Hollywood finally did it — made me go woke. None of its politically correct movies or TV shows broke my decade-old resistance. It was the trade magazine Variety with its illuminating article last week, “10 Problematic Films that Could Use Warning Labels.” Intrigued by the title, I wondered which films from cinema’s 125-year history author Tim Gray would brand as hazardous to modern culture.
I anticipated D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915), in which the Ku Klux Klan heroically ride to the rescue of Lillian Gish and company from black militiamen. Possibly Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925), celebrating a mutiny that helped spawn the communist Russian Revolution. Or Leni Riefenstahl’s The Triumph of the Will (1935), an unparalleled ode to Hitler. Or perhaps the sexually obscene works of Pier Paolo Pasolini (The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales) and John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble). But no, the films Gray targets are even more offensive, among them Dirty Harry, The Searchers, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and, gulp, Forrest Gump.
At first I thought I’d dismiss Gray offhand, having contradicted his lead sentence — “It’s now widely accepted that despite being a beloved classic, Gone With the Wind, needs an explanation of its context when it’s screened on TV or in theaters” — in my last column. But the more I read the reasoning for his selections, the more I saw the left-wing light.
Of Dirty Harry (1971), Gray wrote, “The film mocks liberal judges and do-gooders.” He’s right, I said to myself. The two most recent atrocious decisions by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts are no laughing matter. About Forrest Gump (1994) — “It’s actually hostile to protesters, activists and the counterculture.” Yes, I said to myself. We mustn’t oppose those nice people looting stores, toppling statues, and demanding the police be dismantled. Regarding Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — “Black people seem non-existent and ‘the Mexicans,’ as they’re called in the film, are car valets or waitresses.” Maybe, I pondered, more blacks could be digitalized in, and some car valets digitalized white, in a movie set in 1969. Clearly by this point, I had taken the blue pill.
Attacking John Ford’s The Searchers (1956), an acknowledged American masterpiece, though that may soon change, Gray wrote, “[John] Wayne’s character, Ethan Edwards, is an unapologetic racist who sees all Native Americans as less than human.” He is?! I gasped. No wonder the film’s actual hero, Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter), spends most of the story trying to protect Ethan’s Comanche-kidnapped niece (Natalie Wood) from her uncle! That Ethan is left visually isolated in the powerful last scene isn’t punishment enough, I agreed. He merited a good virtue-signaling lecture at the end.
Now utterly enlightened (like Drew Brees apologizing ad nauseam for having knocked taking a knee before the flag, or Mike Gundy for having worn an OAN t-shirt on vacation), I mentally reviewed the faults of my favorite films and was shocked at their insensitivity. I can only atone by following Variety’s lead with trigger warnings for these movies. Here I go:
Body Heat (1981). Warning: William Hurt’s toxic lust for the smoking-hot Kathleen Turner becomes so unbearable, he smashes her locked glass door to go in and ravish her.
Ben-Hur (1959). Warning: Charlton Heston as a white slave? As Joe Biden would say, “Come on, man!”
The Magnificent Seven (1960). Warning: Six gringos and a token Latino, played by a German, head south of the border to save a poor, helpless Mexican village from “bad hombres.” How racist and xenophobic.
Animal House (1978). Warning: Fraternity boys sexually stalk and harass college women, and one of them even statutory rapes a (consenting) underage girl.
Three Days of the Condor (1975). Warning: Rogue CIA agent Robert Redford abducts Faye Dunaway at gunpoint and abuses her in her apartment until Stockholm Syndrome sets in and she falls for her captor.
North by Northwest (1959). Warning. Villain James Mason dismisses henchman Martin Landau’s warning about his girlfriend (Eva Marie Saint) as based on homosexual jealousy.
Thunderball (1965). Warning: James Bond punches a woman who turns out to be a man, then continues to beat him up, committing both female and transgender abuse.
Shane (1953). Warning: Shane teaches a young boy how to use a gun, and when the boy’s mother protests, he mansplains that guns don’t kill people, men do. It’s a shameless defense of the aberrant Second Amendment.
In penance for my conservative guilt, I intend to keep watching these films and other classics over and over again for the rest of my life. I’ll even play devil’s advocate and tell progressive scolds like Variety to blow off, and Hollywood to make movies a fraction as wonderful as these.