Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rant #684: Three Into One

Today is the anniversary of three separate events that when added together, equal up to one thing.

First, today is the 72nd anniversary of the film "Gone With the Wind" winning eight Academy Awards, including best picture of 1939. Most importantly, actress Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for best supporting actress, the first black performer to win an Academy Award.

Second, today is the 52nd anniversary of the opening of the first Playboy Club. The Chicago club featured waitresses wearing scanty bunny outfits.

Third, today is the 44th anniversary of the release of the Kerner Commission report, which warned that racism was causing America to move "toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal."

Sure, the first and third entries for today are kind of intertwined, but all three actually are.

They all signaled social change in America.

America went through a Victorian period that still has its fallout today. People were set in their ways, and nothing was going to change them. And that included thoughts about people of other races, other religions, and other nationalities.

But certain events did change them and America, and these three events, in their own way, helped to change America and loosen up those values we had.

Hattie McDaniel's win really can't be fully understood even today, even so many years after the fact. Sure, her portrayal of a mammy was a stereotype, but for a black woman to win such an award at that time of our history must have been incredible.

It was so incredible, in fact, that you can count the number of blacks on one hand who have won acting Oscars since.

The second event people may scoff at, but Playboy helped to loosen our morales a bit, made us think a bit outside the box on certain things.

Playboy has been a game changer for generations, and whatever you think of Hugh Hefner, you have to give him credit for hitting a bull's eye with his magazine and the ancillary items, like the Playboy Club, that he started as a result of the magazine's success.

The third one is probably the most critical. Yes, there was racism in the world then, and there is racism in the world now. Nobody is going to dispute that.

In fact, there's lots of "isms" that are still practiced today that are pretty deplorable.

But I really think that things have loosened up a bit. People are generally more accepting of one another than they were back then. We have a President who is a man of color, so things are much, much different than they were back in 1968.

I don't think we are as separate as we were back then.

So the three events, which aren't really directly related, are kind of related.

They all signal change, and you can bet that years from now, their significance will still be looked at and dissected by future generations.

Or at least they should be.

(And happy February 29. It happens just once every four years, so have a good Sadie Hawkins Day. And happy birthday to those who celebrate their birthdays once every four years--you guys are really younger than you actually are!)

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