One of Hollywood’s iconic films is under some serious scrutiny in Memphis, Tennessee. The city’s historic Orpheum Theatre is pulling showings of Gone with the Wind after the 1939 classic was deemed as “insensitive.”
Victor Fleming’s film was part of their summer series programming. After the first screening on August 11, the Orpheum received numerous comments about the film which prompted them to drop it from their 2018 series. Based on the book by Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind starred Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh and was set in on Southern plantation during the Civil War and Reconstruction periods. Although a landmark in cinema, the film and its subject matter has seen criticism for its portrayal of people of color and its overall perspective of the South during that divisive time in history.
Considering its film was from 1939, its portrayal of slaves and owners has not aged well, which hasn’t gone over so well with Orpheum’s patrons in the current social climate — specifically the events of Charlottesville. Patrons started to voice their concern about the film’s portrayal of people of color and the Facebook post from the event struck a polarizing opinions from commenters. Some were in support of the movie as a learning tool to “teach our children and grandchildren what is wrong with slavery,” but after careful consideration the Orpheum Board deemed the film as “insensitive” to its local population, which is 64 percent black.
“While title selections for the series are typically made in the spring of each year, the Orpheum has made this determination early in response to specific inquiries from patrons,” read a statement from The Orpheum Theatre Group. “The Orpheum appreciates feedback on its programming from all members of the mid-south community. The recent screening of Gone With the Wind at the Orpheum on Friday, August 11, 2017, generated numerous comments. The Orpheum carefully reviewed all of them.” They added, “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 its local population.”
The cancellation of the screening resulted in an outcry from Facebook commenters. One called the move to remove it from the series as “stupid” and another said “The Orpheum will be following the propaganda & discontinuing this historical film. #shameonyou #burnhistoryburn”
The film won eight Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress for Hattie McDaniel, who became the first black actress to be nominated for and win an Oscar. Although McDaniel blazed the trail for actors of color — specifically actresses of color. Although she delivered an award-winning performance, her character of Mammy has become a controversial archetype — that somehow manages to exist today — when it comes to Hollywood’s representation of the black characters.