HBO Max has temporarily removed Gone with the Wind from its library so that it can figure out how to proceed with a much-needed discussion about the movie’s problematic nature. The 1939 drama has long been concerning for its romanticization of the Confederacy, its positive view of slavery, and the fallout surrounding Hattie McDaniel, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting actress (and became the first black person to win an acting Oscar), but couldn’t sit or celebrate with her costars at the ceremony because it was held at a segregated hotel.
The epic drama is a Civil War-era love story about southern aristocrats Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, based on the 1936 bestselling novel by Margaret Mitchell. The film won eight Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress, which went to McDaniel for her portrayal of Mammy, a house servant. Thanks to frequent rereleases, it is still the highest grossing movie of all time.
Ah yes, but tell the whole story, sans omissions: About Hattie McDaniel not being allowed at the film’s premiere; or about the Oscars being held at a Whites-only motel; or how she stacked reviews from her performance in front of the film producer just to have her name submitted. https://t.co/jmrVKMcEk7
— Brad Smith (@thebradsmith) June 10, 2020
Donald Trump name-checked the film earlier this year when he lambasted Parasite, Bong Joon Ho’s near-universally praised tragicomedy from South Korea that won Best Picture at the Oscars. Trump told his fans at a campaign rally that he wished for the return of Hollywood classics like Gone With The Wind. That was obviously an anti-diversity, pro-racist dog whistle, and a testament to the lingering history of the film.
On Monday, The New York Times ran an op-ed by 12 Years A Slave screenwriter John Ridley, who called for HBO Max to consider removing Gone with the Wind.
“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. He added that it continues to give legitimacy to the notion that the secessionist movement was something more noble than it was: “a bloody insurrection to maintain the right to own, sell and buy human beings.”
In a statement to the Hollywood Reporter, HBO Max said, “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 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.”
Karina Longworth, host of the popular Hollywood history podcast You Must Remember This, weighed in as well, arguing that removing racist movies from circulation altogether allows Hollywood to hide its history of bigotry.
I know I’m going to get asked, so: I believe Hollywood’s history of racism should be openly discussed. As I explained in the @RememberThisPod season about Song of the South, when the industry tries to hide that history by de-circulating the products, they become fetish objects.
— Karina Longworth (@KarinaLongworth) June 10, 2020
According to HBO Max’s statement to the Hollywood Reporter, Gone with the Wind will return to the platform “with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those [racist] 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.”
This move comes amid several companies reevaluating content in the wake of recent protests against systemic racism.