"Today, we embark on a crusade to stamp out runaway decency in the West"
February 8, 2019 9:27 AM   Subscribe

"So I've been seeing a lot of the 'Blazing Saddles could never be made today because of the PC police' Discourse today.
Okay, fine. Let’s go ahead and dignify this with a ~ * ~ thread ~ * ~

Could BLAZING SADDLES or something similar be made today? NO. Here's why." [Twitter thread via @thelindsayellis]
posted by Atom Eyes (82 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
Someone did make the 20-teens equivalent of Blazing Saddles, actually. Taking an at-the-time popular genre and infusing it with cutting racial critique against the then-hegemonic culture? Yeah, that's Get Out.

It's especially meta because it's kind of about racist white liberals who think they deserve "N-word privileges".

(If you're hung up on white-guy-makes-a-western-where-white-racists-are-buffoons part, then that one of those got made as well. It was called Django Unchained.)
posted by tobascodagama at 9:38 AM on February 8 [64 favorites]


There’s also Sorry to Bother You, which is not quite the same but is also about a black man rising through the ranks of power in a white hierarchy
posted by cricketcello at 9:46 AM on February 8 [20 favorites]


Lindsay Ellis's video essay on this exact topic, previously on the blue
posted by J.K. Seazer at 9:50 AM on February 8 [5 favorites]


The strongest argument against remaking Blazing Saddles is that I would not be able to take the gallons of ink and acres of pixels wasted on 'I Spent Four Months Amongst The Common Clay of the New West. Morons? Maybe Not.' thinkpieces.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:54 AM on February 8 [33 favorites]


I have often wondered why viewers who aren't familiar with pre-1970's movies, Westerns in particular, and the studio system are so fond of Blazing Saddles. I guess I have a better idea of that now.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:57 AM on February 8 [3 favorites]


Thread reader version.
posted by zamboni at 10:11 AM on February 8 [8 favorites]


Er, because it's a brilliant movie? I agree with Lindsay Ellis that it was a movie of its time and to do the same in the current time requires a different movie, but let's skip implying everyone who likes it is Wrong game.
posted by tavella at 10:13 AM on February 8 [34 favorites]


That was a good thread! It did a great job of laying out the vague "CULTURAL-HISTORICAL CONTEXT!!!" argument I always want to shout when I hear Saddles-lamenting.

The way people get weird, incorrect reads out of Blazing Saddles is kind of a pet fascination of mine. I wrote a thing a while back about the weird way that people who bemoan (their misunderstanding of) postmodernism tend to love Blazing Saddles, not realizing that it's one of the most profoundly postmodern movies ever made.

I also tried on twitter to get Rob Lowe to come and say in so many words what he was lamenting that he couldn't do anymore. He declined to do so.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 10:16 AM on February 8 [22 favorites]


let's skip implying everyone who likes it is Wrong game.

Pretty sure neither Lindsay nor anyone in this thread has implied that.
posted by Lexica at 10:16 AM on February 8 [12 favorites]


but let's skip implying everyone who likes it is Wrong game.

I didn't see her as implying that everyone who like it is wrong; just that a whole lot of its constituency, especially the people making PC-wails now, like it for reasons that aren't always great.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 10:17 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]


All I know is "Mongo only pawn in game of life" gets a lot of mileage around our house.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:26 AM on February 8 [43 favorites]


Once someone thought Mickey Rooney in yellowface was funny.

Comedy, of all art forms, goes out of date fastest. THANKFULLY, a lot of what played in 1973 doesn't work at all today.

This is called "progress"
posted by mikelieman at 10:27 AM on February 8 [15 favorites]


I also tried on twitter to get Rob Lowe to come and say in so many words what he was lamenting that he couldn't do anymore. He declined to do so.

It takes an almost heroic absence of self-awareness for Rob Lowe, of all people, to say "Man you couldn't make a movie like that nowadays!"
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:29 AM on February 8 [17 favorites]


a whole lot of its constituency, especially the people making PC-wails now, like it for reasons that aren't always great

And if you want to see some prime examples of this, scroll through some of the twitter replies to Lindsay's thread.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:30 AM on February 8 [3 favorites]


I wasn't responding to Ellis, I was responding to The Underpants Monster. Possibly I misread them, but it sounded like 'obviously anyone who likes who isn't a scholar of film likes it because it uses the n-word a lot'.
posted by tavella at 10:31 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]


