Hollywood's Take On The Civil War

2403 words - 10 pages

The film, Gone with the Wind became a cultural phenomenon after its release in 1939. The Civil War based film follows the storyline of Scarlett O’Hara. The lead heroine is dealt with the hardships of love as well as the destruction of her town. Set in the South, the movie stresses
the community’s devotion to the confederacy. After its box office success, many historians believed that the film had a strong influence on America’s perception of the Civil War. That influence being a backing attitude towards the Lost Cause. The term Lost Cause refers to the white southerners admirable view towards the defeated confederacy. In Gone with the Wind, this idea was expressed in several scenes. For example, one of the leading characters, Rhett Butler, joined the confederate army after he witnessed the fall of Atlanta. Aware of the army’s inevitable defeat, he still enlisted to prove his support towards his native soil. However, the classic used the south’s dedication in fighting for their homeland as a backdrop to the plot. The prime angle of the film alluded to the romanticism of O’Hara’s character. With little mention of the war, the plot mainly dealt with her hardships in love. Most of the scenes were comprised with theatrical background music and extravagant acting. Rather than categorizing Gone with The Wind as a civil war film, it is evident that the motion picture belongs in the drama/ romance genre. Predominantly, Gone with the Wind focuses on the life of a southern female woman. The American Civil War is merely discussed when the war affects her personal life.
Released in 1915, Birth of a Nation became America’s first full length film. The three hour silent movie reflected on two families, one from the south and one in the north, during the Civil War period. Despite its initial success, Birth of a Nation has been scrutinized for its racist portrayal. For instance, one scene includes a plantation owner taking his guests on a tour of the slaves’ chambers. The owner is seemingly friendly and welcoming towards the slaves. Evidently, the slaves appear to be satisfied with their life. They even dance with excitement as their master looks on. Critics argue that this is a distorted view on racial history. Since the standpoint of the film revolves around white southerners, the scene attempts to glamorize slavery. In another display of discrimination, a newly elected group of Black legislators begin session. While in debate, african americans are shown drinking whiskey, devouring chicken, and removing their shoes. The purpose of this scene was to show the inability of African Americans to govern a nation. In illustrating blacks as barbaric and ill-mannered, the movie exhibits why the elite whites need to stay in power. With a focus on the Lost Cause, Birth of a Nation put a favorable stance on the South’s ideologies. One of those ideologies being white superiority.
When Birth of a Nation was released, the National Association of the Advancement of...

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