If you’re anything like us, people love telling you—on the internet, over the phone, shouted from a bullhorn at periodic points throughout the day—that “You couldn’t make a movie like Blazing Saddles in today’s climate!” The implication, generally, is that our society is so corrupted by the scourge of caring about the feelings of others—for shame!—that Mel Brooks’ satire of racism, closed-mindedness, and Busby Berkeley musical numbers could never fly in the modern day. Brooks himself has even made the statement, although, hey, he’s Mel Brooks, so he pretty much gets a pass.
All of which is, of course, entirely academic: Brooks didn’t make the film today; he made it back in 1974, in a society with different attitudes and mores—although, sadly, also many of the same issues of racial injustice that plague American society today. That’s the whole gist of an intro message that HBO Max has just placed on its version of Brooks’ Western satire, the second such disclaimer it’s added to its library, after an earlier dose of context slapped on top of Gone With The Wind.
Understandably, Jacqueline Stewart’s Blazing Saddles introduction is a lot less full of caveats than the one that accompanied Wind, on account of, well, Blazing Saddles being almost infinitely less racist than Gone With The Wind. (And also, not to get too judge-y here, quite a bit more comical.) Referring to the slurs and racist attitudes that pop up throughout Saddles, Stewart notes that, “Those attitudes are espoused by characters who are explicitly portrayed here as narrow-minded, ignorant bigots. The film’s real and much more enlightened perspective is represented by the two main characters.”
Meanwhile, in other news: Blazing Saddles is on HBO Max! You should go check it out, it’s still pretty goddamn great.