I was just talking about this same subject last night. 70s sitcoms like The Jeffersons and All in the Family where they tackled racial issues by exposing it's absurdity and not shying away from it. Those shows, or Blazing Saddles, couldn't happen now because almost everyone under 30, and many others, would cry bigotry at the mere premise of addressing the topic that way, especially if the director were white. Hyper PC culture has done a lot to restrain honest communication and conversation.
posted by Liquidwolf at 10:34 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]


I was just talking about this same subject last night. 70s sitcoms like The Jeffersons and All in the Family where they tackled racial issues by exposing it's absurdity and not shying away from it. Those shows, or Blazing Saddles, couldn't happen now because almost everyone under 30, and many others, would cry bigotry at the mere premise of addressing the topic that way, especially if the director were white. Hyper PC culture has done a lot to restrain honest communication and conversation.

Nope.
posted by codacorolla at 10:38 AM on February 8 [91 favorites]


Hyper PC culture has done a lot to restrain honest communication and conversation.
I'm not sure I've heard of such a thing existing/happening, and the originally linked thread suggests something fairly counter to this assertion.

I'm sure you have cases in mind, could you point to documented occurrences of almost everyone under 30 cry[ing] bigotry at the mere premise of addressing the topic that way?
posted by CrystalDave at 10:41 AM on February 8 [26 favorites]


Liquidwolf, if you try engaging with the linked content you might find that it is already several moves ahead of you.
posted by gauche at 10:42 AM on February 8 [39 favorites]


Even though this interview with KITH's Bruce McCulloch and Kevin McDonald is a few months old, I only just came across it today and seems to be kind of relevant to this thread:

The Kids in the Hall Aren’t Too Worried About P.C. Culture Ruining Comedy
posted by NoMich at 10:49 AM on February 8 [12 favorites]


Sorry to Bother You literally had this scene (content warning: n-word), and I didn't see PC police lining up in protest.

I am always surprised when people who apparently don't watch movies comment on what is and isn't possible in movies today.
posted by muddgirl at 10:55 AM on February 8 [40 favorites]


I wasn't responding to Ellis, I was responding to The Underpants Monster. Possibly I misread them, but it sounded like 'obviously anyone who likes who isn't a scholar of film likes it because it uses the n-word a lot'.

I thought I was pretty careful to imply, "Since the context of the movie is a big part of why I enjoy it, I found the article interesting because it proposes an idea of why some viewers might like it without the context," but I can totally see how I might have been very vague on that.

It's very hard for me to imagine how things read out of context, and when I discover something interesting and unfamiliar the first thing I do is try to find out what I can about the original context, so I guess it's an idiosyncracy of mine
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:59 AM on February 8 [3 favorites]


Hyper PC culture has done a lot to restrain honest communication and conversation.

This, like women getting upset because a man has held a door for them, is something I have heard people complain about but never actually witnessed. I choose therefore to take a leaf from the right's own playbook and declare that, since I have never personally experienced the phenomenon in question, it does not exist.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:02 AM on February 8 [77 favorites]


Hyper PC culture

Once again, the phrase "political correctness" and its derivatives entirely fail to signal the occurrence of a thought worth listening to. Once again, it signals lazy nostalgia for the days when you could get away with racist, sexist, homophobic language and not have to worry about being called on it. Once again, it tries to disguise this nostalgia as something more noble. Please give me a fucking break and retire this brain-dead thought-ending phrase, and any argument that uses it.
posted by Ipsifendus at 11:09 AM on February 8 [56 favorites]


Okay, 35 year old progressive SJW here, I adore Blazing Saddles (and basically everything Mel Brooks has made) and so does my super conservative Trump-voting dad - it's one of our major bonding points - and it literally never occurred to me until now that we may be enjoying it for totally different reasons, and I need to go think about this now.

(though tbh his favorite part is the beans around the campfire part so maybe his enjoyment is pure)
posted by olinerd at 11:11 AM on February 8 [34 favorites]


(there's no need to rethink the plate of beans scene)
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:15 AM on February 8 [85 favorites]


This Shaun video is actually about (as the title says) Transphobia in the UK, but the specific tactic in question that he spends a lot of time talking about is that thing where a group has access to a broad platform, which they use to complain about not being "allowed" to express their (reprehensible) views rather than just using said platform to actually express their views and be judged for them in the court of public opinion.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:17 AM on February 8 [12 favorites]


the man of twists and turns basically beat me to it, but my take on All in the Family et al is not that they are too "politically incorrect" (gah!) in 2019 but quite the opposite; they're too PC, too sanitized. Archie is cast as a lovable buffoon so we can all comfortably look down on him and his white ethnic noo yawk racism while not having to reexamine ourselves too closely. And when the show does make Important Points, it often does so in a way that's tendentiously on the nose in a way that would come off as eye-rollingly bad writing in 2019. E.g. Edith is the wisest one in the house but has to couch her truths in dingbat language so as not to upset the patriarchy.

