HBO host and comedian Bill Maher had a message for “woke” people on Friday night that they should not be sifting through old movies and television programs to find things to be offended by because the rules we operate by now did not exist back then.
While most of us understand that racism and sexism is wrong today, it is equally wrong to censor the past because of what was said or done in movies and television programs produced decades ago, a point Maher masterfully nailed on Friday night.
“Stop being surprised every time you watch an old movie or TV show and find some of the ideas in it are old,” he said, using actress Molly Ringwald’s recent criticism of 1980s classic The Breakfast Club as an example.
Maher noted that we can’t just dig up writer John Hughes, who also wrote classics such as Home Alone and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and yell at him for anything offensive he may have included in his films.
“I remember the 80’s. Being ‘woke’ means you had too much cocaine,” Maher quipped.
“Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do,” he continued.
That’s the exact question Lisa Simpson asked on this week’s episode of the Simpson’s to address the controversy over character Apu and how he has been portrayed on the cartoon show.
And that’s the whole point. There’s really nothing we can do except learn from it and evolve. We can’t go back and change these things. Nor should we obsess with it.
“If you spend your time combing through old TV shows to identify stuff that by today’s standards looks bad, you’re not ‘woke’, you’re just a douchebag,” Maher said.
“You can’t enjoy any music, movies or TV from ‘back when’ for any length of time without seeing something we just don’t do any more. But aren’t we adult enough to separate what we like about an old movie from what we don’t? We can watch Big as a movie about a kid who becomes an adult, and not as a movie about a grown woman who fucks a 12 year old.”
Maher went on to note that The Beatles sang songs about underage girls, something Roy Moore likely would approve of.
Here’s the full segment via YouTube.
And Maher is right. We would literally go insane complaining about every little thing said or done in movies that we find offensive today. In the past, such things weren’t considered offensive as they are now.
Take Looney Tunes for instance. Rather then censor the cartoons or pull them from the air, Warner Brothers added a disclaimer explaining that the cartoons “are products of their time” and do not represent the views of Warner Brothers studios today. “These cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed,” the disclaimer concludes.
Here’s an image of that disclaimer via Imgur.
We should all keep this disclaimer in our minds when we watch old movies and television shows.
It doesn’t make it right, but we can’t pretend that they don’t exist. And it doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t continue to enjoy them either. As Maher pointed out, “We are still evolving.” And we still have a lot of work to do, but we should stop trying to change a past we can’t change and work on changing things for a better future.
These movies and television shows should serve as a reminder of who we were and as inspiration to help us evolve and be better.
Featured Image: YouTube screenshot