A 34-year-old tradition has ended in Memphis, Tennessee, due to concerns about being “insensitive.”
The board of directors of the Orpheum Theater Group decided to end its once-frequent summer showings of the 1939 film “Gone with the Wind” this month, mostly due to social media outrage.
“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,” said the board members in a statement.
These individuals also said, “While title selections for the [summer] 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 final screening of the film by the theater, which holds over 2,000 seats, was this month. The flick had previously been screened at the movie house frequently since the ’80s. The venue, in the past, had even invited actors who had played parts in the movie to the nonprofit theater to discuss their work.
While the theater is obviously free to do as it pleases, the act of suppressing a creative work because it is “insensitive” is the same sort of anti-art thinking that has led to the banning of such books as “Catcher in the Rye” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in schools.
In an interview with USA Today, Orpheum Theater Group president Brett Batterson said the decision to discontinue showing “Gone with the Wind” was made before the recent events in Charlottesville and the current heated debates over Confederate statues on public land.
“This is something that’s been questioned every year, but the social media storm this year really brought it home,” he said.
“This is something that’s been questioned every year, but the social media storm this year really brought it home.”
“Gone with the Wind” is a nearly four-hour epic about a fiery romance during the American Civil War and Reconstruction Era that stars Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh (pictured above on the left). It won eight Academy Awards, including best picture.
The idea that art is supposed to be “sensitive” and that we should simply scrub away past works is beyond worrisome — especially when the president of a theater group seems to be basing his decision about whether to show a film or not primarily on social media comments. The internet, of course, is a place where faux outrage is unfortunately often fostered and even encouraged.
To the overly sensitive types who are currently playing into cultural hysteria, suppressing a piece of art like “Gone with the Wind” likely feels like a step forward. It is not. Suppressing art is never a step forward. It’s a major step backward — in a country that is supposed to encourage freedom of speech and expression, especially in its arts.