As Stephen Kruiser has noted, the classic Mel Brooks comedy-western Blazing Saddles couldn’t get made today. The movie shocked a lot of people when it premiered in 1974, but it has endured because you can get away with a lot when you’re as hilarious as Mel Brooks. Almost 50 years later, though, it’s unimaginable that any movie studio would even allow the script on the set. (If there were still movie sets or movies being made, that is.) But at least we can still watch Blazing Saddles, even in super-woke 2020 America.
However, we do need a bit of hand-holding if we want to watch it on HBO Max. We might get the wrong ideas from the movie. We might miss the subtle sociological commentary and nuanced discussion of race in America. We need someone to explain to us why it’s okay to laugh at funny jokes, even if they have the N-word in them.
Blazing Saddles is currently streaming on HBO Max, along with a new introduction that automatically plays before the Mel Brooks classic begins…
TCM host and University of Chicago cinema and media studies professor Jacqueline Stewart provides the intro to Blazing Saddles. She also did the intro for Gone With the Wind.
A little more than three-minutes long, Stewart’s intro puts the bigotry and racist language in context, the host saying, “as the storyline implies the issue of race is front and center in Blazing Saddles. And racist language and attitudes pervade the film. But those attitudes are espoused by characters who are portrayed here as explicitly small-minded, ignorant bigots. The real, and much more enlightened perspective, is provided by the main characters played by Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder.”
The professor is near!
If you really need someone to explain to you that Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder are the good guys in Blazing Saddles, and the bad guys are racist bigots whose behavior you should not emulate — especially after a plate of beans — maybe you shouldn’t be watching this movie without adult supervision.
Remember when right-wingers were the paternalistic scolds who didn’t think you could figure anything out for yourself? But ever since Al and Tipper Gore started the Parents Music Resource Center 35 years ago, libs have been the ones wagging their fingers at the rest of us. They know what’s best for us. And if we protest, that’s just our “white fragility” talking.
You may recall that back in June, the fledgling HBO Max pulled Gone with the Wind after just a couple of weeks before putting it back up with a similar disclaimer from Prof. Stewart. Because otherwise you might watch it and enjoy it and… you’d want to bring back slavery, I guess? Is that the concern?
If Cleavon Little were alive today, I wonder how he’d feel about this sudden need to explain why it’s acceptable for a black man to lampoon racism? Little gave one of the greatest comedic performances of all time, but now his talent and charm and playfulness can’t just speak for themselves.
Blazing Saddles makes us laugh at the ignorance and stupidity of racism. It shows us that bigotry is ridiculous. How much longer will that be acceptable? Adding this sort of disclaimer is just the first step. Next comes #canceling the movie for telling jokes that are no longer appropriate in our more enlightened age.
When I was young, it was the old people who were always telling me what to do. Now that I’m old, it’s younger people telling me what to do. I wish you’d all just leave me alone.