Lynx, Destroyer of Worlds (with Science!) (lynxreign) wrote,
Lynx, Destroyer of Worlds (with Science!)

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Old Movies

Earlier this year, I purchased the 9 disc set of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies. I grew up watching these movies whenever they were on TV and enjoy them greatly. They were made in the 1930s and there are quite a number of moments that are simply wrong to the modern movie viewer. Ginger Rogers played a very independent (for the time) woman in most of the movies and yet there are still quite a few moments where her behavior is jarring. Several of the earliest movies in the series have a stereotypical "dumb Italian" character that should remind any modern movie-watcher just how broad racism was as recently as 50 years ago.

emilytheslayer and I were watching Swing Time (1936) the other day and there's another relic of a bygone era that gave me pause. This movie contains Fred Astaire's only blackface number. To his credit, he didn't do a traditional blackface, he simply darkened his entire face with makeup, it wasn't a caricature like in minstrel shows or on Al Jolson. And the dance routine was intended as a tribute to Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, considered by many to be the greatest dancer of the era. However, the props in the early part of the number are... unfortunate. And while the dance routine itself was great, it is also uncomfortable for a modern viewer much of the time.

I'm never quite sure how to feel when watching things like this. While the movies themselves are still quite entertaining and funny, they also can serve to show modern viewers just how much things have changed in a very short time.
Tags: civil rights, history, movies

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