Southern Charm: The Birth of Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

The Birth of a Nation is a bit more explicit in its message but it rings to the same tune -- southern whites are victims of the civil war, not perpetrators.

Neither is an accurate portrayal of historical events but rather a symbolic representation of feelings and emotions held by whites in the pre-world war two United States. Historical evidence proves that neither Griffith nor O'Selznick were accurate in their depiction of the civil war but they do capture the fear and xenophobia riddled throughout each decade. While Griffith took inspiration from the Clansmen, O'Selznick, a Jewish New Yorker, along with his mostly Jewish writing team, likely were not trying to rewrite history but instead speaking to their audience, understanding what they were looking for.

The Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind speak to an audience who's way of life had been taken away by force. Though slavery is a horrendous commodity the southern United States' entire economy revolved around the buying, selling, and trading of human slaves. The civil war crushed the economies of the south and implanted a racist hatred that exists to this day. By 1915 and the release of the Birth of a Nation and even until 1939 and Gone with the Wind Jim Crow laws made it difficult to be black in the southern states. Griffith's film served as a rallying point for the Ku Klux Klan and other supremacist groups and suggested to the public at large that perhaps history happened a little differently -- which it didn't. This desire to rewrite the past continued through till the late 40s, hence the wide, gaping appeal of Gone with the Wind. A battle in the court of public opinion, if racist white's were able to paint their ancestors as heros and victims then it would excuse the discriminatory Jim Crow laws.

Of course, there was no great conspiracy and there were no secret Ku Klux Klan infiltrators inside of MGM although D.W. Griffith was the next best thing. The racist undertones in Gone with the Wind and overtones in the Birth of a Nation were apart of the overall racist zeitgeist dominating the early 20th century. They reflect trends, unseen except in hindsight, reflecting the mood and feeling of the country at large. To truly understand a population, watch what they're watching.

Gone with the Wind. Dir. Victor Fleming. Prod. David O. Selznick. Perf. Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. Metro-Goldwyn Mayer (MGM), 1939. DVD.

"All Time Box Office Adjusted for Ticket Price Inflation." Box Office Mojo. Box Office Mojo. Web. 11 Dec. 2010.

Sources Used in Documents:

Rogin, Michael. "The Sword Became a Flashing Vision" D.W. Griffith's the Birth of a Nation." Representations 9.Special Issue (Winter 1985): 150-95. JSTOR. University of California Press. Web. 11 Dec. 2010. .

Change, Robert S. "Dreaming in Black and White: Racial-Sexual Policing in the Birth of a Nation, the Cheat, and Who Killed Vincent Chin?" Asian Law Journal 5.41 (1998): 41-60. Print.

Harris, Warren G. Clark Gable: A Biography, Harmony, (2002), page 211

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