Airplane! director David Zucker has hit out against cancel culture, saying that it is ruining comedy and making studios do silly things like putting trigger warnings on classic movies.
“Could you make Airplane! today? My response: ‘Of course, we could. Just without the jokes,’” he wrote in an essay for Commentary magazine.
David Zucker revealed that Paramount Pictures had second thoughts about re-releasing Airplane! for its 40th anniversary last year over concerns that the movie would offend some people. Paramount actually “discussed withholding the re-release over feared backlash for scenes that today would be deemed ‘insensitive,’” Zucker wrote.
The scenes in question include the “jive” scene, in which Leave It to Beaver actress Barbara Billingsley, who is white, translates for two black characters who speak “jive.”
“I’ve lost count of the number of people who have said to me, ‘You couldn’t do that scene today,’” Zucker added.
While Zucker doesn’t mention “cancel culture” by name in the essay, he refers to the cultural veto power that “9 percent” of the population wields.
“There is a very vocal, though I believe small, percentage of the population that can’t differentiate between Glue Sniffing Joke and Glue Sniffing Drug Problem,” he wrote.
“It is these people whom studio executives fear when they think twice about rereleasing Airplane! on its 40th anniversary, when they put disclaimers in front of Blazing Saddles, or when they pressure writers to remove jokes that are otherwise perfectly offensive.”
HBO Max has put a trigger warning before Blazing Saddles, cautioning audiences that the movie features “racist language and attitudes.”
Zucker argued that such a mindset isn’t conducive to creativity.
“Comedy cannot thrive in a state of fear. For me, as for many comedians, the need to get laughs is greater than the risk of getting hurt.”