American cinema has undergone massive changes in the last generation. Advancements in special effects, more daring and dangerous stunts, and better writing have led to some of the best films of all time. That isn’t to say that there aren’t great films from years past. Arguably, the greatest moviemaking of all time took place in the 1970s.
In recent years, as the woke left has taken hold of American culture, there has been a seismic shift in film, mostly focused on language and diversity. Words and language that were common in some films because of the era they were set in are now considered taboo, racist, homophobic, or sexist. Of course, they are just words but woke culture has proven that it isn’t only sticks and stones that can hurt you because words can now as well.
Of course, that is utter nonsense, and whitewashing and censoring some of the most iconic films in history is just another tool in the leftist toolbox. One of the funniest, most edgy comedies of all time was slapped with a “trigger warning” in 2020, and two years later, controversy and anger resurfaced on the anniversary of the movie.
The Mel Brooks western spoof “Blazing Saddles” turns 50 in 2024, and on the anniversary of the movie, folks who perhaps haven’t seen the film in years and want to revisit it are being treated to a four-minute treatise on the film and its subject matter. In 2020, during the height of woke madness, HBO Max hired black University of Chicago professor Jacqueline Stewart to set things up for anyone tuning in, thinking they were getting the “Care Bears” or something equally inoffensive.
Stewart goes on to explain that the movie features “racist language and attitudes,” but “Those attitudes are espoused by characters who are explicitly portrayed here as narrow-minded, ignorant bigots. The film’s real and much more enlightened perspective is represented by the two main characters.” Considering none of us were alive in the old west, for all we know, the film was using authentic language, and while by our standards, the verbiage and behavior are racist, it was just everyday life in many aspects for folks during that time period.
Blazing Saddles has been a hot topic for several years. In 2017, Mel Brooks talked about PC culture and how the film could never be remade. “I mean maybe ‘Young Frankenstein.’ Maybe a few. But never ‘Blazing Saddles,’ because we have become stupidly politically correct, which is the death of comedy. It’s okay not to hurt feelings of various tribes and groups. However, it’s not good for comedy. Comedy has to walk a thin line, take risks. Comedy is the lecherous little elf whispering into the king’s ear, always telling the truth about human behavior.”
What woke culture has done is assume people are too stupid to recognize satire and too fragile to handle it if they see it. PC culture has taken it upon itself to protect us from things we don’t need protection from. What is rarely mentioned when critics dissect the movie is exactly who was responsible for much of the racist language and off-color jokes. Brooks brought in legendary comedian Richard Pryor to punch up the script with jokes, much of which was racist use of the dreaded “n” word.
Slapping any warning on Blazing Saddles is an insult to Mel Brooks and the legendary Richard Pryor. It is also an affront to the intelligence of the American viewing public. Too many people have forgotten that they have the power to change the channel or watch a film and appreciate it for its context and subject matter, whether it is serious or satire. Americans are smart enough to decide; they don’t need their hands held when choosing a movie.
Image of Gene Wilder: Caroline Bonarde Ucci, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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