Frankly, my dear
I didn’t grow up in the South. My childhood was spent in a middle class suburb in Northern California. I didn’t meet any African Americans until high school, where there were exactly three African American students, one of whom was Barbara. Her locker was next to mine in P.E., and we took turns wearing the bra she kept in it on days one of us wore a halter top or halter dress.
As a teenage girl, my focus on first watching “Gone With the Wind,” was on the love story. Yes, I was aware of slavery, having learned a little bit about it in school, but that education was extremely narrow, and limited. I didn’t understand, and certainly couldn’t comprehend, the propaganda aspect of the film, which portrayed the southern states as the sole victims of the Civil War.
I remember a photograph in a Life magazine article about the film, which captured the image of 500-plus extras lying on the ground as deceased Confederate soldiers. Again, my focus of the photo was not the Civil War, but the fact that all of those extras were assigned numbers so the director could shout out, “492, turn to your left side” or “23, straighten out your arm.” I was wrapping my thought processes around that detailed direction. I was so impressed, as apparently were the members of the Academy Awards. GWTW took home several awards, including Best Picture. Heads turned away from its prevalent racism.
As an avid reader, and listener of stories, my self-education has expanded my awareness and knowledge of the history of racism in this country, and the continued denial of it being an issue. After the horrific massacre at Emanual AME in South Carolina, Jon Stewart blasted the South on The Daily Show, and specifically the Confederate flag, and what it represents. That proved to be a catalyst for stores, museums, and other public venues to remove that flag from their shelves. “Dukes of Hazard” reruns have been removed from programming, and its toy car replica has been pulled from store shelves, because of the painting of that flag on its roof.
The South, of course, continues its adamant cry that it’s simply a symbol of their heritage. Yes, it’s a symbol of their heritage of slavery, and efforts toward white “supremacy.” The South’s in-your-face dysfunction fascinates me.
Meanwhile, back at the GWTW ranch … Olivia de Havilland aka “Melanie” is 99 years old today. (Happy birthday!) I had the pleasure of meeting her at a nostalgia film event several years ago. While signing autographs, she was the epitome of graciousness, making a point of smiling to each fan as she handed over the autograph. Writer/critic Glenn Kenny interviewed Miss de Havilland in 2004, and this was her take on “Gone With the Wind”:
“The movie has universal appeal for not only individuals, but for whole nations. I got letters from every country in the world. All countries have experienced war, and defeat. And, survival. They can identify with that film for, I think, that reason. Whole populations know what it’s like to flee. And, then, of course, individuals, their lives go through great crises, and events, and disappointments, and worse than that.”
I understand the desire to ban a film promoting the racist South. But, it won’t eliminate racism. I also understand the desire to stop airing an old television show that also promotes the racist South. But, it won’t eliminate racism. However, removing the Confederate flag from government buildings is a helluva start, followed by the re-education of parents in the South who are teaching their children heinous misrepresentations, and outright lies, about an entire race.
Humanity in this country has been backsliding. Getting it back on track feels like a hopeless cause. but “Tomorrow is another day.”