Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Media: Free Speech

What do we watch, what can we watch?  What do we say, what can we say?  These are questions that popped up all last week.  We felt like Carole King singing the first two lines of "It Might As Well Rain Until September" ("What should I write/What can I say").


Let's start with GONE WITH THE WIND.  We aren't fans of the 1939 film; however, we do know that some people are fans.  They consider it an epic -- we consider it an overly long film in need or pruning.  It was the biggest film of its day in terms of tickets sold.

We think it started off on the wrong foot and never could have recovered.

Vivian Leigh won an Academy Award for her performance.  She looks amazing.  Her acting?  Bette Davis played a similar role the year prior in JEZEBEL -- and also won an Academy Award.  Bette offered a layer performance.  Vivian's acting in the role would be better suited for a comedy.  Bette should have gotten the role.  Paulette Goddard also could have done a wonderful job in the role.  We're not disputing that Vivian is a strong actress, we're just saying she was a little too amused at her own work and winking at the camera.

The casting was an issue.  It wasn't the only misstep.  George Cukor was hired to direct.  After filming began, he was fired.  Why?  Gay-for-pay Clark Gable didn't care for the fact that Cukor knew of his past and that Cukor knew William Haines who was said to have been one of Gable's paying customers.  Gable had a snit fit and the gay director was fired and replaced with Victor Fleming.

The casting and the homophobia are issues.  But while people have two feet, this project had at least three and all were wrong footed.  The third one?  The source material where racism abounds and a good person of color is someone who wants to be a slave and doesn't leave even when Lincoln frees the slaves.

'Ava and C.I., you are judging the book and the film by today's standards!'

What an interesting thing to say.  How else would we judge except by our own standards?

Yes, we are aware that Margret Mitchell won a Pulitzer for writing GONE WITH THE WIND and that she won The National Book Award.  To which, like Stanley Kowalski, we say, "So what?"

So what?

Many popular books win awards and recognition that they don't deserve.  The same is true of many films.

For us, this was an unimportant film that we found racist.  That was even more true when we read Alice Walker's short story collection YOU CAN'T KEEP A GOOD WOMAN DOWN (1971) -- specifically "A Letter of the Times or Should This Sado-Masochism Be Saved?"

GONE WITH THE WIND is a racist film.  "Not for it's time!"  We're not living in that time.  The march of time is a march of progress.

Last week, the laughable HBO MAX announced it was removing GONE WITH THE WIND at least temporarily.

Guess what?  We don't agree with that.

We would prefer no one watched that film but only if they were making that choice.  We don't believe in censorship and we certainly don't believe in banning in the arts.

We'd love to tell you that was a winning argument in the talks we participated in; however, that wasn't the case.  Turns out that the blue hairs of today actually do have blue hair . . . and purple hair and hair of every color.  Somehow a very basic position, free speech, has become controversial and little discussed.

That's fine.  At its heart, America doesn't like censorship.  All this will take is a few years of addressing this issue.

But what we did find especially interesting was when the same attitude got an episode of FAWLTY TOWERS pulled.  The beloved Brit com created by John Cleese and Connie Booth saw an episode pulled -- not over comments about war -- as if -- but because of the use of the n-word.

We were surprised because here we didn't have to defend the program being censored.  FAWLTY TOWERS is beloved.  So what it really boiled down to among the people we spoke to last week was that censorship was bad when you liked the speaker and good when you didn't like the speaker.

Safe spaces, parallel play!  Let's pretend that's how the grown up world works.

Cleese launched an attack on the censors.  He said the character speaking was supposed to be an idiot so this was not endorsing these statements but mocking the people who would utter them.

That might have been why the episode was re-instated on streaming platforms (and talk of pulling it out of the boxed set were dropped).

If so, that helped no one else.

Two words: Quentin Tarantino.

How does his work survived on the John Cleese defense?

It doesn't.

A White man whose work features the n-word over and over and over and . . .

There's no reason for it and we find much of Tarantino's work inherently racist.  We would hope people would avoid it for that reason but we haven't -- and won't -- call for it to be pulled from the market.

We support free speech. Even for J.K. Rowling. In fact, especially for people like her. We'd honestly rather know who is part of today's world and who has allowed hatred to hold them back into a previous century. What is it about writing tales of magic that makes Rowling so closed to changes in the world? Last week was not Rowling's first time sporting anti-trans positions. You'd think she'd have learned -- as a greedy person bound and determined to squeeze every dime out of the Harry Potter franchise -- that each time she shoots off her mouth, she hurts her pocket book a little more. Is kindness that hard?

Rowling should be a happy person. Even with her greed, she's still one of the richest women in the world -- and the 200th most wealthy person in the UK. If that wasn't enough to make her happy, what does it take? Most trans persons are not as fortunate as she is when it comes to money. So why does she need to insult them?

A little kindness would go a long way. That said, we support her right to say as many hateful things as she desires. Again, we'd rather know when we're dealing with a vile person.

Or a whiny baby. We're up to Lady A.

Lady Antebellum is a country music group. Last week, they changed their name officially to Lady A -- a name their fans had been using for years. The group noted that events in the country had forced them to look at the roots of their group's name, that they are in this world to bring joy and not pain, so they would be changing their name officially to Lady A. Saturday night, we saw the group on the show OPRY -- a performance from a few years back. Other than that, we only know them from "Blue Water" -- their duet with Stevie Nicks.

After the group announced the change, the world learned of Anita White. Who? Exactly.

She's a blues singer who has been active for over 30 years and never achieved any fame or anything at all. She gets work in Seattle, if not across the state of Washington. No, Seattle isn't the home of the blues.

So Anita White's been performing under the name Lady A. And?

She thinks she owns it. She never copyrighted it. Cher doesn't throw a fit every time someone mentions Cher Lloyd. More to the point, Lady A? Clearly Anita was trying to trade on Billie Holiday (Lady Day).

Again, she's achieved nothing in her career, such as it is and has been. But she's having a snit fit that Lady A is being used by someone else. It's not right, she insists. It's also not her name.

Like Rowling, she's got a case of the bitters. She should be doing cartwheels. For 61 years, the world has ignored her. She got a little bit of press last week. She should be grateful.

Vanessa Williams was born with that name. She was also famous, via Miss America, before the other Vanessa Williams, the MELROSE PLACE actress who now goes by Vanessa Estelle Williams. But for a long time, there were two Vanessa Williams and neither threw a snit fit in public. This despite the fact that both women were born with that name -- which puts them way ahead of Anita White.

 Reality for Anita, at 62, you've probably achieved all you're ever going to achieve.  Not stardom, not legendary status, just a working singer.  If you had any brains, you'd be using this opportunity to promote your album by not coming off so bitter.  Bitter's not going to sell your new album.  Finding the whole thing amusing in interviews, having a good laugh in them?  That might help the album sell, might raise some interest in you.  But your case of the bitters?  Just makes you look like a never-was who is desperate to hold on by any means necessary.  Hold on to what?  A dream that never came true.

And we're not calling for Anita to cease and desist.  Free speech means she can practice avoidance while she uses America as her therapist.  Free speech also means she can make herself an appealing personality who might finally be able to really reach an audience.

Free speech.  There are a lot of questions out there.  Though we sometimes wish people would use their words better, we always support free speech.

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