When Hollywood director Spike Lee made strong accusations against Clint Eastwood, claiming two of his most popular films about World War II were clearly racist, Eastwood fired back at Lee with what he called “a lesson in history.”
Before streaming services, like Netflix and Amazon, took over a large portion of the moviemaking and TV series creation, there were those in Hollywood who were lodging complaints that directors were not casting many “people of color” in their productions. One of those at the forefront of making such allegations was the African-American director Spike Lee.
Back in 2008, Spike Lee was out promoting his film Miracle at St. Anna about an all-black division of soldiers during World War II, when he lashed out at Clint Eastwood for not including African American faces in two of his wildly popular movies covering the same time period.
“He did two films about Iwo Jima back to back, and there was not one black soldier in both of those films,” Lee told reporters referring to Flag of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima. “Many veterans, African Americans, who survived that war are upset at Clint Eastwood. In his vision of Iwo Jima, Negro soldiers did not exist. Simple as that. I have a different version.”
According to The Guardian, Eastwood didn’t agree with Lee’s concerns. “Has he ever studied history?” the legendary actor asked. Eastwood then admitted there were black troops in Iwo Jima. “But they didn’t raise the flag,” he explained. “The story is ‘Flags of Our Fathers,’ the famous flag-raising picture, and they didn’t do that. If I go ahead and put an African American actor in there, people’d go, ‘This guy’s lost his mind.’ I mean, it’s not accurate.”
The Oscar-winning director wasn’t finished blasting Spike Lee, explaining his WWII movies are based on the real history of the event, not on meeting a racial quota. “Make it look like a commercial for an equal opportunity player?” Eastwood declared. “I’m not in that game. I’m playing it the way I read it historically, and that’s the way it is. When I do a picture and it’s 90% black, like Bird, I use 90% black people.”
Eastwood’s 1988 biopic Bird was about the African-American jazz saxophonist, bandleader, and composer Charlie Parker, Jr. who was played by actor Forrest Whitaker. Eastwood also addressed Spike Lee’s complaints about that film. “He was complaining when I did Bird,” the Unforgiven star said. “Why would a white guy be doing that? I was the only guy who made it, that’s why. He could have gone ahead and made it. Instead, he was making something else.”
The Guardian says Eastwood then paused “deliberately” before adding a “last word of advice” for the influential black director. “A guy like him should shut his face,” Eastwood declared. The Million Dollar Baby director also ripped Spike Lee by using his film Invictus set in post-independence South Africa as an example. “I’m not going to make Nelson Mandela a white guy,” Eastwood stated.
Reports say Spike Lee was “forced” to end his feud with Clint Eastwood after Disney executives stepped in, claiming it was bad publicity and may cost the African-American director Oscar nominations for his World War II film. “I get the thing, ‘Well Mr. Eastwood is so well-beloved,’ and this may have ramifications at Academy time,” Lee said. “But it’s over. I said what I had to say. He believes what he believes. And that’s that.”
In the end, Spike Lee’s film Miracle at St. Anna’s did not receive any Oscar nominations while Letters From Iwo Jima received two Academy Award nominations for “Best Picture” and “Best Director.” However, that infamous feud between Eastwood and Lee led to a more considerable discussion over the way characters are cast in movies and TV productions, and how those in Hollywood decide what content is selected to be made.
Today, many Americans have canceled their streaming services subscriptions over what they say is the trend toward too many “woke” productions. According to The Sun, Netflix lost 200,000 subscribers in the first few months of 2022 and was expected to shed another two million by the end of the year. Its founder, Reed Hastings, blamed illegal password sharing for the grim figures, but critics point to the firm’s content, including signing up Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and a shortage of new must-see shows.
“The world’s richest man, Tesla founder Elon Musk, tweeted that ‘the woke mind virus is making Netflix unwatchable,'” The Sun reported. “And that situation seems unlikely to improve, with the woke Duke and Duchess of Sussex being paid £75million to produce new content. The couple promised material ‘that informs but also gives hope,’ but viewers seem unimpressed, with one tweeting: ‘The majority of the public are not remotely interested in watching content like Harry & Meg’s patronizing, virtue-signaling lectures on Netflix.'”
Most people just want to escape reality for a few hours, and that’s what made the Hollywood movie industry so successful for so long. Now that we have streaming services, the only measure of real success is in the number of subscribers, and only time will tell how those big tech companies will react to the message being sent by everyday Americans who only want to be entertained.