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Clint Eastwood is Being Cancelled for What He Said 50 Years Ago

With a career that’s endured over 60 years, ninety-one year old Clint Eastwood has been bouncing from spaghetti western sharpshooters to police department rebels longer than most of us have been alive.

Of course, a career this long doesn’t come without controversy at some point. In this case, unfortunately, it’s coming from a video over 50 years old. Recently, an old Clint Eastwood video has resurfaced that is causing a lot of backlash for the iconic star, and he may be falling victim to cancel culture. What’s worse is that now people are finding other examples of controversy in his past and using them against him. In this video, we’re taking a look at all of the allegations against Clint Eastwood to understand why people are so upset with his words and his actions.

The 1973 Academy Awards


It all starts with the clip that resurfaced from nearly 50 years ago. The year is 1973, Richard Nixon is beginning his second term as president, Aerosmith has released their debut album, and the 45th Academy Awards are underway in Los Angeles, California. Superstar Marlon Brando was the favorite to win Best Actor for his performance as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather the previous year. However, instead of attending the ceremony himself, he sent actress and activist Sacheen Littlefeather in his place to decline the Oscar on his behalf. She would then give a speech about the poor treatment of Native Americans in the film industry and the ongoing Wounded Knee Occupation, a protest led by the American Indian Movement.

While the original speech was eight pages long, Littlefeather was told she only had 60 seconds to speak, forcing her to ad-lib an abbreviated version of her speech. She was able to deliver the full speech at a press conference later, with the support of Marlon Brando.

The Oscars speech was followed by Gene Hackman and Raquel Welch, who were presenting the Best Actress award. Welch joked that she hoped the next winner didn’t have a cause, presumably to save the audience from listening to another speech like the one prior. Up next, 43-year-old Clint Eastwood presented Best Picture. The clip getting Eastwood into trouble today is what he said right after he first walked on stage. The actor declared, “I don’t know if I should present this award on behalf of all the cowboys shot in all the John Ford Westerns over the years.” Eastwood’s quip received laughter and applause from the audience. Meanwhile, Littlefeather was receiving a different treatment backstage.

Littlefeather recalls that Western cinema icon John Wayne was backstage, attempting to remove her from the stage forcibly. Luckily, security men were restraining him, but it didn’t stop Littlefeather from experiencing verbal harassment. After finishing her speech, she was met backstage by people mimicking stereotypical Native American war cries and chopping fictional tomahawks. Today this adverse reaction to Littlefeather is still a point of contention for Native Americans, as it was a direct challenge to the authenticity of her heritage. Eastwood’s insensitivity to the issue is what’s gotten him in hot water today.
Furthermore, the video of Eastwood’s quip and its accompanying applause has now sparked a discussion about other times Clint’s actions and words could have influenced public perception of people of color, and potentially encouraged racist behavior.

Gran Torino


In February 2021, actor Bee Vang, who co-stared with Eastwood in 2008’s Gran Torino, which Eastwood also directed and produced, had some strong words for the celebrity. He released an op-ed for NBC about how he worried about the movie’s frequent use of ethnic slurs against Asian people and its potential to normalize that kind of speech and behavior.
The film follows the exploits of Clint’s character, a racist Korean War vet, and his neighbor Thao Vang Lor, played by Bee.

The movie initially received a mixed reaction from its treatment of cultural tensions, and Vang admitted he had concerns immediately after the release. For example, he says he found it alarming that the people laughing in the theaters were predominantly white viewers. This issue worsened when the Covid pandemic hit, and Bee witnessed the rise in anti-Asian racism and violence worldwide. He claimed that the behavior was previously disguised as good-natured humor but has now been revealed for what it truly is. The question is whether this comes back to Eastwood for being the one to write, direct and star in the film.

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The Mule


The latest Eastwood film to draw criticism was 2018’s The Mule, again directed by, produced, and starring the now 91-year-old leading man. The Mule follows Eastwood’s character getting caught up as a drug courier for the Sinaloa Cartel.

The film received backlash from ethnic groups due to the main character’s casual racism throughout the film. Played by Clint Eastwood, the character Earl Stone routinely speaks lines such as “Hey José, what’s with the taco wagon? It’s like you were born to be deported”. Many complain that the film is normalizing this kind of racism for elderly folks, instead of pointing out the flaws in this way of speaking and acting. Interestingly, throughout the course of the film, the character begins to acknowledge his biases and realizes he shouldn’t treat others so dismissively. The parts of the film that come before this have been deemed too insensitive to make up for the character’s transformation.


American Sniper


Clint’s treatment of racial issues has been considered dangerous even when he’s not in front of the camera. 2014’s American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood, chronicles main character Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper, and his rise to becoming the deadliest marksman in the history of the U.S. military. The movie was criticised for its lack of analysis of its main character. They made the choice to refuse to acknowledge Kyle’s racism, which is known to have fuelled his accolades during his military career. Although the movie was construed as a story of patriotism, many fear that it told the wrong story and encourages racism as a component of being patriotic.

When you combine this backlash with Bee Vang’s assessment of Gran Torino, it seems that racism is a recurring element of Eastwood films. Either intentionally or unintentionally, they are constructed in a certain way that leaves audiences with the wrong message. Clint Eastwood also seems to be given a free pass to say as many slurs as he pleases in his scripts.

Eastwood’s 50 Year Career


Beyond the characters Eastwood has designed or portrayed onscreen, his personal life is full of many other controversial statements. Eastwood is known to be politically conservative and was previously asked to speak on the topic of President Donald Trump. While he didn’t outright endorse him, he did speak to accusations of racism. Eastwood said that while he was growing up, things weren’t considered racist like they are today, and that people are accusing others of racism all too often today. He also admitted that he took some feedback on the Gran Torino script after being told it was politically incorrect. Although we don’t know the extent of the changes, he is said to have immediately made some adjustments to the film.

Eastwood grew up in a different time, and one that clearly influenced how he makes films. However, for better or for worse, times have changed. If Eastwood wants to continue his legacy in Hollywood, he may need to adjust how he depicts race in his films. If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that we would love to see Eastwood continue his craft as long as he can.

Regardless of these resurfaced comments and cinematic decisions over the years, public appraisal for Clint Eastwood is at an all-time high. Warner Bros. is celebrating its five-decade relationship with Eastwood with a nine-episode documentary series. This includes a curated exhibition of costumes and props, a dedicated HBO Max page, programming on Turner Classic Movies, and a theatrical re-release of Eastwood films such as Dirty Harry, Gran Torino, and American Sniper.

Whatever you think of him, you can’t deny that a career as long as Eastwood’s is anything short of impressive.

So, what do you think? Does Eastwood deserve to be canceled for the reasons in this video? Or do you think he deserves a free pass to make these creative decisions in his films? Let us know in the comments!
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