Disappearing John Wayne Controversy [...]

A number of pages on the web talk about John Wayne’s controversial statements to Playboy Magazine in 1971 on the issue of race and the conquest of the Americas. They cite Wikipedia which used to have a section in the John Wayne article on this issue, but that section has long since been removed.

The remarks require some context, but did have disturbing elements; Wayne says that he believes in “white supremacy” until “the blacks” are educated to a point of responsibility and claims that Europeans were right in seizing Native American land because they were “selfishly” keeping it all to themselves.

The quotes seem like something that might belong on a Wikipedia page about someone considered to be an icon of the American spirit.

Or not. He was, after all, an actor, and actors say stupid things all the time. His comments don’t seem to have had any direct political impact, and were not that different from what many people expressed at the time.

The problem, again, is that what should be on the page depends what reason brought you to it. In a history of American acting style, the comments are peripheral at best. In a history of the “cowboy iconography” of the American film these quotes are central. You need two different pages; one won’t suffice.

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