Less than two weeks after launch, HBO Max has removed Gone With the Wind from its streaming offering. It’s a significant move given the film’s popularity and status as the highest-grossing movie of all time when box office numbers are adjusted for inflation.
From an HBO Max spokesperson:
Gone With the Wind is a product of its time and depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American society. These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today, and we felt that to keep this title up without an explanation and a denouncement of those depictions would be irresponsible. These depictions are certainly counter to WarnerMedia’s values, so when we return the film to HBO Max, it will return with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions, but will be presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. If we are to create a more just, equitable and inclusive future, we must first acknowledge and understand our history.
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On Monday, Academy Award winning writer-director John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) called for the film’s removal from HBO Max, saying “It doesn’t just ‘fall short’ with regard to representation. It is a film that glorifies the antebellum south. It is a film that, when it is not ignoring the horrors of slavery, pauses only to perpetuate some of the most painful stereotypes of people of color.”
Indeed, the 1939 film is not aging well in an era of protests against police brutality and racial injustice. The Southern-set Civil War epic portrays slaves as mostly happy with their lot and loyal to their owners to the end. It also plays down — if not eliminates altogether — the horrors of slavery, even as it romanticizes the suffering of Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara before, during and after the Civil War.
It is a film that, as part of the narrative of the “Lost Cause,” romanticizes the Confederacy in a way that continues to give legitimacy to the notion that the secessionist movement was something more, or better, or more noble than what it was — a bloody insurrection to maintain the “right” to own, sell and buy human beings.
Gone With the Wind won 8 competitive Oscars, including the first Oscar ever awarded to a black person. That statue went to Hattie McDaniel for her role as the ever-loyal house slave Mammie. It also was awarded Best Picture; Best Director; Best Actress in a Leading Role; Best Writing, Screenplay; Best Cinematography, Color; Best Film Editing and Best Art Direction.
AFI ranked Gone With the Wind as the fourth best film ever made on its 100 Best Movies of All Time list.
The removal comes on the same day that Deadline confirmed Paramount Network had pulled Cops. The show was pulled last week in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. The series will not be coming back.
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