Blazing Saddles is a better made film but still falls victim to its era, which is why, as Ellis states, people could still walk away thinking the film's message is “white people yelling the N-word is funny.”
posted by xigxag at 11:17 AM on February 8 [10 favorites]


I also tried on twitter to get Rob Lowe to come and say in so many words what he was lamenting that he couldn't do anymore. He declined to do so.

So very much this. I'm certain the people whining "Everything's so PC, you couldn't make Blazing Saddles today" don't actually have a joke or scene in mind that we would be sad to miss.
posted by straight at 11:19 AM on February 8 [10 favorites]


Once again, it signals lazy nostalgia for the days when you could get away with racist, sexist, homophobic language and not have to worry about being called on it.

You speak for yourself, not for me
posted by Liquidwolf at 11:19 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]


Nobody is trying to put words in your mouth, Liquidwolf. You're doing a perfectly fine job on your own expressing what it is you believe.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:22 AM on February 8 [21 favorites]


The venn diagram of people that I know that think you can't criticize race jokes because of reasons of racism and the people that I know who spend way too much time criticizing Amy Schumer for inexplicably petty reasons is a circle.
posted by Skwirl at 11:23 AM on February 8 [8 favorites]


It's good to see the ex-KITH members aren't succumbing to Old Comedians' Disease, aka "we couldn't get away with making this these days." Because all those John Belushi drug routines never get old, right? You know what else isn't getting old? John Belushi.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:36 AM on February 8 [10 favorites]


So I've been seeing a lot of the 'Blazing Saddles could never be made today because of the PC police' Discourse today.

This is how you can tell you're dealing with older people. 'Blazing Saddles could never be made today' was updated to 'South Park could never be made today' a long time ago.

The irony of people who enjoy comedy and hate PC is that a huge amount of comedy rests on being offensive. If you're not trangressing, it's not funny. So in fact the more PC society gets the more opportunities for comedy there are.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:36 AM on February 8 [3 favorites]


You're doing a perfectly fine job on your own expressing what it is you believe.

Apparently I'm not... but whatever.
posted by Liquidwolf at 11:37 AM on February 8


'Blazing Saddles could never be made today' was updated to 'South Park could never be made today' a long time ago.

Not disputing that people say this, but South Park is literally still in production.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 11:41 AM on February 8 [22 favorites]


I mean, it's also the case that, in the U.S. anyway, we have nonstop Christmas shit thickly layered all over the commercial world from about midnight, Halloween night on through December 26th, and that doesn't stop these very same people from girding up their loins to fight the last glorious battle in the great War on Christmas.
posted by gauche at 11:44 AM on February 8 [19 favorites]


What I'm saying is that cognitive dissonance is a hell of a drug.
posted by gauche at 11:45 AM on February 8 [13 favorites]


The basic premise of the piece and many of the claims about why people are so caught up in fretting about a Blazing Saddles being unable to be made today ring true enough. The conclusion reached feels apt. But I think the piece ignores some contextual aspects that should be better noted. These two paragraphs, for example:

The same applies to genre - Westerns were in their Twilight in 1974, and one of the most pervasive genres in all of film. So the film is just as much a sendup of the dying Western as it is commentary about race.

The highest profile example of a high profile "let's talk about race" film before BLAZING SADDLES that actually FEATURED a Black protagonist (we’re ignoring TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD for several reasons) was IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT.

It's not wrong to say Westerns were in their twilight exactly, but they were far from dead. Thinking of Blazing Saddles just responding to some idea of the archetypal western though I think is mistaken. The sixties actually saw something of a brief rebirth of the western, in part through the "spaghetti western" phenomenon, but also through Hollywood revisionist westerns that sought to deconstruct the older archetypes and substitute newer, hipper ones. That many of these had problems of their own and didn't find the same shelf life as Blazing Saddles, doesn't relieve Saddles from the context of the time when those movies were very present in the culture.

