Black stories matter, too, says our streaming guru NICK OVERALL…
WHILE this is a column about what’s streaming, it would be hard to avoid the storming news about what is, well, not streaming.
Platforms have been removing iconic pieces of popular culture, comedies, dramas and so on, for containing “racial insensitivities”. Chris Lilley, the man behind series such as “We Can Be Heroes”, “Angry Boys”, and most well-known, “Summer Heights High”, has been one of the targets, with all of these shows being taken off Netflix. They are known to stream very highly in Australia and overseas.
That’s just the start. Icons such as “Little Britain” and “Fawlty Towers” and perhaps generating the most heat, the classic masterpiece “Gone with the Wind”, have also been removed.
I’ve had discussions with people on their views and have received a resounding “yes” in asking whether they believe that “GWTW” should have been taken down. My second question was if they’d actually seen the film. The common answer among my, albeit small, sample, was “no”.
Yes, “GWTW” is set during the American Civil War and the issue of slavery is one of the central elements – and why a country went to war against itself. Surely to try to eliminate such depictions is to “erase” pieces of our history? If we don’t confront these terrible moments in time, if we aren’t made see the type of things that did occur and feel rightly uncomfortable, dismayed and even angered at the injustice, will there be the possibility, as the saying goes, for a repeat of history because we’ve been conveniently helped to forget it?
It won nine Academy Awards, including one to Hattie McDaniel, as Mammy, the first black woman to do so, and Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 book has never been out of print.
Does not masterful art like this classic film make us think and help us understand more how to move into the future? And isn’t that for the better?
Isn’t comedy supposed to hold up a mirror to us and make us realise our own shortcomings?
When we start removing such works we sit on the precipice of a very slippery slope, one that has the potential to do more harm than good, one where our forward thinking becomes closed off rather than opened up.
The solution surely can’t be found in such tokenism.
Voices of indigenous peoples here and overseas are powerful drivers of necessary change and film and television is one of the most universal of modern artistic avenues to achieve this.
Streaming platforms from our own home offers the opportunity to reach millions, now more than ever, and the stories and perspectives of people of colour are able to inform and educate in ways not previously seen.
We don’t make progress by destroying, but by creating. More investment in such storytelling, more access to stories and information outside the “mainstream”, more power to the people by opening up even more avenues of expression is what is required.
Making all the right noises on social media isn’t enough. Projects, plans, new ideas and initiatives to explore, condemn or celebrate are what will continue to make a positive difference.
And if you happen to need any recommendations on just some of this talent already on offer, you can find, just released on Netflix, “Da 5 Bloods”, from acclaimed African American director, Spike Lee. This historically ambitious film tells of the powerful contribution of African American soldiers to the Vietnam War.
Lee’s previous film, “BlacKkKlansman” is also on Netflix. Find “12 Years a Slave” on Foxtel, our own “Mystery Road” on ABC iView. “I Am Not Your Negro” is on Stan. SBS On Demand is also offering a plethora of documentary content on the history of the movement we see unfolding before us right now.
Black lives matter and so do their stories