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We’re experiencing a crisis where we are figuring out how to deal with problematic themes and images in our culture. TCM wants to talk about them. 

The hot-button issue across media lately has been “cancel culture.” People are unsure how to deal with new revelations that some of the classic films and TV shows have elements that are racist, sexist, homophobic, affirm stereotypes, and/or could be damaging to younger viewers. Film and television are living and breathing artforms that are made at different points in history. Sometimes they don’t hold up to the way society changes. 

Instead of pretending nothing is wrong, which is unrealistic, I find the best thing to do when these situations arise is to talk about them. I want to learn all the ways these movies were wrong, I want to learn about the facets of a society of which I am truly undereducated and would like to know more. 

That’s why I was so excited when TCM announced they felt the same way and would be presenting 18 films with various problematic themes, and doing an entire program where they talk with film theorists and experts to discuss the harm from the issues within each film and how we can appreciate them without pretending nothing is wrong. 

The new series is called Reframed Classics and promises discussions about culturally significant films from the 1920s through the 1960s, from Mickey Rooney’s performance as Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Fred Astaire’s blackface in Swing Time.

It kicks off Thursday at 8 p.m. ET with Gone with the Wind.

“We know millions of people love these films,” said TCM host Jacqueline Stewart, who is participating in many of the conversations. “We’re not saying ‘This is how you should feel about Psycho’ or ‘This is how you should feel about Gone with the Wind.’ We’re just trying to model ways of having longer and deeper conversations and not just cutting it off to ‘I love this movie.’ ‘I hate this movie.’ There’s so much space in between.”

Stewart continued,  “I grew up in a family of people who loved classic films. Now, how can you love these films if you know that there’s going to be a maid or mammy that shows up? … Well, I grew up around people who could still love the movie. You appreciate some parts of it. You critique other parts of it. That’s something that one can do and it actually can enrich your experience of the film.”

Along with Stewart, TCM hosts Ben Mankiewicz, Dave Karger, Alicia Malone, and Eddie Muller will also be part of the conversations. The series runs every Thursday through March 25. 

TCM Movie Schedule 

3/4

3/11

3/18

3/25

I think the only way we can surmount a lot of the problems we have in the world today is to talk openly about the issues, and beginning with these is a great idea. Sure, these films were made before certain cultural sensitivities were highlighted, but I don’t think that means we should ignore why we need to be sensitive. 

I’m excited to see what the hosts have to say and hope it sparks the kind of debate that makes us better as a society and encourages us to make better entrainment. 

Here’s how TCM sees it: “Many of the beloved classics that we enjoy on TCM have stood the test of time in several ways, nevertheless when viewed by contemporary standards, certain aspects of these films can be troubling and problematic. This month, we are looking at a collection of such movies and we’ll explore their history, consider their cultural context and discuss how these movies can be reframed so that future generations will keep their legacy alive.”

Are you excited to tune in? Let us know in the comments.     

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