Saddles seems to me to be at least as much a response to the revisionist western and other trends in movies of the era, like the rise of so-called Blaxploitation genre as it is to the traditional western, with more than a hint of nostalgia for the loss of the old archetypes involved. In 1971, for example, the movie Skin Game was released, which Had a story reminiscent of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly at its base. James Garner plays a white man who travels from town to town in the south pretending to having hard times, so he sells his "slave", Lou Gossett, who then "escapes" with Garners assistance and they split the profits of the repeated sales. The movie was a hit, spawning a TV remake a few years later and was mooted as a series. This was far from the only example of westerns getting revisited for comedy, with minority casts, or for subverting what was seen as the conventions of the genre in ways that were hoped would fit the times.

Saddles is dealing as much with that more immediate legacy as he is the old western and that gives a different sense to some of the humor involved, particularly that which doesn't have much of any correspondence to the archetypal western as people tend to think of them. Saddles, like Skin Game, still had a white audience in mind for its more of presentation, unlike, say, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, which itself contains something like a radical re-imagining of some themes common to westerns and their ready adjacency to the era of slavery but tears into them from an entirely different vantage point. Brooks claims of "PC" attitudes makes more sense when looking at many of Saddles jokes as providing an outlet for laughing at taboo subject matter in a scattershot way that includes laughing at the trends of the time, the attempt to update the western as much as laughing at westerns themselves.

I think it would go too far to claim Saddles as really progressive, which doesn't mean people still can't enjoy it, and some scenes might play that way to audiences using a narrow base of comparison. If nothing else Cleavon Little provides reason enough to still find much of it enjoyable even from the distance of our era. It's also worth remembering that it isn't just the movie's context that's important, but our own history as well. The time of our life when we first see a film frames that experience as much as the time the movie was made, so many people complaining are as much thinking of their own "innocence" and its loss as they are about the change in movie culture.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:45 AM on February 8 [22 favorites]


"Reverend!"
posted by Mr.Me at 12:11 PM on February 8


Right - when I hear "You couldn't make Blazing Saddles today" my first thought is "Why would anyone have a reason to make Blazing Saddles today?"
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:19 PM on February 8 [8 favorites]


It takes an almost heroic absence of self-awareness for Rob Lowe, of all people, to say "Man you couldn't make a movie like that nowadays!"

I’m missing some pop culture or something. Why is this? I know who he is but I have absolutely no context for him outside of Parks and Rec despite my advanced age.
posted by sio42 at 12:25 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Madeline Kahn, on the other hand...

Tired, tired of being admired
Tired of love uninspired
Let's face it, I'm tired.
I've been vith thousands of men
Again and again
They pwomise the moon
They're alvays coming and going and going and coming
And alvays too soon.
Wight, girls?
I'm tired, tired of playing the game.
Ain't it a cwying shame?
I'm so tired.
Goddammit, I'm exhausted.

posted by Sophie1 at 12:29 PM on February 8 [18 favorites]


I’m missing some pop culture or something. Why is this? I know who he is but I have absolutely no context for him outside of Parks and Rec despite my advanced age.

In 1988, Lowe was involved in a sex scandal over a videotape of him having sex with a 16-year-old girl he met in a nightclub.
posted by zamboni at 12:30 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]


OF COURSE you couldn't make Blazing Saddles today. Howard Johnson's is out of business! No one would get the joke!
posted by 1970s Antihero at 12:32 PM on February 8 [48 favorites]


Eponysterical.
posted by gauche at 12:33 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]


Kahn's character does reference Dietrich's Westerns, but that song is a straight callback to her big number in Hitchcock's Stage Fright.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:34 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]



I'll be honest, I watched the first half hour or so of Blazing Saddles (for the first time) a year or 2 ago and turned it off. I guess I didn't place it in context?

From what I recall, It was just perpetuating really old stereotypes (the chain gang, at least one black character being very hapless and incapable of following directions) and gave cover to audience who were laughing at the characters, not laughing at the sharper social commentary.

maybe I should give it another shot?
posted by fizzix at 12:43 PM on February 8


maybe I should give it another shot

There is so much cultural production available to us, in 2019. We don't have to strain to make outmoded texts work for us, at least not if our main aim is to be entertained / have a laugh.

