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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Politics of Charlie Chan

My current piece on National Review Online is about "The Business End of Ethnic Politics," telling how the Fox companies' treatment of the charming Charlie Chan films of the 1930s and '40s shows the increasing tendency of corporate America to find it necessary to give in to political protesters:

Political correctness has largely fallen out of the news, but it is just as prevalent as ever. In fact, it has spread from the capitol buildings and campuses to corporate conference rooms, as businesses increasingly bow to pressure from ethnic, sexual, and political groups. Even old B movies and American heroes aren’t safe from the strictures of today’s culture czars.

This is all too evident in the fate of Charlie Chan in recent years. . . .

[W]hy haven’t you seen Charlie Chan on TV lately? As I reported in National Review Online in 2003, the company that owns the TV rights to the best of the Chan films, Fox Movie Channel, refuses to show them and won’t license the rights to anybody else. The reason the network gave at the time was that ethnic groups had complained:

Fox Movie Channel has been made aware that the Charlie Chan films may contain situations or depictions that are sensitive to some viewers. Fox Movie Channel realizes that these historic films were produced at a time where racial sensitivities were not as they are today. As a result of the public response to the airing of these films, Fox Movie Channel will remove them from the schedule.

Fox has decided to release four Charlie Chan films on DVD, finally, but the bad news is that the quality of the presentation is not that great and Fox refuses to mention them at all on their website. Clearly, they have dumped these on the market in virtual secrecy, hoping to make a little money from the series fans without enraging the ethnic political interest groups. That's sad and ugly. My conclusion:

I suppose we might be grateful that these films are being released on DVD at all, however secretive and slovenly the presentation, but the travails of Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto tell us a lot about the way the culture and corporate America work today, and it is not a happy message. Increasingly in the business world as well as in the political and educational realms, the current American elites are willing to take conservatives’ money, but not their advice.

For that, they go to the very people who would most like to destroy them.

For more details and a complete explanation of the situation, read the full story here.

From Karnick on Culture.


Tlaloc said...

While I disagree with attempts to sanitize the media of the past of the racism and sexism that were so prevalent I think there is a big difference between being honest about the matter and reveling in it.

Being honest means we don't white wash it of the ugliness it entailed. But putting it on network tv as *entertainment* is reveling in it.

Charlie chan belongs in a museum as a sad reminder of the prejudices of an older generation and a hopeful reminder of how they have been overcome. It doesn't belong on TV.

S. T. Karnick said...

As noted in several articles I've written on the subject, linked in the main post, the films are not racist in any way. To characterize these films as ugly is positively grotesque.