Recently, the idea of what films should and shouldn’t be seen and which should be accompanied by a warning has been debated quite a bit recently, most notably because of the issue with “Gone with the Wind.” That classic film was recently pulled from HBO Max due to John Ridley’s essay about how the film should be seen, but only if it is accompanied by something explaining the racist imagery and the context of the feature. Of course, the film is now available again on the streaming platform, with the warnings and introduction. But for actor Idris Elba, he isn’t sure that films should be held to this level of scrutiny.
Speaking to Radio Times, Elba was asked about the idea of warning viewers about films and TV shows that contain outdated, racist depictions of characters before allowing them to watch. And the actor explained why he feels that freedom of speech should be extended to the arts, and the ratings system should be utilized more appropriately.
“I’m very much a believer in freedom of speech,” said Elba. “But the thing about freedom of speech is that it’s not suitable for everybody.”
He jokingly added, “That’s why we have a rating system: we tell you that this particular content is rated U, PG, 15, 18, X…I don’t know anything about X, by the way.”
Elba further explained his thoughts when it comes to censorship. He believes that film and TV shows should be allowed to exist, even if they have racist themes and characters, particularly because it is a way to educate audiences about what came before.
“To mock the truth, you have to know the truth. But to censor racist themes within a show, to pull it – wait a second, I think viewers should know that people made shows like this,” Elba explained. “Out of respect for the time and the movement, commissioners and archive-holders pulling things they think are exceptionally tone-deaf at this time – fair enough and good for you. But I think, moving forward, people should know that freedom of speech is accepted, but the audience should know what they’re getting into.”
He continued, “I don’t believe in censorship. I believe that we should be allowed to say what we want to say. Because, after all, we’re story-makers.”
Elba is one of the most respected actors working today, so his words definitely carry credibility. It’ll be interesting to see how others respond to the free speech argument presented here. Clearly, as we saw with “Gone with the Wind,” society seems to be leaning on the side of warning people before watching racist material. We’ll just have to wait to find out if censorship of films and TV shows is going to happen in a big way moving forward.