- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Social media was astir Thursday after a viral tweet brought up legendary actress Judy Garland’s on-screen history with blackface. The tweet, attributed to @browardbully, said, “two movies. a year apart. same b—-. shoutout to Gen Z for teaching me this,” showing the late actress in 1938’s “Everybody Sing” next to her appearing in the 1939 feature, “The Wizard of Oz.”
The tweet has drawn over 50 million views. Many have argued that, at the time, the actress was under oppressive studio control and in the beginnings of a lifelong battle with drug addiction. Others have tried to contextualize her use of blackface, which many Old Hollywood stars participated in at the time. Twitter user and YouTube creator Be Kind Rewind tried to break down the complicated feelings viewers can have about Hollywood’s history with blackface.
Judy was asked to do this because white people found this an acceptable form of entertainment through the 1930s. It is baked into the foundations of American pop culture. That's deeply unsettling, especially when a familiar face makes that fact obvious, real, and recent
— bkr (@bkrewind) August 18, 2023
Representatives for the Garland estate and Garland’s family did not respond to comment by press time.
This recent social media snafu has made many question whether it’s appropriate to critique Old Hollywood stars, many of whom are no longer living, for the dated film roles they portrayed at the time.
Numerous other studio-era celebrities engaged in blackface content, including Fred Astaire and Joan Crawford. It remains a complicated topic, with Turner Classic Movies regularly playing a mini-documentary on the history of the act, narrated by Academy Museum head Jacqueline Stewart. As part of the studio system, Garland’s roles were more often than not assigned to her. If she declined to participate, she could face suspension by the studio.
Others on social media have cited Garland’s own work during the Civil Rights Movement as a way of her balancing the scales for her past work. Garland supported the March on Washington, remembered for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and she regularly helmed fundraisers opposite the Black stars of her day.
The actress dealt with a wide manner of personal and professional troubles. Garland died in 1969 at the age of 47 from a drug overdose.