August 17th, 2020 – HBO Max is making sure viewers really understand that Blazing Saddles is a satire. The streaming service premiered the 1974 comedy classic in July but just recently added an intro that explains the storyline, characters, and time period in which the film was released.
TCM’s Jacqueline Stewart, who is also a professor of cinema and media studies at the University of Chicago, was tapped to deliver the 4-minute video.
“[Blazing Saddles] is an overt and audacious spoof on classic Westerns,” she says. “It’s as provocative today as it was when it premiered back in 1974.”
Blazing Saddles is directed by Mel Brooks and considered to be a masterclass in comedy. However, many people also say that it could never be made in today’s society. The film tells the story of a Black sheriff (Cleavon Little) sent to a white, racist town where his only supporter comes in the form of an alcoholic gunslinger who used to be known as “The Waco Kid” (Gene Wilder).
While true Westerns of the past used direct and indirect racist motifs, Blazing Saddles hits you over the head with them (and uses the n-word quite a bit).
“As the storyline implies the issue of race is front and center in Blazing Saddles,” Stewart says. “And 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.”
The move comes after HBO Max added a similar pre-film intro to Gone With the Wind. Initially, the company pulled the film in early June following protests over the murder of George Floyd and ensuing outcry against police brutality. Weeks later, HBO Max put it back in rotation with Stewart also providing context for the 1939 film.
“Watching Gone With the Wind can be uncomfortable, even painful,” Stewart says. “Still, it is important that classic Hollywood films are available to us, in their original form, for viewing and discussion. It is not only a major document of Hollywood’s racist practices of the past, but also an enduring work of popular culture that speaks directly to the racial inequalities that persist in media and society today.”
While the two statements certainly draw a distinction between the intentions of the films’ messages, HBO Max didn’t go into great detail as to what pushed them to add the intro for Blazing Saddles.
“The intro was added to ensure that the film was put into the proper social context,” an HBO Max spokeswoman told The Hollywood Reporter.
What are your thoughts on HBO Max adding a disclaimer intro to Blazing Saddles?