I can’t say that we are always happy with our turbulent history, but at least unlike America, Poland or Ukraine, we don’t destroy monuments and don’t ban films.
Otherwise, we would have to stop showing, for example, “And Quiet Flows the Don” or “Battleship Potemkin,” to ban the “The White Guard” or “Lenin in October.” Then, we would begin to destroy the monuments.
And then, we would get indignant because Chekhov romanticizes the old landlord life in the play “Three Sisters.” And then we would ask if we needed Chekhov at all?
And did you know? Pushkin was a landowner himself. He received 200 servants as a wedding gift from his father. Is it possible to give living people as a gift? And hundreds of them at that?
And what should we do with Pushkin now?
Last week, stunning news came out of America even though to the unobservant eye, what happened could seem trifling at first glance.
At the Orpheum Theater in Memphis, Tennessee, it was officially announced that from now on the movie “Gone with the Wind” would be banned. Although until now, the same Orpheum Theater in Memphis has traditionally shown “Gone with the Wind” in August during the Film Classics days…for 34 years in a row. There won’t be a 35th season.
What happened, in my opinion, is a national catastrophe for America.
I’ll try to explain why. To assess the scale of the disaster, it’s worth recalling something that everyone knows. The great movie of the great director Fleming, “Gone with the Wind,” which premiered in 1939, is the most popular film in the US in the history of American cinema. It’s the absolute champion in tickets sales. Taking into account inflation, nearly $3.5 billion was collected. Modern-day Hollywood blockbusters can’t even get close to that kind of runaway success.
Vivien Leigh was cast in the lead role, an English actress, she was selected out of 1,500 candidates. “Gone with the Wind” immediately brought her world fame. Vivien Leigh is also remembered as an all-time symbol of British cinema. However, she received her first Oscar for the American movie “Gone with the Wind.”
In total, this film has received 10 Oscar awards. One of them was given to a black actor for the first time in history. The highest award of the American Film Academy for the Best Supporting Actress was given to Hattie McDaniel, who played the maid, Mammy, in “Gone with the Wind. Now, the film is accused of racism, an insult to the black population of America, and the romanticization of the South during the slavery period.
The love story of this film is told against the background of the Civil War between the South and the North in the 19th century. And, they say, the movie is painful for a portion of America’s modern day population.
The representative for the distribution company states the following: “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 the local population.”
In order to understand the context, I should add that the Negroes – this word is fine in Russian – are about two-thirds of the population of Memphis. It’s them who are offended by the classics of American cinema. However, banning one film in only one city is only a part of a general process, which was kicked into high gear during the Obama presidency.
Racial tensions are at an all-time high in the United States. It was during Obama’s presidency that the first monument in a larger campaign to remove monuments to White heroes was taken down, the statue of the hero of the South, General Lee, in New Orleans. The decision was finally executed last May during Trump’s administration. But this was only done by labeling the General Lee monument a symbol of the superiority of the White race or, to translate it into PC-speak, a symbol to “White Supremacy.”
However, it is impossible to speak today in the United States about the atrocities of the northerners, in particular, about the “scorched earth” tactics of General Sherman during the American Civil War. Meanwhile, in New Orleans, the monument to the president of the Southern Confederation, Jefferson Davis, has already fallen, followed by a monument to the fighters for the freedom of the South.
Another general for the South, Pierre de Beauregard, was taken down as well. Later, the monument to General Lee was slated for demolishing in Charlottesville. This is similar to the mass toppling of Lenin statues, only done in the American way and it quickly spread to Baltimore. There, they brought down the monuments to four generals of the Confederation and other figures of the South of the Civil War period. A monument to the soldiers of the South was removed in North Carolina.
The fervor is so contagious that desecration operations are now planned for monuments all over the US. Moreover, not only memorials and monuments to the Southerners will be removed, of which there are more than 1,500 in the country, but their names will also be erased from the names of streets, schools, and public institutions.
With a red-hot iron against history.
The cinema’s turn has now come. Now, the brilliant movie “Gone with the Wind” runs the risk of disappearing from all American screens. The Memphis precedent will work. And they will certainly never ever show one of the first US full-length films, “The Birth of a Nation,” directed by David Griffith, who, by the way, is considered the father of American cinema.
It was he who laid the foundations for sensible editing and even special effects. “Birth of a Nation.” 1915. Three hours. The historical period the movie was set in was the Civil War in the US and the events immediately after.
