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June 1994


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Constance Atwill <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 15 Jun 1994 09:17:01 -0700
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
text/plain (33 lines)
On Wed, 15 Jun 1994, Mary C. Kalfatovic wrote:
> I don't think that people from the past, such as D.W.Griffith, should be
> judged by 1990s standards.  For example, I find the sexist attitudes in
> older movies (those made before the resurgence of the women's movement in
> the 1970s) to be laughable but find misogyny in more recent movies
> troubling. Many films of Billy Wilder, a terrible misogynist, make me
> uncomfortable (esp. "Some Like It Hot") but they must be put into
> perspective.
> Mary Kalfatovic
It's interesting to then ask ourselves, "How was the film perceived at
the time of its release?"  Did audiences in 1915 think Birth of A Nation
was racsist?
According to David Cook's A History of Narrative Film;
In 1915 -
In New York there was pressure from the NAACP and local officials to
cut the most racist portions of the film entirely.  Griffith grudgingly
complied, and cut 558 feet from the film, which hasn't yet been recovered.
Riots occurred in Boston, Chicago, and Atlanta.  The film was not even
allowed a license to be shown in eight states, and it was, "directly
instumental in the birth of the modern Ku Klux Klan."
Knowing this information allows us to begin to judge this film not by
our standards, but by the standards applied by viewers at the time of
the film's release, which does seem relevant, and fair to the
director.  This is the joy of reception studies, introduced to me by Dr.
Charles Wolfe.