I say that having grown up with Blazing Saddles, and with an abiding affection for it. I thought the Lindsay Ellis thread was perceptive.
posted by salt grass at 1:02 PM on February 8 [14 favorites]


Yeah, I'd say the only indispensable Mel Brooks would be Young Frankenstein (and even that film would suffer when divorced from its parodic context.)
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:13 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]


I haven't seen it ages. All I can recall is a bar brawl that morphs into a Busby Berkely musical.
posted by ovvl at 1:14 PM on February 8


It's good to see the ex-KITH members aren't succumbing to Old Comedians' Disease, aka "we couldn't get away with making this these days."

I like to think of this phase as the true separating of the comedians from the hacks. If you're truly a comedian, you can find the humor within any configuration of social norms.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:28 PM on February 8 [11 favorites]


maybe I should give it another shot

I have a deep love for Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, but I grew up with them. FWIW I've never seen the movie as anything but mocking the racist town folk, but you probably have to make it farther into the movie than 30 minutes to drive that home.

I've largely stopped recommending old comedies / movies in general to people, though, after a friend my age - who grew up outside the U.S. and pop culture - watched Blues Brothers and found it completely unfunny. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by jzb at 1:32 PM on February 8 [6 favorites]


You also couldn’t make “The Wizard of Oz” any more, or “Tommy”. It’s ok- we can make other and different movies now, because the culture has - and should have- changed.
posted by jenkinsEar at 1:36 PM on February 8 [9 favorites]


Much of the reasoning about why Blazing Saddles couldn't get made today (which I've been seeing since the mid-1980s) ignores the fact that, if you listen to the things Mel Brooks has said about making the movie, it pretty much couldn't get made in 1974 either.

He has a whole list of things that one studio executive or another told him absolutely had to come out of the movie. Odds are that your favorite joke is on that list. And one of the major things on that list was the N-word. More than one exec told him it would be just as funny and just as insightful and just as socially relevant or whatever without the N-word. But Brooks had final cut, so basically nothing came out. Why did he get final cut? Because he was a reliable writer and he'd made a couple of small movies that had made their small budgets back, so they gave him $2.5M and let him do whatever the hell he wanted, because if it bombed, who cared?

Note: In today's dollars, $2.5M is about $15M, which is the budget of a movie like Hotel Artemis. Anyone see Hotel Artemis? I did (thank you, MoviePass), and if you told me that the director of Hotel Artemis had final cut, it wouldn't surprise me, because clearly no one at the studio gave the slightest shit about Hotel Artemis, despite having Jodie Foster and Jeff Goldblum and Sterling K. Brown and Charlie Day. It was a competently executed little dystopian violencefest, and I enjoyed watching it, and I'm pretty sure I haven't thought about it twice in the last eight months.

That's the vast majority of movies anyway. That was what The Twelve Chairs was, too -- Brooks' follow-up to The Producers was an adaptation of an already much-adapted work of Soviet satire, it made a few bucks for everyone involved, and if Brooks had been hit by a bus the day after it came out, no one would remember the movie had ever existed.

So, could Blazing Saddles get made today? Sure. It gets made all the time. As tobascodagama and cricketcello point out, its equivalent got made twice in the last two years. South Park gets made weekly, and those guys made a movie 30 years after Blazing Saddles that had puppets shitting on each other.
posted by Etrigan at 1:44 PM on February 8 [28 favorites]


Not all of the humor relies on race or farts: “.....But this is my shooting hand” is a great line among a million others, and you could use it in almost any script. Also, “Candygram for Mongo!” sneaks out of my mouth daily. And what about the tollbooth in the desert and “Somebody go back to town — we’re gonna need a shitload of dimes!” with the line of horses going out of the frame?

Anyway, yes, a lot of the movie is worth discussing but some of the jokes are just plain funny.
posted by wenestvedt at 2:01 PM on February 8 [8 favorites]


Well, there's context and there's context. There's the context of people who were familiar with Brooks and old Westerns before seeing the movie, the context of people watching the movie at the time but unfamiliar with either Brooks or old western clichés, and the context of people watching it now. I remember people at the time finding "Blazing Saddles" outrageously original and groundbreaking, and I simply couldn't understand it; had these people never heard of "Your Show of Shows" (for which Brooks wrote back in ancient times)? I'm not criticizing Mel Brooks, it's just he was doing the same stuff he always did with Borscht Belt and Burlesque humor, and while he was certainly funny, he wasn't doing anything groundbreaking except being vaguely liberal and vaguely naughty. And I agree; there's no reason to do this movie now, and you couldn't, because the wellsprings of that humor are now pretty much extinct. That's OK.
posted by acrasis at 2:09 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


"Well, let's play chess."
posted by rifflesby at 2:10 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]


I think some of you are being a dick to liquidwolf. The reason being that Blazing Saddles is difficult to explain, if you're one to get all 'splainy about irony and context. You can like or dislike it for many reasons. People did then. And still do, as fizzix expressed. It's not as if its fans back in the day were as woke as we expect, either. There were plenty of folks who identified with Archie Bunker, and whose skewering went completely over their heads, too. Or worse, whose skewering became victimhood.

