Since his death in 1979, John Wayne has largely remained a celebrated Hollywood legend. From the airport named after him in California to his birthday being considered a holiday by many of his admirers, John Wayne has gotten no shortage of recognition since passing away. Recently, many have called into question whether the star deserves the posthumous status that he has retained, or whether some of his decidedly old-fashioned ideals paint him more as a villain than a hero. Join Facts Verse as we take a look at whether or not John Wayne was actually a horrible person all along.
In 1971, less than a decade before his death, John Wayne gave an interview to Playboy magazine that would go on to leave a major dent in the actor’s legacy. Even at the time, many took umbrage with some of the negative remarks that John was caught saying in the interview regarding both the issue of white supremacy and the issue of whether or not it was okay to be gay. Both then and in the years since, many have attributed John’s flippant remarks about the issues of race and sexuality to the fact that the actor was known for his old-fashioned ideals. However, others have become decreasingly interested in letting the Hollywood legend off the hook for expressing what were widely considered to be backwards ideas even at the time.
By the time that John Wayne gave his notorious Playboy interview in 1971, he was already a star that was nearing the end of his days. The legend had experienced a career in Hollywood that was relatively unmatched, despite the fact that he was gradually becoming less and less likable due to his stubborn old-fashioned values and his hatred of Hollywood’s increasing liberalism and homosexuality.
In 1968, John Wayne had starred in and codirected the oft-derided feature The Green Berets, which was considered to be a glaringly obvious piece of pro-war propaganda even at the time. The film was meant to increase patriotic fervor amongst the masses during the Vietnam War; similar to what John had been tasked to do by the government during World War II. However, the people weren’t quite as receptive to pro-war propaganda by the time The Green Berets came out, which only served to highlight many of the other issues that the public had begun taking with John’s persona.
The 1971 Playboy interview had come at a time when people were already beginning to question just how much America needed a hero like John Wayne, and the problematic aspects of John’s attitudes and persona have only become more obvious in the years since. After John’s death, he maintained a significant legacy due to the contributions that he had made to the entertainment industry. Despite the fact that many agree that John’s views were problematic, and that there was no longer a place for pro-war propaganda in the media, many still viewed John in a positive light due to the nostalgia that they felt when his films came on.
Some of the remnants of John Wayne that still linger include John Wayne Airport in Orange County. The airport was named after the Hollywood legend after his 1979 death, and still remains known by his name to this day. This stands in spite of numerous pushes made by local residents to have the name of the airport changed.
Those who support the name staying the same believe that John Wayne’s contributions to the entertainment industry and the state of California don’t deserve to be overlooked just because John expressed the values of his time. Conversely, those who support the name change believe that there are simply many other less problematic and equally important historical figures that the airport could be named after instead.
In 2020, leaders of Orange County’s Democratic Party ushered in an emergency resolution calling for the renaming of the airport in the wake of a recent resurgence of the negative remarks found in John Wayne’s 1971 Playboy interview. Of course, the issue of America’s lingering white supremacy has only become more and more pertinent in the years since John’s death, and this call for the renaming of John Wayne Airport mirrors numerous other incidents throughout the world where landmarks celebrating historical figures with problematic pasts have been removed.
Although John Wayne Airport still remains known by the Hollywood legend’s name, this victory is just one small battle for the actor’s tenuous legacy in Hollywood. There is still the matter of the actor’s birthday, which has been routinely rejected the status of a holiday by California’s government, despite being given the status in the state of Texas. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! As well, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Before John Wayne’s death in 1979, John Wayne Airport was known simply as Orange County Airport. While some have called for the airport to be named after a less problematic figure from Orange County’s history, others have simply called for a reversion back to the landmark’s original name. Although the airport remains known as John Wayne Airport, there will always be those fighting in opposition, and the status of John Wayne’s legacy remains questionable.
While those in favor of the maintenance of John Wayne’s legacy are winning the war over John Wayne Airport, they have lost time and time again in their attempts to have John Wayne’s birthday be recognized as a holiday by the state of California. The Hollywood legend’s birthday is considered a holiday in the state of Texas, and John-Wayne-loving Californians believe that the actor’s legacy is equally important in California, if not even more so. Despite this, the largely liberal government of California believes that, even if they can’t change the name of John Wayne Airport, giving the deceased actor’s birthday the status of a holiday would be sending too much of the wrong idea to it’s citizens.
There have been numerous pushes to have John Wayne Day be recognized in California, just as there have been numerous pushes to have John Wayne Airport renamed. While none of these measures have been successful, both wars will continue to be waged. In the meantime, the public can take a look at John Wayne’s notorious 1971 Playboy interview and the remarks contained within to try and decide for themselves whether or not the man deserves to have a positive or negative connotation along with his name.
The interviews that were published by Playboy magazine in 1971 were derived from eight hours of recorded footage, where the actor laid bare a great deal. While much of the information that John shared was innocuous trivia, hidden amongst the eight hours of footage were some decidedly unwholesome remarks about black people, homosexuals, and Native Americans. Beyond specific derogatory remarks, there was a pervading tone of white supremacy that couldn’t be ignored binding all of the actor’s ideals.
Regarding the issue of white supremacy and black people at the time, John Wayne expressed the civil rights battles being raged didn’t make any sense to him because he believed that black people were only disadvantaged by their own lack of intellect. According to him, black people were given every opportunity in 1971 to get an education if they so desired, it’s just that they didn’t have what it took to be held to the same educational standards as their white counterparts. According to John, there were standards put in place to determine if black people were intelligent enough to attain positions of power equal to white people, and they had yet to academically reach that bar. Because of this, he believed that black people still had a ways to go before they truly achieved equality, even though they already had it.
While there has arguably been some progress made in the name of racial equality in the years since John Wayne’s 1971 Playboy interview, the fact of the matter stands that 1971 was a time when segregation had only recently ended in most parts of the country, and it was only several years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Many have forgiven John’s negative remarks regarding the black community due to the actor’s overall old-fashioned ideals, while others have said that the remarks weren’t so much a remnant of his old-fashioned ideals as a negative reaction to the current political climate and the civil rights victories that John Wayne was seeing won around him.
Besides saying that he believed white supremacy was valid until black people were capable of being as educated as white people, John Wayne also expressed that he felt no guilt about slavery. According to him, it had nothing to do with him whether or not black people had been imprisoned.
Regarding the issues of the subjugation of Native Americans, John Wayne expressed even more problematic views. Not only did John feel no guilt about the subjugation of Native Americans, he felt that it was deserved. According to him, Native Americans were simply greedy people that wanted more land than they knew what to do with.
Finally, many people continue to take umbrage with the negative views that John Wayne expressed regarding homosexuals in his notorious 1971 Playboy interview. When speaking about the then-recent film Midnight Rider, John Wayne used a disparaging gay slur to refer to it’s two protagonists. John Wayne’s son, Ethan, has defended his father’s use of the slur, saying that John just wasn’t happy about the direction that Hollywood was going in.
Despite the fact that John Wayne’s legacy continues to become increasingly problematic, it still can’t be denied that the Hollywood legend left behind impressive contributions to the arts, whether or not they hold up to moral scrutiny. Comment down below to share what your favorite role from John Wayne’s career is, or if there are any works from the Hollywood legend’s filmography that you have a hard time revisiting in light of recent cultural reevaluations. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!