The Orpheum Theatre board announced Aug. 25 that they will drop the 1939 Civil War-based film, “Gone with the Wind,” from the venue’s summer series next year, ending the 34-year-old tradition of its screening.
This year’s showing happened to land on Aug. 11, the same weekend the neo-Nazi rallies took place in Charlottesville, Virginia. The announcement was made after “a social media storm” condemned the film for being racist and condoning white supremacy. The Orpheum decided not to show the film next year because it “does not adhere with the theater’s mission,” according to a public statement.
“As an organization whose stated mission is to ‘entertain, educate and enlighten the communities it serves,’ the Orpheum cannot show a film that is insensitive to a large segment of the population,” Brett Batterson, president of the Orpheum, said in the statement.
The theater’s decision to stop showing the movie has received support from some individuals, like Ed Yancey, a University of Memphis history and African-American history professor. He said he agreed with the choice because he understands how hurtful it can be for some to watch, especially during this time.
“It definitely portrays black people in a poor way, and during a time like this, it can be very insensitive to African-Americans,” Yancey said. “I believe it’s hard for people to watch because they’re viewing it from the same standpoint of certain films like ‘Goodbye, Uncle Tom’ and ‘Birth of a Nation.’”
Yancey also said it is hard for people to decipher whether or not the film is being used to promote malicious behavior or educate others about the importance of Civil War history and the Reconstruction era.
“If it’s a rally cry to hurt someone or be malicious, it’s going to be taken that way,” Yancey said. “At the same time, it could be used to pay homage or respect.”
The Orpheum’s decision to denounce the film’s showing has caused many people to express their criticism over Facebook. Many say it is unfair for the theater to stop showing the film because “it is an important part of history and art.” The film did win 10 Oscars in its time, including one for Hattie McDaniel who won best supporting actress for her portrayal of “Mammy.” This was the first time a black actor won an Academy Award.
Still, some critics commented that because “Gone with the Wind” is banned, the theater should also ban films like “Roots,” “The Color Purple” and “The Help,” which also feature aspects of slavery, discrimination and racism.
Yancey said people who are critical of the theater’s decision are being hypocrites in terms of political correctness.
“People have a problem with political correctness when it applies to them, but they don’t have a problem when they expect others to be politically correct,” Yancey said.
Yancey also said he thinks the criticism of the Orpheum’s decision shows how loyal Americans are to an ideology, person or place, rather than being loyal to the country, which is “causing America to be at a standstill.”
Despite the criticism the Orpheum has received for its recent change to its summer series, the theater said they will feature more recent and classic films in their 2018 movie series, which will be announced in the spring.