Memphis Theater Cancels Annual Screening of Gone With the Wind for Being 'Racially Insensitive'
Gone With the Wind is now gone from a Memphis, Tennessee, movie theater where it was annually screened for the past 34 years — and fans have mixed feelings about it.
The 1939 film adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s novel of the same name — which tells the story of plantation Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh)’s love affair with Confederate soldier Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) during the Civil War and Reconstruction periods — has been pulled from The Orpheum Theatre’s 2018 summer movie series.
Though it had been a part of The Orpheum’s annual summer movie series for years, complaints from an Aug. 11 screening prompted the theater board’s decision.
“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,” The Orpheum Theatre Group said in a statement, Entertainment Weekly reported. “The Orpheum appreciates feedback on its programming from all members of the mid-south community. The recent screening of Gone With the Wind at the Orpheum on Friday, August 11, 2017, generated numerous comments. The Orpheum carefully reviewed all of them.”
“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 statement continued.
Despite winning eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for Hattie McDaniel, who became the first African-American to receive an Oscar, Gone With the Wind has proven to be divisive over the years. Critics slam it for perpetuating racial stereotypes and the positive portrait it paints of Southern plantation life.
Black characters in the film — referred to as “darkies” throughout — are also said to be portrayed in broad, demeaning stereotypes.
One user on the the Orpheum’s Facebook page event for the August screening called the film “racist.” Another said, “slowly but surely, we will rid this community of all tributes to white supremacy.”
Film critic Lou Lumenick urged that Gone With the Wind should “go the way of the Confederate flag,” calling it pop culture’s “ugly symbol of racism.”
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But Gone With the Wind has its defenders — who were none too happy with The Orpheum.
“My grown daughter and I went together to see this movie during the summer screening 5 years ago. It is an epic movie that no one should miss on the big screen,” Sherrye Britt wrote on Facebook, pretesting The Orpheum’s decision. “Stop trying to rewrite history. The next thing you know they will ban To Kill a Mockingbird, Driving Miss Daisy, and other iconic movies.”
Fox News commentator Todd Starnes, a Memphis native, also voiced his objections online — calling those who complained “meddling, no-account, liberal Yankee carpetbaggers” and “culture Islamist militants.”
“There’s no use crying in our sweet tea, Southerners,” he wrote. “We must stand up to the scourge of the Yankee liberals. We must stand up and fight. In the words of Scarlett O’Hara, as God is my witness — we’re not gonna let them lick us.”
The Orpheum, meanwhile, will be “announcing an exciting movie series in the spring of 2018 that will, as always, contain both classic films and more recent blockbusters.”