Gone With The Wind Banned From Memphis Theater

When Vice News argued that perhaps Mt. Rushmore should be demolished, running a headline which declared without irony - "Let's Blow Up Mount Rushmore" (a headline subsequently scrubbed) - we suggested that the fanatical push to sanitize all historic monuments and public references to past political leaders perceived as 'tainted' or controversial "may have hit peak crazy here." Well, we were wrong - it appears the PC mob is now coming for the film industry.

The historic Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Tennessee has decided to censor "Gone With the Wind" from a line-up of movies it will show as part of its 2018 Summer Movie Series after dubbing it racially "insensitive". The 1939 classic film, based on the book by Margaret Mitchell, is set on a plantation in the American South during the Civil War and Reconstruction era, and is widely considered by critics and historians to be among the greatest American movies of all time. It broke Academy Award records at the time, receiving eight Oscars including a Best Supporting Actress for Hattie McDaniel, who became the first African-American Academy Award-winner. It also remains the highest grossing film of all time (with ticket prices adjusted for inflation) - beating out even Star Wars.

Memphis' Orpheum Theatre has included the movie as part of its annual local film festival featuring American classics for decades. But apparently this nearly 80-year old world renowned classic has been scrubbed for the first time based on some complaints the theater received after its last August 11 showing. “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 theater’s board said in a statement.

The theater indicated that for the first time this year's screening “generated numerous comments” which led to the decision to drop it, adding that, “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.” This will mark the first time in 34 years Gone With the Wind will not show. It appears that much of the negative feedback came via Orpheum Theatre's Facebook page with some comments decrying the film as "racist" and leveling the charge that it's a "tribute to white supremacy". 

Meanwhile Brett Batterson, the president of Orpheum Theatre Group, claimed in an interview that the decision was made before the tragic events of Charlottesville. “This is something that’s been questioned every year, but the social media storm this year really brought it home," he said. “This is about the Orpheum wanting to be inclusive and welcoming to all of Memphis."


The Orpheum Theatre in Memphis. Image source: Wiki Commons

Local media also referenced Memphis' "64 percent African-American population" as making the film's inclusion in the festival "insensitive". Yet, if as Batterson claims the removal of the film was primarily due to negative social media response, this means the Memphis population may not have actually had much of a say. And of course the next logical question is: where was the outcry of "racism" while the film was featured every year for 34 years, and sometimes multiple times a year?

This would further imply that just about every film industry institution from the Academy Awards to the American Film Institute to the People's Choice Awards to every critic that ever praised the movie is potentially a racist and paid tribute to white supremacy. But that is the absurd path we are headed down here: an American classic which goes back to the first part of the 20th century must be purged due to angry anonymous comments on social media. Orpheum's president admits he cowered before what he called a "social media storm" and opted for censorship.

Orpheum Theatre Group's mission is stated as "utilizing the performing arts to entertain, educate, and enlighten." But we wonder: if the very organizations claiming to safeguard and promote the arts are now purging classics like Gone With the Wind, are we now witnessing the start of a broader and vicious coming assault on art itself?