As time has gone on society evolves and changes and attitudes and language that was normal once upon a time can be seen in a different light. When those attitudes make their way into popular culture, like movies, it means that often we go back to an older film and discover characters or themes that would be unlikely to be accepted today. There are a variety of opinions as to how such things should be handled but Idris Elba believes that while its fair to be critical of racist media, it should be kept, not eliminated.
There a couple of different ways in which shows and films with difficult racial elements have been handled over the years. One method has been to simply pull the offending material from circulation, to show a lack of endorsement of it by not screening it. The other option is to include warning labels or other messages alongside the offending media that makes it clear that it is understood that what viewers are seeing is problematic, while still making the original film or show available. Idris Elba tells the Radio Times he's in the latter category, saying...
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. 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.
While the impulse to simply remove something that is potentially offensive is completely understandable, many, like Idris Elba, feel that removing it entirely can run the risk of making it appear that the problems which led to the material in the first place never existed. This can make fixing those problems that much more difficult.
To this end, it would seem that Idris Elba would be more in favor of the recent decision surrounding Gone with the Wind on HBO Max, where the movie was briefly removed from the service before being added back with a special introduction, as opposed to Disney';s handling of Song of the South, where the film has simply never been released on home video and is not currently available on DIsney+.
In the end, Elba thinks that filmmakers should have the freedom to make whatever they choose and that audiences can be the ones to judge.
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.
It's a difficult needle to thread, and there will always be different opinions about how to handle it, but simply being aware of the problem and working toward a solution, whatever it may be, is a step in the right direction.