When making a movie, writers, directors, and producers always need to consider longevity: Will this movie remain relevant to audiences in five years? Ten? Twenty?
Of course, some movies are made to capitalize on current trends, make a quick buck, and then slip away into the annals of zeitgeists past. You've Got Mail was dated even before AOL went out of style. But for every hacky "hey old people, check out this modern technology!" movie, there's a whole slew of movies that try to capture something honest and sincere in an attempt to appeal to audiences far beyond their era of creation.
Some succeed, earning the status of "classics" as viewers pass them down from generation to generation. But society changes with time, and our greater social ethos changes along with it. As a result, even some "classic" movies fall short when viewed with fresh eyes––and for some of them, perhaps it's time for their "classic" status to be revoked.
Dumbo (1941) and The Jungle Book (1967)
Both Dumbo and The Jungle Book were early, animal-oriented Disney films that imbued a surprising degree of racism into their otherwise still-relevant narratives. Dumbo featured a singing crow who was actually named Jim Crow after the segregation laws of the era. His character design, voice, and mannerisms all mimicked black caricatures of the time period.
The Jungle Book, which came out over 20 years later (but only two years after the end of Jim Crow laws), continued a similar stereotype with King Louie, a villainous orangutan coded as a black man who sings to Mowgli about wanting to act more human. To Disney's credit, the Jim Crow character has been removed from Dumbo entirely, both in the live action remake and the upcoming Disney+ streaming service release of the original.
One important point to note is that unlike many of the other entries on this list that should probably be retired completely, Dumbo and The Jungle Book both hold historical relevance. Their racist scenes are largely reflective of the larger, segregation-era and post-segregation-era sentiments in America during the 40s and 60s respectively. They continue to hold importance within the larger canon of Western animation but should be viewed with the caveat of being products of their time. The same cannot be said for many of the rest of the movies on this list.
Porky's and Animal House
Consider this entry a catch-all for basically every "teen boys sexing it up" comedy of the late '70s and early '80s. All of these types of movies follow a group of raucous guys who engage in shenanigans revolving around sex with women. This would be fine if not for the fact that "sex with women" really means objectifying women, lying to women, peeping on women, and getting women very drunk and doing things to them without their consent. Female characters in these movies never seem like real people, existing entirely to fulfill the wishes of male viewers. It's no wonder that many of the men who grew up watching these movies still hold ridiculously toxic views about women.
Revenge of the Nerds
20th Century Fox
Revenge of the Nerds is a lot like all the movies from the previous entry, except it goes a step farther by including an outright rape scene and passing it off as comedy. Here's the set-up: One of the nerds, Lewis, has a crush on Betty, the girlfriend of a jock named Stan. At a costume party, Betty waits in a bedroom to have sex with Stan. Lewis steals Stan's costume and has sex with her instead. Betty thinks she is having sex with Stan because she consented to have sex with Stan. She did not consent to have sex with Lewis. Therefore, Lewis raped her using deception. HAHAHA, right?
Of course, Betty is a non-character written by sexists, so she responds by falling in love with him. This has lead many other sexists to decide that this is not rape. They are incorrect. Rape by deception is rape. The act portrayed in this movie is rape. Anyone who disagrees is objectively a rape defender and a sexist. Feel free to out yourselves in the comments.
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is just another wacky Jim Carrey romp where a big, loony goofball catches a murderer by...publicly removing her clothes to reveal that she's actually a pre-op transgender person? Wait. That's pretty messed up. Everyone gags and apparently this is supposed to be very funny? Looking back on it, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective basically boils down to a big "transgender people are gross!" joke. Lame.
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Breakfast at Tiffany's features Mickey Rooney in yellowface performing what might be the worst hate crime against Japanese people ever committed to film. Why did they do this? Just...why?
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
As an action film, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom still holds up surprisingly well. The action continues to feel original and creative, even after being copycatted for decades. The portrayal of Indian and Hindu culture, on the other hand, is absurdly offensive. Essentially bastardizing foreign cultures for shock value, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom popularized long-lasting, incorrect myths such as the "Indians eat monkey brains" trope. Not cool.
View Askew Productions
Imagine a movie coming out today in which a straight man romantically pursues an out lesbian in an attempt to "change her back" and then actually succeeds. Such a film would be unfathomable. But back in the late '90s when LGBTQ+ communities weren't nearly as visible in the public eye, Chasing Amy seemed not only plausible, but cutting edge. Unlike a lot of the other films here, Chasing Amy doesn't intend to turn marginalized people into jokes––it just fails to understand them.
Crash was never a good movie. Crash never deserved its Best Picture Academy Award. Crash was a white director's shoddy attempt to boil down racism, race relations, and racial tensions into a simplified, melodramatic package meant for consumption by white people. Insane scenes delight in racially charged nonsense, like when a Persian shopkeeper, driven mad by racist slights, attempts to murder a Latino locksmith for no reason. Or when a racist white cop "redeems" himself by rescuing a black woman from a car crash after basically molesting her earlier in the movie. Crash was never and will never be anything better than stinky, stinky garbage. Please, throw Crash out.
