Have you ever watched a movie from your childhood or revisited a television series that you once loved and found that you were now… a bit underwhelmed? What seemed so great in years past now seems out of touch, maybe even offensive. “How could we watch that? It’s so awful and demeaning!”
Whether its wildly offensive tropes like the use of “black face” or casually offensive side comments about people with mental illness, the values of past productions don’t always match our current ones. In fact, they never do. As time changes, so do our values (to some extent), and so does our tolerance for offensive material.
This is by no means a new problem, but it an important one today. What do we do with our embarrassing past? Some suggest that we remove it, banning or blocking material that is damaging to society. Others suggest that these works need disclaimers and further context. Others simply choose to do nothing, leaving up to the maturity of the audience to decide.
Such is the topic of this week’s episode of Everyday Liminality, the first one of our new season. If you would like to catch up on older episodes, they can be found here. Join us every Tuesday for discussions about art and entertainment in our world today.
Leaving it up to the maturity of the audience to decide. Perceptive point. If we don’t like it, we can look away and mind our business….
It used to be entertainment to feed Christians to lions in Italy to packed out crowds in colosseums. Stick ball in Aztec culture was to play to the death. The losers were sacrificed. It was to settle disputes between warring tribes instead of going to war. Just saying. Yes societies change. When I was a child it was popular in comedy shows to make fun of many ethnicities, There were Italian jokes, Polish jokes, told on prime time TV. Another thing people don’t know is people of color also did black face for a living and travelled like vaudeville. A popular one was called “Rabbit’s Food Minstrel Show” and it was created and performed by people of color. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwiuu9CKx4TrAhXqg-AKHSlYA3kQtwIwAHoECAcQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DKUOQIIowCXQ%26autoplay%3D1&usg=AOvVaw2sd5_2KQ3cPgfoZc5FubRu People by the thousands came out to see it. If it was so terrible then why was it accepted and performed by both white and black performers and entertainment for both as well? I think we have lost the ability to laugh at ourselves. There is a point where something is harmful but then some things are intended to just be light hearted fun. Im wondering if we are creating a new kind of harm with some of the new idealism. Is there a balance? Or is everything legalism? I think after history has been long past that later cultures do not know the context of why things happened. Nor do they have all the facts to make a valid judgement.
You have a good point! It made me think of how the Pharisees judged Jesus by the letter of the law, and by taking things out of context, they convicted him. As Jesus said, we should judge righteous judgment, and not by appearance. To place our current values blindly on those people from 100 years ago, we could be doing them an injustice.
@ Leon. I agree. While in society we should always be kind to others and try not to offend, there is a new persecution that goes way and beyond what is reasonable. Jesus offers grace and does not force people to believe or to accept him. Yet new ideals are being forced on people in extreme ways and losing jobs, lives, freedom. I agree we need changes. But there are better ways to change than using persecution and oppression. It reminds me of the man in the Bible forgiven for his debts and then he turned around and beat those who owed him. It is as if people become the thing they hate. There are some that do not want equality but to rule and will use any means necessary. There have been recent historic Churches burned and public Bible burnings in recent days. While we could be turning a page to enlightenment, it could be exploited by some to take us down a dark road. While all these things are being said many injustices go unnoticed such as current modern slavery/human trafficking and rape and abuse in prison on non violent offenders of minor offenses and coercion into gang life and prison economy. While we worry about black face from 100 years ago, Epstein was in cohorts with our very leaders to abuse young girls or so it is implied but not yet proven but is in process. Look at sex abuses from those in Hollywood like Cosby. Sex abuse by the clergy, school teachers, people we were taught were our authorities to look up to and emulate. In Hollywood was because it was expected. In some ways the world acts as if it is demanding morality on one hand and going deeper into immorality on the other hand. Pray for the world.
My husband and I are film buffs and collect movies, and Song of the South was shut away in the Disney Vault for a LONG time (not sure if it still is), so we couldn’t find it anywhere. We finally found it at a little shop in the Germanic town of Helen, GA. Let’s just say it was a questionable copy, but we bought it because we really wanted to see it because, “Oh, it couldn’t be that bad. Some people say it’s a masterpiece.” UHHHHH… 👀 A few scenes made my blood boil. It was… I’m glad I saw it once, but I don’t think I ever want to see it again. Jojo Rabbit, though it was made last year(?), had the same effect on me. (Why is this year a decade long? I’ve lost my sense of time.)