The Criterion Channel, iTunes and more are offering a censored version of 1971’s Best Picture winner The French Connection.
More than a half-century after its release, 1971’s The French Connection is facing censorship over racist and offensive language. But it’s not just the edits that are getting attention; it’s who is encouraging them, as the Criterion Channel, Turner Classic Movies and iTunes are all offering the censored version of The French Connection to stream, watch live and download.
But first, here is the moment in question from The French Connection. The moment amounts to less than 10 seconds but involves Popeye Doyle using a racial slur.
This censored version of The French Connection was actually screened in May. So who is to blame? It’s easy to point to Disney, who owns Twentieth Century Fox, the studio behind The French Connection, but a notable issue here is that the censorship has gone under the radar, almost as if it’s been covered up. Surely it was noticed by Criterion and TCM, two of the purveyors and preservers of classic films, and yet nothing was done to stop the promotion of a censored work.
Yes, the language in question is disgusting, but it comes from a character who is in fact a racist (not to mention an alcoholic and misogynist) and so it’s fitting in that context. If there is an agreed-upon need to remove certain words and phrases, why not run a disclaimer? This is what (HBO) Max did for Blazing Saddles, with an accompanying intro that states, in part, “Racist language and attitudes pervade the film. But those attitudes are espoused by characters who are portrayed here as explicitly small-minded, ignorant bigots.” Disney, too, has offered this approach on movies that might contain insensitive material. It is, objectively, probably the most reasonable way to handle it. Censoring a film generally considered one of the greatest ever is shameful and those carrying it should be held accountable. Criterion and company have yet to make statements.
What are your thoughts on The French Connection being censored online? What, if anything, do you anticipate the aforementioned services saying on the issue?