Things have progressed. And the state of the art has progressed too. Dealing with race is still done cleverly. I tend to think that movies have increasingly become viable with niche audiences these days, so a modern Blazing Saddles, eager to skewer race issues, would not necessarily have the broad audience it might have enjoyed in 1974.
posted by 2N2222 at 2:15 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]


Let's think about this another way. The movie Get Out, which takes direct aim the vileness of white supremacy, is directed by a black man, and had a blockbuster box office turnout couldn't get made in 1970. How well do you think Moonlight does in 1970? Compare Mad Max to Mad Max: Fury Road (which even received its share of shit today for not focusing on Rockatansky more). What about a woman helming an action blockbuster, like Patty Jenkins?

Let's accept the premise that Blazing Saddles would get canned by the imaginary PC Police (which is wrong). Even if we accept that then we're only looking at a single side of the argument: that winkingly offensive speech (which I guess is what people like Liquidwolf are advocating) is more valuable than the voices of traditionally marginalized people. That's a shitty, selfish argument, even given its inherently flawed starting point (which the thread in the FPP deconstructs very well).
posted by codacorolla at 2:31 PM on February 8 [12 favorites]


> Also, “Candygram for Mongo!” sneaks out of my mouth daily. And what about the tollbooth in the desert and “Somebody go back to town — we’re gonna need a shitload of dimes!” with the line of horses going out of the frame?

No offense, but neither of those jokes really works today.
posted by smelendez at 2:37 PM on February 8


Just one angle I'd like to add that didn't come up in the original twitter thread or the discussion here: Mel Brooks was born in 1926. During the second world war he served in the US army (as a combat engineer defusing mines) and was part of the allied advance into Germany.

Mel Brooks was also a secular Jew who identified as Jewish.

This clearly informs the director's viewpoint in The Producers, and it bears emphasis: a lot of white American racists don't consider Jews to be white—they have passing privilege, but they're not accepted. And Brooks had seen the elephant, in the shape of what happened to a society where anti-semitism went to its logical and extreme conclusion.

I submit that Brooks clearly held racism (as an ideology) in utter contempt. To me, Blazing Saddles is best viewed as a secular Jewish scream of rage and hate against the very attitudes it parodies. The African-American experience is more raw, directly affected by bigotry it can't deflect, evade, or deny—Blazing Saddles enabled him to grapple with racism in a more direct manner than The Producers.
posted by cstross at 2:37 PM on February 8 [46 favorites]


The movie Get Out, which takes direct aim the vileness of white supremacy, is directed by a black man, and had a blockbuster box office turnout couldn't get made in 1970.

Not disputing, but Watermelon Man made nearly ten times its budget.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:38 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


I submit that Brooks clearly held racism (as an ideology) in utter contempt. To me, Blazing Saddles is best viewed as a secular Jewish scream of rage and hate against the very attitudes it parodies. The African-American experience is more raw, directly affected by bigotry it can't deflect, evade, or deny—Blazing Saddles enabled him to grapple with racism in a more direct manner than The Producers.

Exactly. It never occurred to me that the movie (and The Producers) could be anything but this. I guess I thought it was so obvious that it is pretty heartbreaking to find out that a chunk of its audience enjoys it simply because it involves the free use of the n-word.
posted by schroedinger at 2:50 PM on February 8 [20 favorites]


I keep thinking of that moment in Anatomy of a Murder where the judge tells everyone in the courtroom that they're going to keep hearing the word "panties" in the proceedings, so they should get the giggles out of their systems now.

Do we still need to get the giggles out of our system over the n word? I kind of feel like that moment has passed.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:54 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]


Man I watched Wedding Crashers the other day on TV and there's a movie that definitely still could have been made today, but would have gotten universally panned in the mainstream for how sexist and homophobic it is. It was still critiqued for those reasons when it came out a decade+ ago too, but by a wayyy smaller crowd that did not have nearly as large of a mainstream voice. So it was a hyped up movie that everyone loved and was commended for "bringing back the R rated comedy!!"

