“This would never get made today.”
We’ve all returned to an old TV show or favourite film, and realised the humour, storyline or characters reflect an inappropriately outdated view of our society.
Jokes you once laughed at and quotes you and your closest friends would rattle off to one another now make you cringe with embarrassment.
Part of social progression is reflecting on past attitudes and promising to do better, but does that mean we need to totally cut out our most beloved films?
A new Turner Classic Movies limited series, Reframed Classics, is set to delve deep into the problematic aspects of some of the world’s most well-known and loved films.
It's amazing how utterly racist Mickey Rooney's Mr Yuniosh is in Breakfast at Tiffany's… pic.twitter.com/yIdMv3pR3c
— Samuel Dore (@Bursteardrum) November 4, 2014
Think Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, or Forrest Gump as a whole, which is considered condescending to people with disabilities, people with HIV/AIDS, Vietnam veterans.
(And before you feel defensive over the six-time Oscar-winning film, keep in mind its main character is named after his grandfather, General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.)
Janak Rogers, journalist and associate lecturer at RMIT’s school of media and communication, said acknowledging problematic themes doesn’t equate to cancelling, but we should be mindful of what we champion.
“Whether it’s out-and-out support, or cancellation – I feel like neither of those are reflective of what our choices are here,” Mr Rogers told The New Daily.
“People talk about this language of de-platforming or cancelling. I don’t really see things as absolutely getting cancelled, we just go, ‘I don’t really want to engage with that’.
“And the less we engage with that stuff too, at some point we create space for new stories – it’s about what we privilege.”
You might be thinking we should cut films like Gone With The Wind, or Psycho (which made some pretty negative leaps by connecting dressing in women’s clothes to mental illness and extreme violence) some slack.
After all, they were made decades ago. But what about some of the questionable content in our more-recent past?
How I Met Your Mother, the TV show which ran between 2005-2014, was rife with extreme misogyny, slut-shaming, objectification and sexual harassment of women, fat-shaming, homophobia, transphobia and racism.
Rewatching How I Met Your Mother: even though I’m unhappy about the pervasive misogyny, what’s really shocking is how many trans-phobic jokes there are.
Seriously, I’ve lost count.
— John Rice (@JEdwardRice) January 26, 2021
(Many of Barney’s storylines, for example, seem to encourage some form of sexual coercion or manipulation that then later victim-blames the women for being ‘dumb enough to fall for it’.)
“You’re allowed to have your actions considered as moral relative to the moral conditions that surrounded you at the time,” Mr Rogers said.
“But at the same time, could you have known better and could you have done better? And a lot things will fall on that hurdle.”
Re-run classic, Friends, features rampant transphobia (hello, Chandler’s dad), homophobia, one black character in it’s whole 10 seasons – and that’s before we go anywhere near Monica’s fat-suit.
Monica’s fat suit in Friends cause I realized i’m about that size and I started having bad thoughts like “so, am I a joke now?” I’m “so fat it’s funny”? So dangerous… 😕
— cinnamon soy latte witch 🌙✨ (@dramaticalwitch) April 25, 2019
Gossip Girl has come under fire for turning two-time would-be rapist Chuck Bass, into a much-loved antihero, while Scrubs and 30 Rock have pulled their blackface episodes.
“I’m really happy for works that have been celebrated or championed to be confined to the rubbish bin, because that’s what happens anyway,” Mr Rogers said.
“Work of lasting value will remain work of lasting value – even when it’s problematic.
“And if the work is not of lasting value – we won’t even have the energy to be outraged anymore because there will be better things to look at.”
Are these texts just the latest to be targeted by social justice warriors and swept up in today’s ‘cancel culture’?
Or were issues like racism and misogyny always problematic, right from the start?