Not just 'Gone With The Wind', 18 classics dubbed 'racist, sexist': 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' to 'My Fair Lady'

The idea is to warn viewers who have never seen the classic movies before about potentially upsetting moments including depictions of racism, sexism, and LGBTQ issues


                            Not just 'Gone With The Wind', 18 classics dubbed 'racist, sexist': 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' to 'My Fair Lady'
Screengrabs from 'Gone with the Wind' and 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' (IMDb)

Turner Classic Movies has for a while been dabbling in the debate that its classic movies are in fact racist and sexist. In order to create awareness of what is offensive content, TCM will hold a full roundtable discussion at the start of several of old Hollywood's most celebrated films to warn viewers about 'sexist and racist content'.  

On Thursday, the cable network started 'Reframed: Classic Films in the Rearview Mirror', a series where they plan to examine the 'troubling and problematic' aspects of the classics, which were released from the 1920s to the 1960s. 18 movies are under the microscope including 'Breakfast at Tiffany's', 'Psycho', 'Gone With the Wind', 'My Fair Lady', 'Stagecoach', 'The Jazz Singer', and 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' among others. 

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Several hosts will be taking turns hosting the roundtable introductions before the start of each of these movies and will discuss the history and cultural context of the movie. The idea is to warn viewers who have never seen the classic movies before about potentially upsetting moments including depictions of racism, sexism, and LGBTQ issues. 

There are many problematic aspects associated with these movies. These include Mickey Rooney's performance as Mr. Yunioshi in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's', Sam Jaffe playing the title role of Gunga Din, and Al Jolson donning blackface for 'The Jazz Singer'. 

"We know millions of people love these films," TCM host Jacqueline Stewart, who will be participating in many of the conversations reportedly said. 'We're not saying this is how you should feel about Psycho or this is how you should feel about 'Gone with the Wind'. We're just trying to model ways of having longer and deeper conversations and not just cutting it off to "I love this movie. I hate this movie". There's so much space in between". 

Special Guest Jacqueline Stewart attends The 30th Anniversary Screening of "When Harry Met Sally…" Opening Night at the 2019 10th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival on April 11, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Getty Images)

A University of Chicago professor, Stewart became the channel's first African American host in 2019. She has spent her career studying classic films, particularly those in the silent era, and black audiences. "I grew up in a family of people who loved classic films. Now, how can you love these films if you know that there's going to be a maid or mammy that shows up?" Stewart said. "Well, I grew up around people who could still love the movie. You appreciate some parts of it. You critique other parts of it. That's something that one can do and it actually can enrich your experience of the film."

HBO Max, the streaming service that airs TCM movies, has not said whether or not they will be pulling any of the films, or adding the roundtable discussion. But last year, in the wake of the nationwide protests for racial justice and against police brutality, HBO had pulled down 'Gone With The Wind' from its catalog. The debate was whether it is an important film since Hattie McDaniel, who played the role of Mammy, was the first Black woman to win an Oscar in Hollywood. After being pulled down, the movie returned to the streaming service but with a new introduction from Stewart, who had called it "a major document of Hollywood's racist practices of the past". 



 

To give you an example of how and why it is important to have the movies available, consider the movie 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner' starring Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, and Katharine Hepburn. Stewart will be discussing the complex legacy of Poitier, who plays a black man engaged to a white woman much to the horror of her family. 

"His career is so important for the ways that white Americans really started to have more sympathy and understanding of black people," Stewart said. "But at the same time, there are aspects of his films that are clearly oriented primarily to white audiences. That opens up all kinds of complications for black viewers who felt that he wasn't a representative of the race as a whole."

Every Thursday, through March 25, four to five movies will be 'Reframed' beginning at 8 pm ET.

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