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HBO Max puts trigger warning on Western spoof Blazing Saddles due to ‘racist language and attitudes’

HBO Max have begun showing a warning before the classic Western spoof Blazing Saddles, alerting viewers to the 1974 film’s ‘racist language and attitudes’ throughout.

The film began streaming on the platform on July 28.

Ahead of the film, HBO airs an introduction by University of Chicago professor of cinema studies and TCM host Jacqueline Stewart – similar to the disclaimer introduced in June in front of Gone with the Wind.

‘This movie is an overt and audacious spoof on classic Westerns,’ Stewart says in the newly added intro. 

‘It’s as provocative today as it was when it premiered back in 1974.’

The film tells the story of a railroad worker, Bart, played by Cleavon Little, who becomes the first black sheriff of Rock Ridge, a frontier town about to be destroyed in order to make way for a new railroad. 

Initially, the people of Rock Ridge harbor a racial bias toward their new sheriff, but then warm to him after realizing that Bart and his perpetually drunk gunfighter friend, Gene Wilder, are the only defense against a wave of thugs sent to rid the town of its population.

Stewart, in her three-minute explanation, notes: ‘as the story line implies the issue of race is front and center in Blazing Saddles.’

She continues: ‘Racist language and attitudes pervade the film. But those attitudes are espoused by characters who are portrayed here as explicitly small-minded, ignorant bigots. 

‘The real, and much more enlightened perspective, is provided by the main characters played by Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder.’

Little died of cancer in 1992, aged 52. 

Wilder, best known for his 1971 role as Willy Wonka, died in 2016, aged 83.

Stewart also informs audiences about director Mel Brooks’ spoofing ways. 

Stewart highlights the director’s later genre satires, including Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety and Spaceballs.

Richard Pryor initially was up for Little’s role, but was turned down for his controversial stand-up material. The comedian, however, stayed on board and contributed to the writing. 

The situation is similar to that of Gone With The Wind, which was pulled from HBO Max not long after the streaming service was introduced, due to outcry over its outdated and racist story and themes. 

The 1939 war classic returned in June with additional context, also narrated by Stewart, and a disclaimer attached. 

Online the decision by HBO Max to feature the warning was mocked by social media users.

‘The only disclaimer they need on Blazing Saddles is: “This movie was made, by a brilliant crew of people, back in the days when people enjoyed laughing together instead of searching for things that offend them,’ said one.

Another said: ‘They are now telling us how and what to think about the movies we watch.’

And one concluded: ‘Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles, perhaps the most obvious piece of racial satire in film history, now needs a disclaimer to inform dimwits that racism is, in fact, bad.’ 

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