That's why most of the time "PC culture ruins everything" really just means "more diverse voices are joining in mainstream critiquing things and it pisses me off."
posted by windbox at 2:59 PM on February 8 [17 favorites]


I remember in the early 90s, during one of the peaks of PC where someone tried to tell me that all comedy had become PC. Bullshit. Married With Children, half of the characters in The Simpsons, a lot of Seinfeld, there was so much politically incorrect. There were several high profile PC comedies (The Cosby Show) but there always are and mostly due to the great white bread demand for blandness (Family Affair).
When one critic complained of Jon Stewart playing to stereotypes, he responded by riffing through a dozen different stereotypes, saying that's what I do.
In my opinion most of the complaints about PC warriors come from Limbaugh-types and their belief that they has the right to be small-minded bigots and misogynists. Master crafters of comedy, those with souls, create nonPC situations that say something.
Blazing Saddles could be made today, if you had the talent. Jordan Peele ought to try. (He's not doing anything else now, is he?)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:00 PM on February 8 [6 favorites]


This clearly informs the director's viewpoint in The Producers, and it bears emphasis: a lot of white American racists don't consider Jews to be white—they have passing privilege, but they're not accepted. And Brooks had seen the elephant, in the shape of what happened to a society where anti-semitism went to its logical and extreme conclusion.

I submit that Brooks clearly held racism (as an ideology) in utter contempt. To me, Blazing Saddles is best viewed as a secular Jewish scream of rage and hate against the very attitudes it parodies. The African-American experience is more raw, directly affected by bigotry it can't deflect, evade, or deny—Blazing Saddles enabled him to grapple with racism in a more direct manner than The Producers.


I know Gene Wilder wasn't the original choice for the role, but I've always thought it was somehow perfect and right that the partner who gets it was played by a Jewish actor
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:07 PM on February 8 [11 favorites]


Watermelon Man is a fair counterpoint to my argument, but also an interesting tangent to consider as well. There was a central tension in the production of that film regarding how white people would be depicted, and afterward Van Peebles worked largely in the black film industry, which certainly had cross-over with mainstream American cinema, but was still very much its own thing. Like the FPP points out, thinking of the 70s as a time period that lovingly accepted "offensive" film is missing the point of Blazing Saddles, and also missing the point of modern cutting edge social cinema today, which is that they're in continuity with one another, and that there isn't some mythical point to return to. Quite the opposite, there are demonstrable gains in terms of what is accepted in the mainstream in terms of both social critique and just general representation of artists.
posted by codacorolla at 3:48 PM on February 8 [6 favorites]


. To me, Blazing Saddles is best viewed as a secular Jewish scream of rage and hate against the very attitudes it parodies.

Humor as (1) a defense mechanism ( We laugh because we can't cry any longer ) and (2) weaponized parody. ( Your legacy: People laughing at you for eternity. ( subject to the Ozymandias limit )

Consider Blazing Saddle's "moving west" scene. "What's a dazzling urbanite like you doing in a rustic setting like this?"

That's why he remade 1942's "To Be or Not To Be" in 1983.
posted by mikelieman at 4:08 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Blazing Saddles could never be made today because the last living speaker of Frontier Gibberish died in 1992.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 4:45 PM on February 8 [28 favorites]


I used to love almost all of Mel Brooks's films. I still think Young Frankenstein is a masterpiece. Blazing Saddles, not so much.

Even in 1974, it was too self-congratulating. It was an invitation for Brooks and his audience to pride themselves on not being as racist as the townspeople. A movie made today should ask way more of white audiences. (And just to put its 'boldness' in perspective: when the movie came out, Shaft had appeared three years before.)

It's also way too broad and slow. There's a scene where Bart gets up, gets dressed, exchanges some banter with Gene Wilder, walks around town, and the punchline is that some old lady calls him the n-word. Even if you count that as a joke, it takes forever to get there. The movie seems better in memory because we just remember the good parts.

