Idris Elba Says Racist Shows & Movies Should Have Warning Labels: 'I Don't Believe in Censorship'

"I don't believe in censorship. I believe that we should be allowed to say what we want to say. Because, after all, we're story-makers," said Elba

'Yardie' photocall, 68th Berlin Film Festival, Germany - 22 Feb 2018
Photo: Camilla Morandi/REX/Shutterstock

Idris Elba is speaking out about how racist TV shows and films should be handled.

Elba, 47, spoke to the RadioTimes in which he proposed adding a warning label to the beginning of a movie or TV show that would make it clear the content is offensive.

“I’m very much a believer in freedom of speech,” Elba said. “But the thing about freedom of speech is that it’s not suitable for everybody.”

“That’s why we have a rating system: We tell you that this particular content is rated U, PG, 15, 18, X,” he continued, referring to the U.K.’s rating system. “To mock the truth, you have to know the truth. But to censor racist themes within a show, to pull it — wait a second, I think viewers should know that people made shows like this.”

Elba added, “Out of respect for the time and the movement, commissioners and archive-holders pulling things they think are exceptionally tone-deaf at this time — fair enough and good for you. But I think, moving forward, people should know that freedom of speech is accepted, but the audience should know what they’re getting into.”

“I don’t believe in censorship,” he said. “I believe that we should be allowed to say what we want to say. Because, after all, we’re story-makers.”

His comments come after HBO Max pulled Gone with the Wind to add "historical context" to some of the outdated and insensitive aspects of the film.

Jacqueline Stewart, a film professor and co-host of Turner Classic Movies, now appears in the introduction that precedes the movie, which was released in 1939 and remains the highest-grossing film of all time.

Hattie Mc Daniel
Hattie McDaniel. Getty

Stewart explained that although the movie, an adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's novel of the same name, won numerous awards and was a touchstone is cinematic history, it "was not universally praised."

"The film has been repeatedly protested, dating back to the announcement of its production," she says. "From its prologue, the film paints the picture of the Antebellum South as a romantic, idyllic setting that's tragically been lost to the past... The film follows the lead of Mitchell's novel, presenting the Antebellum South as a world of grace and beauty without acknowledging the brutalities of the system of chattel slavery upon which this world is based."

"The film represents enslaved Black people in accordance with longstanding stereotypes as servants notable for their devotion to their white masters, or for their ineptitude. And the film's treatment of this world through a lens of nostalgia denies the horrors of slavery as well as its legacies of racial inequality."

"Watching Gone with the Wind can be uncomfortable, even painful," Stewart says in the introduction. "Still, it is important that classic Hollywood films are available to us in their original form for viewing and discussion."

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