Blazing Saddles, 1974; directed by Mel Brooks
Not too long ago, Entertainment Weekly posted a slide show article regarding Hollywood movies that could never be made in today's political climate due to their crude and/or offensive nature. Up until now, I had never seen Blazing Saddles, one such film listed among the most politically incorrect. Do I agree that this movie would not be well-received by critics and would possibly never see the light of day if made now? Yes and no.
Brooks' film manages to incorporate nearly every style of comedy imaginable into one film without being overbearing or seeming to try to hard; there's slapstick a la the Three Stooges, zany one-liners reminiscent of Jack Benny, vaudeville references, jokes about and fun poked at the KKK, Nazis, Jews, blacks, prostitutes, whites, Indians, movie directors...the list can go on and on.
Could a little old white woman telling a well-meaning newly-appointed sheriff (Cleavon Little), "Up yours, nigger!" be written into a movie and accepted as humorous by an audience today? Not likely. Nigger is used many times within the movie, especially memorably in a scene in which the drunken town crier first lays eyes on Bart as he comes riding in the town, but somewhere in the last 37 years or so, that word has pretty much been removed from the Hollywood lexicon unless it's a black person saying it, or it is used for dramatic effect. Even a few years later, when Eddie Murphy did basically the same thing that Little did only in an urban setting in Beverly Hills Cop and Trading Places, (and then what Chris Tucker did in Rush Hour, etc.), only the black character used the word, and it was only implied that the white characters around him were thinking it.
At the same time, stand-up comedians, (older ones like Joan Rivers and Don Rickles and the newer breed Chris Rock and Dane Cook) still know no boundaries when it comes to content and political correctness. If you've seen Rivers' documentary A Piece of Work, you know that there is no such thing as censorship. And that's a good thing.
Part of Blazing Saddles' appeal to me is that the humor can still be shocking even generations later. I was amazed by how much Brooks was able to get away with, and how well-executed the story was. Can the humor be considered offensive? Certainly. But let it be known that no race creed, gender, or color leaves unscathed from this picture. And if something is just plain funny, well...it's just plain funny. Simple as that.