6 Classic Movies That Are Quite Problematic Today
Sun, April 18, 2021

6 Classic Movies That Are Quite Problematic Today

 

Whether or not we have had emotional connections with the movies we saw when we were younger, it doesn’t change the fact that the topics of these movies usually feel bizarrely inappropriate now that we have become adults and understand a lot more about the world than we did before. 

In the last decade or even the past few years, some movies’ values just don’t hold up anymore. Acknowledging that a movie is problematic is never wrong or just an example of “snowflake” behavior. Instead, to do so is to acknowledge the differences between our changing priorities and maturing perceptions. Here are some well-received movies of the past that unfortunately, haven’t aged well given the current circumstances, perceptions, and values.

 

“American Beauty” (1999)

In 2017, Kevin Spacey faced numerous allegations of sexual abuse when teenagers spoke up against his behavior. That’s already pretty heavy in and of itself, but add that to the fact that Spacey also once fantasized about teenaged girls in one of his early works. In “American Beauty,” we remember how Spacey’s character, Lester Burnham, fantasized about Angela in a rose petal-filled bed, which, after the 2017 issue, now just looks downright creepy.

Aside from Spacey’s involvement in controversies now and his creepy character’s motivations, the movie itself has always been under fire by critics. In an article in Insider.com, an American online media company, writer Matthew Jacobs of the Huffington Post was quoted talked about how the movie changed cultural attitudes after the September 11 attacks. 

"The profound ideas at which 'American Beauty' grasped now seemed passé at best and clueless at worst," he wrote.  

In 2017, Kevin Spacey faced numerous allegations of sexual abuse when teenagers spoke up against his behavior / Photo by: Pinguino k via Wikimedia Commons

 

“Anastasia” (1997)

Perhaps the reason why very few people remember the animated movie “Anastasia” is because it was wildly inaccurate in the first place. There have been inaccurate adaptations before but according to Screen Rant, an online entertainment news website, anyone’s who’s seen the movie and knows the story feels the story simply capitalized on Anastasia’s disappearance. 

“The film at times feels like it’s exploiting Anastasia’s fame as well as the false claims made by women claiming to be Anastasia,” Screen Rant writes. 

“Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” (1994)

Jim Carrey is the quintessential Pet Detective. He is Ace Ventura and Ace Ventura is him. His performance in the movie made it quite the hit in 1995, but because the era had next to nothing to say for our trans brothers and sisters, the plot twist at the end, in particular, doesn’t quite sit well with many of us today. 

In case you don’t remember the scene, it’s the one where Ace learns that a woman he kissed is actually a man. Again, because of the era, Ace’s reaction is over-the-top “nose-holding disgust.” He did everything to “clean” himself of what he’d done, brushing his teeth furiously, burning his clothes, and then crying in the shower. Author Alexandra Gonzenbach Perkins said: “The representations that did exist tended to pathologize transgender people as mentally unstable.”

Jim Carrey is the quintessential Pet Detective. He is Ace Ventura and Ace Ventura is him / Photo by: MattCC716 via Wikimedia Commons

 

“Lady and the Tramp” (1955)

In the world of movies that didn’t really age that well, even Disney isn’t safe. One racist moment that can be remembered from the movie, of course, features the two Siamese cats on the film given stereotypical Asian behaviors. There’s nothing we can do about it now, especially considering “Lady and the Tramp” was released in 1955. 

To add to the negative light that the creators put on the Asian stereotypes, they were also made out to be the villains in the movie. This is, of course, blatantly racist, and so Disney made the decision to scrap the Siamese cats’ song in the original and replaced it with a different tune and changed the cat breeds.

We may not be able to retroactively change something that has been done before but at least we can make it better now equipped with the right information. 

“Song of the South” (1946)

In another article by Screen Rant, “Song of the South” was also mentioned for being lesser known as a Disney movie that completely botched its portrayal of the very serious matter of slavery. Slavery is a touchy topic; it’s sensitive because so many people continue to be affected by it despite now being the modern era. The ripples are still being felt to this day by people of color, and with the current climate, it’s felt more acutely. 

So it’s very hurtful to have to watch “Song of the South” and see “a romanticized version of slavery in the 1800s where the black slaves were depicted as being perfectly happy with serving their white masters.”

 

“Dumbo” (1941) 

The oldest film in this list, the Disney classic “Dumbo” may be cute and all but it too is now considered politically deaf. According to Insider.com, the biggest offense of the film was when they used racist caricatures when depicting the crows. Observed The Washington Post’s Travis Andrews, these black stereotypes were nowhere near subtle. That’s expected, of course, especially when the leader of the crow gang was actually even named “Jim Crow,” a racist theater character played by Thomas D. Rice, a white man who did blackface. 

Andrews said the caricatures were most apparent because the crows were given “jive-like speech patterns and jazzy-gospely songs sung in harmony.”

Of course, we can all forgive these movies for committing these mistakes because, obviously, times then were different. At the least, everyone back then was none the wiser.