Should we be surprised by John Wayne’s racist and homophobic views?

Wayne, cinema, and history. It is astonishing to know that not everyone is aware of these specific points. It is shocking to see these views. It is thought-provoking to think about the Vietnam War and the support of the US Army’s Green Berets, directed by Richard Nixon, who famously supported the liberal genre and contributed to the portrayal of cowboys and Indians. In a shocking interview with Playboy magazine in 1971, Marion Morrison, a famous actor, talked about a story involving two “fags” and white supremacy beliefs among other things.

The euphemism used here is insufficiently subtle. Unfortunately, the films made by Ebert were not enlightened, but it would be incorrect to label Wayne as racist. There is no suggestion that white men invaded their land; rather, the Apaches are simply portrayed as murderous savages. Roger Ebert, a critic who wrote about the film Stagecoach, could still argue today that Native Americans are depicted in an unenlightened way in American cinema. Wayne’s films, which idealize white people and stigmatize non-white cultures, are racist to a significant extent. It is crucial to reassess the heroes of cinema in light of our shifting politics and to decolonize and revise the film canon. We should be mindful of the importance of revisiting Wayne’s views in order to fully understand them.

In the golden age of Hollywood, there is a certain lack of education on the history of movies and a certain incuriosity about the past, which shows in these comments that erupt into a brouhaha when people see the ill-advised links to organized crime upon searching the internet during their modern film buff travels. Isn’t it a pity that certain individuals feel a certain weariness about adopting a new mindset of finding fault with people like Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, Charlton Heston, and John Wayne, who were all part of the era? On the other hand, it’s possible to want an understanding of the nuanced politics and history of Hollywood without this certain lack of education and incuriosity.

Cowboys and indians … John Wayne in 1965. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext

Many actors, writers, and directors, including Ginger Rogers, Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney, and John Wayne, testified against Hollywood creatives who were accused of engaging in “un-American activities” and were subsequently blacklisted. This tussle, which saw the supposed evils of communism pitted against American values, took place during the Cold War, where Wayne’s views helped ground his role in the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. Between 1949 and 1953, Wayne presided over the Alliance, seeking to protect cinema from both “fascists” and “communists” and uphold the ideals of American life through his films. It is worth noting that Wayne’s extracurricular activities and his right-wing beliefs are closely associated with his movie career.

It is necessary to have a certain level of understanding of conservative and backward views among white, wealthy individuals, but it should not be overly prevalent. It seems that Frasier actor Kelsey Grammer is disappointed by the fact that many people enjoy this. In 2004, actor Gary Sinise, who founded the organization Hollywood’s Friends of Abe, met with Republican speakers including Beck and Rick Santorum. Once again, Grammer, who has been a member of this organization advocating for right-wing values in the arts, has been associated with embarrassing incidents. Interestingly, there are amusing parallels between modern actor Kelsey Grammer and his pro-Trump, pro-Brexit views, as seen in his recent online comments.

We have a task ahead of us, but laughing and pointing at Wayne will not be as enjoyable as violent films with revenge, retribution, and vigilantism. It reflects the obsession with deathless cinema in violent films, tackling white patriarchal supremacism. We must be sophisticated to realize the racism in Neeson’s aforementioned comments during coshgate. The response to Wayne’s ongoing and past infractions shows our failure.