As if once wasn’t enough, the infamous and complicated Gone With The Wind character Mammy will get a spin-off book 75 years later. *slow clap*
Originally played by Hattie McDaniels, Mammy delivered cringe-worthy lines and made questionable faces through out the popular film drawn from Margaret Mitchell's novel. McDaniels even became the first black actor to win an Academy Award for her performance in 1939, which is a great piece of history but do we really need to dig deeper into the destructive stereotype that Mammy played upon? No, no we don't.
But in a prequel book to Gone With the Wind called Ruth’s Journey, Mammy gets a name and a backstory, reports the New York Times.
The story begins in 1804, when Ruth is brought from her birthplace, the French colony of Saint-Domingue that is now known as Haiti, to Savannah, Ga. The Mitchell estate has authorized the prequel, which was written by Donald McCaig, the author of one of two authorized “Gone With the Wind” sequels, “Rhett Butler’s People,” from 2007. (The other was “Scarlett” by Alexandra Ripley, released in 1991.) “Gone With the Wind” won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1937 and has sold hundreds of millions of copies.
McCraig also penned the award-winning Civil War novel Jacob’s Ladder and refers to Mammy (I hate that I keep having to type that word, by the way) as one of the “most beloved figures in Gone With the Wind.” Ack.
Essentially, the Simon and Schuster publishing company is out to make an easy dollar from all those Gone With the Wind fans and McCraig is on a mission to fix up the portrayal of the main black character in a film that debuted when my Grandfather was a kid but sell the product to ... me?
"What's really remarkable about what Donald has done is that it's a book that respects and honors its source material, but it also provides a necessary correction to what is one of the more troubling aspects of the book, which is how the black characters are portrayed," Mr. Borland said.
Listen, no one needs this. Ruth’s Journey will only makes sense to the most ridiculous of readers. But if we're on this train, why stop there? Let’s do a prequel of Birth of a Nation and cast white men in the roles of the scary black bucks depicted as ready to rape any white woman they saw! Let’s take the word “nigger” out of all of the Tom Sawyer books! Let’s pretend slavery, peonage, Jim Crow segregation and lynching for sport didn’t exist! Let's just really go for the gold with this denial thing as a way to make America's pop culture past palatable.
Except, all of those things did happen.
Slavery happened, Jim Crow and peonage happened (though now it's called the prison industrial complex) and all of those things make up America, for better or for worse. Taking an eraser to the art that sprang up during those moments in time won’t make the memory disappear.
Instead, why not use all that righteous, liberal energy so concerned with re-writing history to create contemporary films that tell in-depth, fleshy African American stories? Go fund a kickstarter for one of those indie films listed on Shadow and Act or give Barry Jenkins, director of Medicine for Melancholy, some money to make more magic. But there is absolutely no need to create fan fiction around a stereotypical character black folks have been working to shirk off for decades. People were upset about the depictions of black maids in The Help, but Simon and Schuster thought it was a good idea to dig up one of the original mammies from the early 1900s? Please stop.