HBO Max Adds Introduction to ‘Blazing Saddles’ About ‘Racist Language’
If you go to watch Mel Brooks’ classic Western spoof Blazing Saddles on HBO Max this weekend, you’ll find something new: An introduction from film scholar and TCM host Jacquline Stewart. This follows HBO Max’s decision to briefly remove the controversial Oscar winner Gone With the Wind from its offerings, and then to make it available again with its own contextualizing intro, also by Stewart.
In the case of Gone With the Wind, Stewart explained the movie’s complicated production history, and examined its use of racial stereotypes to explain why the film remains polarizing even though it is still the highest-grossing Hollywood movie in history when adjusted for inflation. In her Blazing Saddles introduction, Stewart describes the plot of the movie and then notes that like Gone With the Wind, “racist language and attitudes pervade the film.” But she goes on to add that “those attitudes are espoused by characters who are explicitly portrayed here as narrow-minded, ignorant bigots” while “the film’s real and much more enlightened perspective is represented by the two main characters, played by Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder.” In other words, just because Blazing Saddles contains racist language does not make it racist.
The introduction adds valuable historical background for viewers coming to Blazing Saddles for the first time, and it correctly observes that the movie’s stance against racism is unambiguous. The only problem: There’s no way to skip the intro with a click of a button. As it stands now, it is a part of the feature presentation on HBO Max; if you don’t want to watch or rewatch it, you need to scroll ahead to find the actual start of the film. And sometimes you just can’t wait to rewatch the campfire scene.
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