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Friday, June 27, 2014

Now Anachronistic: Blazing Saddles

So I watched Blazing Saddles last night on AMC. For those unfamiliar, the campy 1974 Mel Brooks classic is about bible-thumping rural white racists the late 19th century American West who don't cotton too well to having a black sherriff.  I've watched this movie repeatedly over the years; when I was in primary school I laughed at the Looney Tunes-style sight gags and fart jokes.  When I was in my teens and very early 20s I was still laughing at the fart jokes, but also chuckled at some of the deeper humor (like the Hedley Lamarr character erotically molesting a statue of Lady Justice while conceiving of ways to evict the citizens of Rock Ridge)*, and appreciated a movie that broke taboos and spewed racial and ethnic epithets freely, not because I enjoyed the epithets, but that there was freedom to do so. With the spread of non-premium movie channels to broadcast TV and cable in my late 20s and 30s, I still enjoyed the movie but was annoyed at the PC police (who came about in the early 90s) bleeping out language thought to cause offense. This for a movie where the rough language was key the entire point of the film, and muting the casual bigotry on display blunted its effect. Paradoxically, the PC wet blanket reduced a movie made at the height of the Blaxploitation era (and its films which featured nearly all-black casts and made generous use of anti-white slurs) to a tepid shell of itself, still funny and potent in a way, but overall lacking in punch and flavor, artificial and tinny to the palate.  Kinda like diet soda.

It's been years since I've seen the movie, but when I saw it last night, I now view it through new eyes. Yes the slapstick humor is funny, and I'm old enough to remember what Looney Tunes were, whereas younger viewers may not. The difference is, this time around, the pendulum of racial bigotry has swung fully in the other direction, and now a movie that holds up prejudiced 19th century white country folk--no word, of course, about prejudiced Northern white urban left-wing sophisticates of the same era--for ridicule using late 20th century morality, must now in the early 21st century be viewed in the cultural context of Spike Lee's "mutherfucking hipsters" (apparently that's crypto for "honkey" or "cracka") and "visual daggers" comments, Oprah's "old white people have to die for racism to end" quip, Jamie Foxx's "I get to kill white people, how cool is that?" joke, in reference to the uber-violent racial revenge movie Django Unchained in which he starred, and Jay-Z's "whites are wicked and weak" "5 Percent" Nation of Islam bling worn courtside at a basketball game with a light-skinned Beyonce Knowles.  Indeed, the movie appears a bit dated in its banging on about the bigotries of frontier whites from 140 years ago, even if it was meant as a shot against vestigial Archie-Bunker-style white prejudice in the 70s, when even other blacks today today agree it is black racism that appears to be the problem.  One wonders if the movie perpetuates anti-white stereotypes, in the way that some thought the Blaxploitation films of the same era did viz blacks, and if so, why is it still on the air? Furthermore, the 1964 civil rights act, with its racial set-asides and reversed Jim Crow were just getting underway in 1974; forty years later, it seems everyone but whites have race-based preferences pulling for them, and a half-black man was elected not once, but twice, to the Presidency in no small part due to exceptionally un-colorblind votes of blacks.  In this context, a movie about white oppression of blacks, while possibly historical, has little application to the modern day.

The Whig view of history sees progress as linear, that the prejudices, bigotries, and mistakes of the past gradually improve so that we'll eventually arrive at some utopian future.  I'm afraid that's incorrect--the reality is that bigotry and hate just transfer to new owners, who in their merry lack of self-awareness perceive their own prejudices as correct, right, or just.

* This joke goes even deeper once one realizes that Lady Justice is a throwback to pre-Christian pagan Europe, where Lady Justice combines the Roman and Greek goddesses of luck, vengeance, and fate.

4 comments:

Retrenched said...

The movie is an interesting snapshot of the progressivism of the mid-70s --which was not at that point openly, blatantly anti-white as it is now. The whites of Rock Ridge are portrayed as stupid and in need of enlightenment or whatever, but not truly evil - not in the way that whites are presumed to be today.

To put it another way, back then, a racist was a white man who hated blacks or who thought they were inferior. Today, a racist is a white man who does not hate himself, and who does not see himself as inferior.

Sanelity F said...

@Retrenched
"Today, a racist is a white man who does not hate himself, and who does not see himself as inferior."

You could have stopped at "Today, a racist is a white man". Hating himself or believing himself inferior won't matter when push comes to shove and its time to circle the wagons. It might buy him some time, but it will be just like the old Lone Ranger joke - "what do you mean "we" Kemosabe?

Eric said...

"The reality is that bigotry and hate just transfer to new owners."

Check out what Yahoo News was trumpeting today:

https://celebrity.yahoo.com/photos/out-and-proud-celebs-1372198913-slideshow/

If you look at some old celebrity magazines (or even modern ones from other countries) the actresses talk about 'meeting the man of their dreams' in the future; and how 'family is what it's really all about---acting is just like any other job.'

Now if any actress dared say something like that, she'd be hit with: "What! You ain't one of them there family values types, now are you? I'll bet you're one of them Palin supporters!"

And she'd blacklisted; but any random dyke is now celebrated as 'out and proud.'

ray said...

"the reality is that bigotry and hate just transfer to new owners, who in their merry lack of self-awareness perceive their own prejudices as correct, right, or just."


Yeah. It's a type of perpetual-motion Misery Machine. Somebody else's misery.



"* This joke goes even deeper once one realizes that Lady Justice is a throwback to pre-Christian pagan Europe, where Lady Justice combines the Roman and Greek goddesses of luck, vengeance, and fate."



Jesting has an ancient (and sinister) lineage, modernized more in certain fraternities than circuses per se. (Aside from Cirque du Soleil, which is overtly occult.)


The image of a pagan demon ('goddess' under many names) standing outside the law-buildings of the nation, as a symbol of "justice," speaks volumes about what America has been for 100 years or so, despite populist Christianity and nonsense about 'patriarchy'... under the surface, and at the top, was always a nation we were never told about. Now they don't need the sub rosa part much anymore.


Whose Law is done in the United States, the richest and most powerful nation ever to exist? Hint it's not Jesus' Law, and it's not the Law as given through his prophets and holy Scripture.


The Empire never ended. It just got a makeover. On teevee. Hail Libertas!



;O)