HBO Max temporarily pulls down Gone With the Wind: ‘These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today’
Considered a Hollywood classic, Civil War epic Gone With the Wind, has been temporarily removed by streaming platform HBO Max from its library.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the development comes as media companies reappraise content in the wake of protests over police brutality and systemic racism after the death of George Floyd, an African American man killed by Minnesota police last month.
Starring Hollywood icons Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, the 1939 film, which has for long been considered controversial for its depiction of black people and its overt positive view of slavery, was again under the microscope after 12 Years A Slave screenwriter John Ridley’s op-ed appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday. In the article titled “Hey, HBO, Gone With the Wind romanticizes the horrors of slavery. Take it off your platform for now”, the Oscar winner argued that the film had its “own unique problem”.
“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,” Ridley wrote.
“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,” he added.
The recently launched streamer from WarnerMedia said the film will eventually return, but will feature a “discussion of its historical context and a denouncement” of its racist depictions.
“‘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,” a spokesperson for HBO Max said.
Based on the 1936 bestseller by Margaret Mitchell, the film takes place in the American South, on a plantation outside Atlanta and narrated the love story of southern aristocrats Scarlett O’Hara (Leigh) and Rhett Butler (Gable).
The four hour-long film, directed by Victor Fleming, also starred Hattie McDaniel and Olivia de Havilland.
Gone With the Wind won eight Oscars at the 12th Academy Awards, including best picture, director, adapted screenplay, actress and supporting actress for McDaniel.
McDaniel, who played house servant Mammy at the O’Haras, became the first black person to win the award but due to racial segregation at the ceremony she sat separately from her co-stars, at a table at the back of the room.
Earlier on Tuesday, Paramount Network cancelled the long-running police reality show Cops in the wake of protests against police brutality.
“Cops is not on the Paramount Network and we don’t have any current or future plans for it to return,” a network spokesperson said.
The 33rd season of the show, which has faced scrutiny over the years for its depiction of suspects and police tactics, was scheduled to premiere on Monday, but no episode has aired on the network since at least June 1.