There's also a lot of stuff that, for me at least, just doesn't work. Groucho Marx would have made Governor Le Petomane hilarious; Brooks just mugs wildly. The ending just falls apart, unlike Young Frankenstein which wraps up the plot in character. The movie only really works when Cleavon Little or Gene Wilder is onscreen.
posted by zompist at 6:17 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]


Groucho Marx would have made Governor Le Petomane hilarious

OMG yes.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:21 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


If you think of the movie as coming through the patter of a Richard Pryor routine plus the shtick of Mel Brooks, the racist scenes resolve themselves into cutting commentary.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:25 PM on February 8 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: I didn’t get a harrumph outta that guy!
posted by Enemy of Joy at 11:38 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]


Yes, it should be remembered that a black comedian was Brooks writing partner. I did see somewhere that Pryor claims he wrote the Jew jokes and Mel wrote the black jokes. I saw a tribute to Pryor where it was revealed that the studio made them cut a line after the infamous "it's twue, it's twue". You hear Cleavon say "Lady, you're sucking on my arm."

It's not as tight or as satisfying as Young Frankenstein. The movie just dissolves with the big fight scene. But there's so many great, quotable lines that you can spend a lifetime riffing on. Wilder and Little were tremendous. Korman was a delight. And dear Madeline still came close to stealing the show.

"So get your fwigging feet on the stage!"
posted by Ber at 2:12 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


Maybe because I was a tween, but when I saw this movie in the 80s on the Saturday Afternoon Movie in my town, my cousin and I laughed at the white people. Like, AT them. Not with them. They were silly, even the good white guy. So for as many white people who see this picture as a chance to use the N-word, the black kids I grew up around loved the movie because it made white people look dumb, and that's what WE picked up on. And personally, I'd seen a couple of Dietrich's movies by then (also on these Saturday afternoon dealies), and picked up on Madeline Kahn's parody of her.

Sheriff Bart we saw as clever, very much in trickster mode, and he was funny, not just the Sidney Poitier "noble" type, which was refreshing. They were lucky to find Cleavon Little, an extremely attractive, classy-looking man who also was funny, and definitely was more palatable to audiences—more than I think Pryor would have been in the role. Little's charisma is a big part of what made the picture work for me, and I would imagine for many people.

But in terms of remaking it today? No, we've moved on from the sort of pedestrian RACISM AGAINST BLACK PEOPLE IS BAAAAD! SEE, HERE ARE SOME GOOD BLACK PEOPLE! storytelling from the Civil Rights era. However, looking back on it now, there's definitely problematic portrayals of women, gay men, Mexicans and Native Americans, where they're just used as punchlines to jokes, which both Richard Pryor and Mel Brooks (both of whom arguably should've known better) didn't even consider when they wrote this screenplay.
posted by droplet at 9:32 AM on February 9 [11 favorites]


At least according to Becoming Richard Pryor, most of his work on Blazing Saddles was Mongo. He was FASCINATED by Mongo, and also seriously coked up all the time.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 11:53 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]


I remember warning my Barron-Cohen naive friends before we viewed Borat at my house -- regarding the jokes where, for example, he fears Jews turning into cockroaches -- remember Barron-Cohen is Jewish. He savagely uses his character's anti-Semitism to expose anti-Semitism.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:33 PM on February 9


I submit that Brooks clearly held racism (as an ideology) in utter contempt. To me, Blazing Saddles is best viewed as a secular Jewish scream of rage and hate against the very attitudes it parodies. The African-American experience is more raw, directly affected by bigotry it can't deflect, evade, or deny—Blazing Saddles enabled him to grapple with racism in a more direct manner than The Producers.

Yeah, my argument has always been that it's incorrect to view Saddles as a movie about racism made by a white dude. Mel Brooks is so goddamn old that he was already an adult by the time the boundaries of whiteness in America moved far enough to encompass Jews. His point of view is fundamentally different, in that respect, even from a younger Jewish director.

(Also I do dearly love this movie: for the jokes, for Mel Brooks at the height of his comedic powers, and especially for the interplay between Little and Wilder, who are just perfect foils for each other.)

(The first time I saw it, my dad translated the Yiddish in the scene where Mel plays the Indian chief -- which, yeah, redface and not great in that respect, but he speaks Yiddish. The biggest joke there is at the expense of the white audience, who might not have noticed it at all.)
posted by nonasuch at 5:02 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


I kind of took that as a poke against the long history of redface in the genre rather than as a simple act of redface in itself. Like, so many studios cast Hispanic, Italian, and even white actors as Native Americans that it was one step further into the absurd to have Yiddish-speaking Natives. But I may be giving credit for too much subtlety.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:15 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


when I hear "You couldn't make Blazing Saddles today" my first thought is

piss on you, I'm working for Mel Brooks.
posted by flabdablet at 7:25 PM on February 9 [4 favorites]


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