20th Century Fox
Big may be a fun Tom Hanks romp full of whimsy and keyboard dancing, but it's also a movie where a little kid uses magic and lies to seduce and sleep with a grown woman named Susan. Ultimately, Susan discovers the truth and watches Tom Hanks turn back into a child, after which she presumably kills herself. Seriously, this poor woman needs to live with the knowledge that her emotional maturity is on par with a twelve-year-old and that she slept with a literal child. Where does a person go from there?
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The quarterback said "I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country." And then he tried to apologize. And only made it worse.
Drew Brees, a man who makes literally millions of dollars for throwing a ball, has come under fire for insensitive comments he made about NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem to protest police brutality.
"I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country," Brees said in the interview with Yahoo Finance. He clarified that this was in part because he envisioned his grandfathers, who fought in World War II, during the National Anthem. He continued, saying, "And is everything right with our country right now? No. It's not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together. We can all do better. And that we are all part of the solution."
This isn't the first time Brees made it clear that he cares more for the idea of a make-believe unified America than he does for actual human lives. In 2016, he criticized Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the anthem, saying it was "disrespectful to the American flag" and "an oxymoron" because the flag gave critics the right to speak out in the first place.
Colin Kaepernick kneeling in protest of racist police brutality
Of course, the flag's alleged ideals have been proven to only be applicable to wealthy, white men—men like Brees. Sure, his grandfathers did a noble thing when they fought under the US flag during WWII, and no one, including Kaepernick, has ever said that sacrifice isn't worth respecting. Thanks to the sacrifices of many people (including the enslaved Black backs upon which this country was built, including the scores of routinely abused Black soldiers who fought for American lives), America has offered opportunity and peace for many, many people. In particular, Ole' Glory has been very kind to men like Brees: rich, white men who still control the majority of the power and the wealth in the United States.
But what about the rest of us, Drew? What about George Floyd whose neck was crushed by a police officer who kneeled on him so casually that he didn't even take his hand out of his pocket? What about Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot for the crime of being Black and going for a jog? What about Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was murdered by police in her home in the middle of the night for a crime that had nothing to do with her? What about Tony McDade, Drew–have you heard his name? Have you heard about the 38-year-old Black trans man who was gunned down in Florida last week? Do you understand why these people's family's may harbor just a bit of disrespect for your precious flag?
Is it possible for you to realize, Drew, that your wish for "unity" is not a wish for progress, but a wish to maintain the status quo? When you call for unity under the American flag, you're talking about your flag, the flag that represents a long, sordid history of racial oppression and violence. There is no unity where there is no justice. When you say that "we are all in this together," what you're saying is that we all have roles to play in the version of society that has served you so well. For your part, you'll be a rich, white man, and for Black people's part, they'll continue to be victims of state-sanctioned murders– but hopefully more quietly, hopefully in a manner that doesn't make you uncomfortable?
When you say, "We can all do better. And that we are all part of the solution," what you mean to say is that POC and their allies are at fault. Sure, you probably agree that Derek Chauvin took it a bit too far, and you probably feel a little self-conscious that he's brought all this "Black rights" stuff up again. But when you say "all," you place blame on the victims who are dying under a broken system. And what, exactly, do you expect POC to do differently, Drew? Ahmaud Arbery was just out jogging, and still he died. George Floyd was just trying to pay a cashier, and still he died. POC and their allies try to peacefully protest by marching in the streets or taking a knee at a football game, and still white people condemn and criticize. Still the police shoot.
After much criticism, Brees did attempt an apology on Instagram, where he posted a hilariously corny stock photo of a Black and white hand clasped together. His caption, though possibly well-intentioned, made it even clearer that his understanding of the movement for Black lives is thoroughly lacking.
Highlights of the "apology" include his immediate attempt to exonerate himself from culpability, claiming that his words were misconstrued, saying of his previous statement: "Those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character." Unfortunately, Drew, white people like you are the "enemy," as you put it, because by default you are at the very least part of the problem. No one is accusing you of being an overt racist, Drew; no one thinks you actively and consciously detest Black people. But your lack of empathy, your apathy, and your unwillingness to unlearn your own biases are precisely what has persisted in the hearts and minds of well-meaning white Americans for centuries.
Next, you say, "I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the Black community in this movement." No, Drew. Just no. Black people don't need white people's savior complexes to interfere in their organizing; what they need is for us to shut up and listen. What they need is for us to get our knees off of their necks.
Finally, you say, "I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy." This, Drew, is suspiciously similar to saying, "But I'm one of the good whites!" The fact of the matter is that feeling the need to prove your allyship is not about helping a movement; it's about feeding your own ego. Not only that, but your emphasis on "ALWAYS" does a pretty good job of making it clear that you don't think you have a racist bone in your body and that you have taken great offense at any accusations to the contrary. I have some news for you, Drew: Every white person is racist. Sure, the levels vary, and while you may not be actively and consciously discriminating against POC, you have been brought up in a racist system, and your implicit biases are as strong as any other white person's. Your job now is to unlearn those biases and confront those subtle prejudices in yourself and in other white people. Maybe the first step in doing so is just shutting your f*cking mouth about kneeling at football games. Maybe you should even consider taking a knee yourself.
For other non-BIPOC trying to be better allies, check out one of these 68+ anti-racism resources.