to the performance of Mickey Rooney in the role. from Mr. Yunioshi to Fred Astaire’s Blackface Routine in “Swing Time”. It kicks off Thursday at 8 p.m. ET with none other than “Gone with the Wind”.
“We know millions of people love these movies,” said TCM host Jacqueline Stewart, who takes part in many conversations. “We’re not saying that’s how you should feel about ‘Pyscho’ or this is how you should feel about ‘Gone with the Wind.’ We’re just trying to model ways to have longer, deeper conversations and not just interrupt them at “ I love this movie. I hate this movie. There is so much space in between.
Stewart, a professor at the University of Chicago who in 2019 became the channel’s first African-American host, has spent her career studying classic films, especially those of the silent era, and black audiences. She knows firsthand the tension of romance films which also contain racial stereotypes.
“I grew up in a family of people who loved classic movies. Now, how can you love these movies if you know there will be a maid or a mom showing up? Said Stewart. “Well, I grew up with people who could still love the movie. You enjoy some parts of it. You criticize other parts of it. It’s something you can do and can do. actually enrich your film experience. ”
While TCM audiences will know her as the host of Silent Sunday Nights, last summer she received a bigger spotlight when she was selected to present “Gone with the Wind” on HBO Max in order. to provide appropriate context after its controversial removal from the streaming service. . She remembers having written her words for this while concocting this series.
“I continue to feel a sense of urgency around these topics,” she said. “We show films that have really shaped the way people continue to think about race and gender, sexuality and ability. It was really important for the group to come together to think about how we can work with each other and work with our fans to deepen the conversations about these films.
TCM hosts Ben Mankiewicz, Dave Karger, Alicia Malone and Eddie Muller will also be part of many conversations. The films they have selected are not part of the new radar either. As Stewart said, “These are the classics of the classics.”
The series, which runs every Thursday through March 25, will also show “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, “Gunga Din”, “The Searchers”, “My Fair Lady”, “Stagecoach”, “Woman of the Year” and “Children’s Hour. “
The selections also allow animators to think more broadly of Hollywood films. For “Psycho,” which airs on March 25, the hosts talk about transgender identity in the film and the implications of equating gender fluidity and women’s clothing with mental illness and violence. It also sparks a bigger conversation about sexuality in the Alfred Hitchcock films.
During the “My Fair Lady” conversation on March 25, they discuss why the film adaptation has a less feminist ending than the play and Henry Higgins’ physical and psychological abuse of Eliza Dolittle. Not feeding her and sticking marbles in her mouth are played for good laughs in the movie. Is this a comment on misogyny or just misogyny?
In the series, Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” will face a scrutiny of its portrayals of transgender identity and gender fluidity in conjunction with mental illness and violence.
And during the “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” evening, broadcast on March 11, Stewart discusses the complex legacy of Sidney Poitier.
“His career is so important to how white Americans really started to have more sympathy and understanding of black people. But at the same time, there are aspects of his films that are clearly geared primarily toward white audiences, ”said Stewart. “It opens up all kinds of complications for black viewers who felt he was not a representative of the race as a whole.”
Companies have recently started adding disclaimers before shows and movies depicting outdated or stereotypical characters and themes. And in some cases, the movies have just been made unavailable. Disney has stated that its 1946 film “Song of the South” will never be on Disney +. The classic movie podcast “You Must Remember This” has a great streak on the controversial film and how it came about.
The goal of “Reframed Classics” is to help give audiences the tools to discuss films from another era, not just reject or cancel them. And Stewart, for her part, doesn’t believe you can just remove problematic films from culture.
“I think there is something to be learned from any work of art,” said Stewart. “These are all historical artifacts that tell us a lot about the industry they were made in, the cultures they spoke of.”