The film had unprecedented battle scenes for cinema of that time. The drama lay in a gripping account of a fratricidal war and the drama of the defeated where “the White South was crushed by the Black heel of the North.” Without regard to rules of war and decency. The North unleashed Black brutality on the Southern Whites in the name of revenge for the past.
How can this film be shown now, especially since the birth of the awful Ku Klux Klan is also realistically depicted in the movie as well? It emerged as a necessary organization for the self-defense of Whites. And, the cavalry charges while “Ride of the Valkyries” by Wagner is playing as the score. All of this is unacceptable now, so this picture will be permanently banned from American cinemas. All of this even though the US President, Woodrow Wilson, who was a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, but who was also considered an authoritative historian, called the film “Birth of a Nation” a “terrible truth.”
President Wilson made this statement right after he organized a review of Griffith’s new movie in the White House, where he invited both his ministers and foreign ambassadors.
Surprisingly, it turns out that a hundred years ago America coped with its past and was ready to comprehend it and accept it as it is. Now, this ability has been lost, and a war has been declared on the past. And so far it proceeds in a very primitive fashion, through the destruction of monuments and censorship. And no one knows where it will stop.
Why not then take a new look at the American Westerns? Are they next on the chopping block? There are many films where the Indians are depicted as stupid and bloodthirsty, and they are killed by the White man in great numbers.
It seems that the fight against the Westerns hasn’t started just yet. But monuments to Christopher Columbus, the discoverer of America, are already being defiled all over the US. They say that he is to blame for initiating the genocide of the indigenous population of the country. Last Wednesday, in the State of New York, a statue of Columbus was knocked down from the pedestal, and then smashed to pieces.
There are new heroes in America now. American cinema does its best to create a new cast of heroes, infused with modern sensibility. The last Oscar for Best Picture is characteristic of a larger trend. The film “Moonlight”, has the main character be the son of a drug-addicted mother, a gay Black man, a brutal gangster with gold teeth. But look at his wounded soul, and his difficult childhood. It’s now beyond “Gone with the Wind.”
This is also an example of how America can’t cope with the real history of its own country. The conflicts of the past, the wounds of which they never managed to heal, have reopened. History seems to be coming to life and creating serious tension.
We lived through something similar in our Soviet experience, when all of society was ideologically balkanized and forced to take up the position of one of the parties in the conflicts of the past. We all supported the red and not the bourgeoisie. We were for the rebels of Pugachev and StepanRazin. We were against the landlords. We were for the insurgent officers, the Decembrists, and not for the Tsar. We were for the Narodnik terrorists and not for the tsarist police.
And we were all as one against those enemies as if they were still alive today.
The same thing is happening in the US now. The Confederates of a century and a half ago are turned into the living enemies of today. And, the relationship between the Negroes and the Whites in those days can’t be shown as it really was back then.
Political correctness is the instrument of American censorship. Under its banner, they forbid films and demolish monuments. Under its banner, you can destroy White history to your heart’s content.
In Russia, we are already so fed up with all that nonsense and thank God, we can now quietly write, publish, read, film and show our history. We can allow ourselves to look at events from different sides. I can’t say that we are always happy with our turbulent history, but at least unlike America, Poland or Ukraine, we don’t destroy monuments and don’t ban films. Otherwise, we would have to stop showing, for example, “And Quiet Flows the Don” or “Battleship Potemkin,” to ban the “The White Guard” or “Lenin in October.” Then, we would begin to destroy the monuments.
And then, we would get indignant because Chekhov romanticizes the old landlord life in the play “Three Sisters.” And then we would ask if we needed Chekhov at all? And did you know? Pushkin was a landowner himself. He received 200 servants as a wedding gift from his father. Is it possible to give living people as a gift? And hundreds of them at that? And what should we do with Pushkin now?
But this would mean applying today’s norms to the past. We have already spilt so much blood over the past, that we don’t want to reopen those wounds again. We want to heal our past divisions, to learn and accept everything as it was, and to learn from the experience. We don’t want new civil conflicts.
Meanwhile, America still has the energy to reopen old wounds and stoke the flames of resentment. Political Correctness only worked as a band-aid it seems, it masked the old tensions under a superficial layer of civility, meanwhile the old racial hostility and enmity smoldered in the deep like a simmering, submerged peat fire.
Now, the tongues of flame are already peeping out of the ground, licking the turf on top. And the scale of the fire when it finally breaks out is difficult to predict.
When a society is split, when politics are saturated with hatred, and the rule of law no longer exists, what will hold keep the whole thing from collapsing?