More Movies & TV Shows Become Casualties of Cultural Debate in U.S.
The list is growing: several long-running TV shows or movies recently announced major changes or cancellations in their programming, in the wake of the cultural unrest in America.
Even cartoon characters were not spared. Earlier this week, it was announced that Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam from the “Looney Tunes Cartoons” would no longer be carrying guns, as they famously have since the show’s original inception in 1930. The animated series has been in syndication since and was revived with new episodes on streaming service HBO Max, in May of this year.
This alteration is in response to the ongoing epidemic of gun violence, such as school shootings. However, the cartoon will still have plenty of sticks of Acme dynamite and cartoon violence—in an effort to still retain the original feel of the classic cartoon.
HBO Max also announced that they would pull the classic film, Gone With the Wind, from its streaming lineup. The film was based on a popular fiction book and won eight Oscars after premiering in 1939. However, its depiction of slavery in the Southern U.S., albeit during and after the Civil War, is no doubt the impetus for HBO Max’s apprehension.
A spokesperson for HBO Max explained that Gone with the Wind is “a product of its time and depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American society.”
The recent debate about racial injustice at the hands of law enforcement, spurred by George Floyd’s death, is having a major impact as well.
After 32 seasons, the docuseries TV show “Cops,” which tagged along with policemen in various cities throughout the U.S. as they arrested alleged criminals, was canceled. The show premiered in 1989 on Fox and has been a constant in television broadcasting, airing over a thousand episodes. It was most recently seen on the channel, Spike TV.
The show had already faced criticism in the past, with accusations of glorifying police aggression and exploiting suspects in the process. In 2013, the civil rights group Color of Change began a campaign urging Fox to not renew the show and called on advertisers to withdraw support.
Following Floyd’s death two weeks ago, major protests have sparked a national dialogue about the credibility of police — demanding to “defund” them, which is allegedly a call to reform — by shifting some of the funds allotted to police to other services that could better resolve problems in communities. Proponents claim that police often exacerbate these problems in communities by unfairly “criminalizing” some suspects.
Another docuseries TV show that centered on law enforcement just announced their cancellation as well: the A&E network announced Wednesday that it has canceled its popular unscripted series “Live PD”, for the same reason as “Cops”.
Is this censorship? Was certain programming such as “Cops” always racially and culturally insensitive? Is this the correct response to cultural change? Is it too soon? And how many more film, TV shows, music and books will be under fire? Only time will tell if this is the right approach, as we look back on these alterations.
Opponents of censorship argue that (art) is a reflection of its time, even if it bears no ill intent. People should merely view them as such, and it also opens a dialogue on how much we’ve progressed since then.
HBO Max has offered a compromise; a spokesperson added that Gone With the Wind will return to HBO Max—under a condition: it “will return with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions,” and will be presented “as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed.”