TCM aims to cancel cultural arguments with a new series dedicated to ‘problematic’ film classics

Vivien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel in 1939's Gone with the Wind, one of my Hollywood classics that will be revisited in a new TCM series.  (Photo: Everett Collection)

Vivien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel in Gone with the Wind, 1939, one of the Hollywood classics that will be revised in a new TCM series. (Photo: Everett Collection)

An honest attempt to take into account the pop culture of yesteryear or cancel the crazed culture? That’s the debate that’s been going on in America for the past year, as movies like gone With the Wind Y Tropical thunder and television shows that include The Dukes of Hazzard Y The Simpsons they have been reexamined for problematic representations of race, gender, and class. Even childhood staples like the Muppets and Dr. Seuss have been put under the microscope – Disney + recently placed content warning labels on select episodes of The Muppet Show, having done the same with animated films like Dumbo Y Peter Pan.

Meanwhile, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which oversees Theodor Geisel estate, announced that they would stop publishing six of the late author’s books, including If I ran the zoo Y The Cat Quizzer. Both movements have outraged conservative critics, even as others have endorsed the company’s attempts to grapple with their respective stories.

Turner Classic Moves is taking its own approach to the debate. On March 4, Hollywood’s premier vintage rate cable network will present its latest series, Reformulated: classic movies in the rearview mirror. The month-long program will feature lineups of classic films preceded by a panel discussion with the five TCM presenters: Ben Mankiewicz, Dave Karger, Alicia Malone, Eddie Muller and Jacqueline Stewart. Your “rearview mirror” conversations will begin with gone With the Wind, followed by seventeen additional titles ranging from Guess who’s coming to dinner Y Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Search engines Y Psychopath.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 12: Ben Mankiewicz attends his hand & footprint ceremony at TCL Chinese Theater on April 12, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by JB Lacroix / WireImage)

Ben Mankiewicz attends his 2019 hand and footprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo: JB Lacroix / WireImage)

In discussing these various films, the presenters seek to highlight the various aspects that are out of step today, while also placing the film in the proper historical context and celebrating the elements that endure. In that way, the presenters hope to clarify why it’s okay to have an honest discussion about our pop culture past and make up for the charges that they are “canceling” these movies. “In this Reformulated series, we are literally demonstration movies, “Mankiewicz tells Yahoo Entertainment.” It is difficult to argue that we are canceling them. This is what we do: the national conversation that we are having, we embrace it and we are grateful for it. We want these movies that we love and care for to be part of this conversation. They can help in many ways. “

Mankiewicz has a vested interest in wanting to re-examine the classic fare: The 53-year-old film historian is part of a Hollywood dynasty that dates back to the industry’s Golden Age. That’s when his grandfather, Herman J. Mankiewicz, the subject of David Fincher’s Oscar contender, Mank – classics written as Citizen Kanewhile his great-uncle, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, wrote, directed, and produced such perennial favorites as All about Eve Y Woman of the year. The last film, which featured the first couple Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, is included in the Reformulated series, and her descendant was able to see her with new eyes. “He personally introduced Hepburn and Tracy, and it started their quarter-century love story,” says young Mankiewicz. “They made nine movies together, and this is one of the best. They are wonderful together.”

Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in 'Woman of the Year', one of the classics featured in TCM's new 'Reframed' series (Photo: Courtesy Everett Collection)

Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in Woman of the Year, one of the classics featured in TCM’s new Reframed series. (Photo: courtesy Everett Collection)

The ending of the movie, on the other hand, is not that wonderful. For much of Woman of the year, Hepburn’s ambitious journalist puts her career first, causing tension with her new husband, played by Tracy. But in the last act, he reverses course and makes a desperate attempt to save his marriage, leading to a climactic comic piece that Time The magazine’s critic, Stephanie Zacharek, has described it as a “lack of courage”.

Mankiewicz would agree with that assessment of his great-uncle’s production. “Throughout the film you see the significant struggles of a high-achieving woman in public life,” she explains. “But then this wacky ending gets slapped, because there was a strong feeling at MGM that it would be better to keep this ending here so that no one thinks Hepburn’s character is too cocky. They felt they should make sure she valued more. to Spencer Tracy to have her independence. There is no value in us do not showing that, but there is great value in us seeing it and learning from it. “

And that attitude is indicative of TCM’s broader approach to its extensive catalog of Hollywood classics. Mankiewicz suggests that the network will not add Disney + -like content labels or follow Seuss’s lead and pull specific movies off the airwaves, though he also declines to criticize those companies for doing so. “Those, ultimately, are not my decisions,” he says. “But that’s not what we do at TCM: we put things in context and select, so we will continue to curate. When we launched the network, we took on the role of being the stewards of classic Hollywood. I’m not a programmer, but I’m not sure what the warnings on the front will suffice anyway. We could get to a point where people get over it the same way they do with the FBI hacking warning. It is valuable to have someone you trust tell you the stories of this in a thoughtful and engaging way. Reformulated it’s an opportunity for people to see what we do and the value of what we do. “

One of the arguments often made by proponents of the “cancel culture” argument is that none of the crimes identified in older movies and television shows were problematic at the time. But Reformulated conversation around gone With the Wind rejects that viewpoint, indicating how the film’s depictions of black men and women in the Civil War era south were criticized even before a still had been shot. “In 1937, the NAACP raised concerns about adapting Margaret Mitchell’s book into a major film,” says Mankiewicz. “They knew very clearly what it would mean. So the talk about racism in gone With the Wind He is 84 years old, and I think that is important for all of us to realize it. “

“The phrase ‘cancel culture’ ends up distorting history and minimizing the importance of what we are talking about,” continues the presenter. “It is a phrase that has a political purpose, but not an artistic purpose or a meaningful understanding of what we are talking about. I am very happy to be on the side of having thoughtful and interesting conversations about popular art forms that, through their sheer power – unwrapped the playing field. You don’t have to respect those conversations, but they will make us better and stronger as a country. I don’t know why anyone on Earth would be afraid of that. “

Reformulated: classic movies in the rearview mirror airs Thursdays at 8 pm on TCM.

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