Seven Years a Slave examines a similar era without recourse to racism.
It was as possible to be entertaining without recourse to racism back then as it is today.
Instead of making excuses for racist film makers we should be praising those who rejected it.
...changed your mind...?
...leading to Hitler...
Rather than bury all the past books and films, something called education should be brought into the equation.
Never Too Late
By Andrew D. Arnold, Friday, Sept. 19, 2003
[…] Twenty-five years after [The Spirit], Eisner's latest book, "Fagin the Jew" (128 pp.; $15.95), has just been published by Doubleday, an imprint of the very mainstream book publisher Random House.
"Fagin" takes the famous sly criminal character from Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist," referred to throughout the book "the Jew," and fills in his back-story. This way Eisner hopes to accomplish a corrective to Dickens' negative stereotype. Moses Fagin's story parallels that of Oliver Twist in his being orphaned at a young age, trapped in a rigidly stratified society and at the mercy of its caprices. Crime, "the trade of the streets," becomes his only option and he soon finds himself shipped off to the colonies as a convict. Years later he returns to London and organizes a group of street urchins into a petty crime gang which Oliver joins. By the end, after Fagin is sent to the gallows, the reader becomes aware of a connection between him and Oliver Twist that goes further than mere association. The spry, talkative Will Eisner spoke with TIME.comix by phone from his office in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
[…] TIME.comix: What is the story behind "Fagin the Jew?"
Eisner: Fagin started a number of years ago when I was looking through the European mythologies, faerie tales and so forth, and it struck me that there was a thread of stereotype in all of those. And I believe strongly that there's nothing wrong with stereotype. Stereotype has been made a bad word. But it's not a bad [thing] unless it's used badly -- for evil purposes. But [sometimes] it's the only way you can communicate, visually. At any rate, one of the books I turned my hand onto was "Oliver Twist." In reading it again it struck me that Dickens committed an evil thing when he referred to Fagin throughout the book as "the Jew." I did some further research and discovered that Dickens himself was not anti-Semitic. When he was reminded of the fact that he had created this "error," so to speak, he tried to change it later and apologized profusely. I began to realize that there was a thing happening in all our literature in which we create stereotypes that live throughout [history] and establish identity figures. So I felt that I had a chance to depart from the kind of book I was doing [previously], which was essentially social commentary, like "Name of the Game" [in 2001], to do something that was more of a polemic. The function of "Fagin the Jew" was to write a biography of Fagin, which needed to be done. I didn't alter the thrust of Fagin -- he was still a criminal, he still gets hanged at the end -- but the opportunity to show what his life was like gave me a chance to take an issue with it.
TIME.comix: Do you see the use of negative stereotype as a continuing problem in literature?
Eisner: I think it has always been a problem. The author, whether they're doing comics or film or regular literature, has a responsibility. For example, "Oliver Twist," began as an adult series in newspapers. It is now a children's book. The subject matter at the time was addressed much more to adults than it was to children. So over the years literary and film work has helped develop stereotypes for our society. I think that becomes a responsibility. Literature has a [particular] responsibility because literature is the main source of our cultural continuation.
TIME.comix: As you say in the introduction to "Fagin," you have your own history with stereotype, most particularly in the character Ebony White, a big-lipped, saucer-eyed African-American comedic sidekick to the Spirit. Although Ebony evolved with greater sensitivity in the latter half of the series' life, do you see "Fagin" as a kind of mea culpa?
Eisner: I suppose if I denied it nobody would believe me. But I if you go back and examine how I handled Ebony, I was aware that I was dealing with something that was volatile and had I a responsibility. The only excuse I have for [that portrayal] is that at the time humor consisted in our society of bad English and physical difference in identity. Later I attempted to depart from it by having a black character, a detective, who spoke proper English and I had an airplane pilot that was black.
TIME.comix: Isn't there a parallel, though, between Charles Dickens' depiction of Fagin and your depiction of Ebony, in that both were created out of the culture of their time?
Eisner: The only difference between what he did and what I did is the fact that his Jew was an evil man and the presumed characteristics of the Jew -- the money-clinging, tight-fisted, narrow-eyed character -- was what he capitalized on. For example, Dickens' depiction of another villain [in "Oliver Twist"], Sikes, makes no mention of nationality.
TIME.comix: The idea of fleshing out another author's character is interesting. I'm wondering how you would feel if somebody wrote a biography of Ebony White?
Eisner: I would deserve it. [Laughs] I would deserve that. As a matter of fact that probably would be a very worthwhile idea. I think more, if I were somebody else and were to undertake that, I would probably do something about his psychology. He lives with the Spirit, his engagement was solely tied up with the Spirit and I would probably touch on the slave mentality that he probably had.
TIME.comix: Did you think of doing just that: a biography of Ebony White?
Eisner: I once thought about it but I've left "The Spirit" and have gone off onto other things. My mention of Ebony in this book was something I felt I had to honestly do because if I didn't mention it somebody else would. But as far as the Spirit is concerned, I stopped doing "The Spirit" in '52 and when people ask me, Do I ever feel like doing it again, I say, "When I do, I lie down until the feeling goes away." If the "Fagin" book is successful I think there's more to do in that [polemical] direction.
Now it has returned alongside two videos from Turner Classic Movies offering insight into the film’s legacy. One is an hour-long panel discussion entitled “The Complicated Legacy of ‘Gone With the Wind'” recored [sic] in April 2019 and moderated by author and historian Donald Bogle.
The other is a nearly five-minute ‘introduction’ available to watch when you go to the profile page and features film scholar Jacqueline Stewart saying the movie presents the Antebellum South as “a world of grace and beauty without acknowledging the brutalities of the system of chattel slavery upon which this world is based. The film’s treatment of this world through a lens of nostalgia denies the horrors of slavery, as well as its legacies of racial inequality.”
I very much doubt it would get an Oscar today.