'Insensitive': Memphis theater cancels 'Gone with the Wind' after complaints
The Orpheum Theatre has long included 'Gone with the Wind' as part of its summer movie series, with cinema buffs turning up each year to be transported to the picturesque Tara Planation, located in Georgia, during the Civil War.
The theater once again screened the film on August 11, but not everyone was eager to see Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler grace the screen this time around.
Instead, many accused the film, which features slavery and a narrative that is sympathetic towards the South, of being racist. Many of those complaints were submitted to the theater, which later announced it would no longer be showing the movie.
"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...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," Brett Batterson, president of the Orpheum, said in a statement.
The theater made clear that although title selections for the summer series are typically made in the spring of each year, the Orpheum "has made this determination early in response to specific inquiries from patrons," the Orpheum said, as quoted by Entertainment Weekly.
The decision to drop the iconic American classic from its summer line-up marks the end of a 34-year tradition for the theater.
Although the theater's screening of the film took place on the same evening as the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which has made media headlines for weeks, Batterson told the Commercial Appeal that the decision was made "before Charlottesville."
He made clear that although the film's screening has "been questioned every year," it was this year's "social media storm" that "really brought it home," referring to comments made on the theater's Facebook page.
While the so-called social media storm did indeed include plenty of critics who believe the film is racist, others took to Twitter to express anger at the theater's decision, believing the film to be a classic and a part of America's history.
One person expressed their surprise at the move by questioning whether it was actually "real life."
Another Twitter user asked "where will this end" while jokingly accusing Coca-Cola of being racist for producing bottles which spelled out the names "Robert" and "Lee," the namesake of the famous Confederate Army general.
Many included the hashtag #hattiemcdaniel, referencing the actress who played a slave called "Mammy" in the film. The role led to her becoming the first African-American actor to be nominated for - and win - an Academy Award.
One person took to Twitter to call on the left to "wake up," reminding that "this reconstructive-era film had [the] first African-American Academy Award winner..."
"Hattie McDaniel was the first black actor to win an Academy Award due to her role in this film. How dare her achievement be discredited!" another Twitter user wrote.
Those thoughts were echoed by writer and comedian Jeffrey Mark Klein.
"It's kind of insane that they would claim this movie is insensitive when Hattie McDaniel is the first black person to win an Oscar, so that movie has very historical significance even just for that fact," Klein told RT.
He went on to suggest that the theater may have made the decision out of fear that "radical left groups like Antifa are going to show up and destroy the theater if they show a movie like 'Gone with the Wind' because it may be deemed culturally insensitive, despite the fact that it's very culturally significant."
The theater's decision comes at a time when Civil War statues are being removed and destroyed across the southern United States - a move which Klein says "seems to be an attempt to rewrite America's history."
"...Not showing a historically significant movie would also be an example of trying to rewrite America's history," Klein said.
Based on the 1936 novel by Margaret Mitchell and originally released in 1939, 'Gone with the Wind' won a total of eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.