June 24 Update: “Gone with the Wind” has returned to HBO Max accompanied by two videos providing historical context to the film. The first video is an address from TCM host and film scholar Jacqueline Stewart, who notes the movie presents “the Antebellum South as a world of grace and beauty without acknowledging the brutalities of the system of chattel slavery upon which this world is based.” The second video is an hour-long recording of a panel discussion, “The Complicated Legacy of ‘Gone With the Wind,’” from the TCM Classic Film Festival in April 2019, moderated by author and historian Donald Bogle.
“The film has been repeatedly protested, dating back the announcement of its production,” Stewart adds in her video. “Producer David O. Selznick was well aware that Black audiences were deeply concerned about the film’s handling of the topic of slavery, and its treatment of Black characters…The film’s treatment of this world through a lens of nostalgia denies the horrors of slavery, as well as its legacies of racial inequality.”
Stewart also discusses how Black “Gone with the Wind” cast members were denied the opportunity to attend the movie’s world premiere in Georgia because of Jim Crow segregation laws. Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American person to win an Oscar thanks to her portrayal of the housemaid Mammy, but Stewart notes the actress was not allowed to sit with her white co-stars during the Oscar ceremony because of segregation.
Original June 10 Report: HBO Max has temporarily removed Victor Fleming’s 1939 epic “Gone with the Wind” from its streaming platform and will bring the film back online at a later date accompanied by “a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement” of its racist depictions. The decision to temporarily pull “Gone with the Wind” from streaming arrived just hours after Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley (“12 Years a Slave”) wrote an op-ed in The Los Angeles Times arguing that the Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh romance epic should be taken off streaming because it “romanticizes the horrors of slavery.”
“It doesn’t just ‘fall short’ with regard to representation,” Ridley wrote. “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 continued, “Let me be real clear: I don’t believe in censorship. I don’t think ‘Gone With the Wind’ should be relegated to a vault in Burbank. I would just ask, after a respectful amount of time has passed, that the film be re-introduced to the HBO Max platform along with other films that give a more broad-based and complete picture of what slavery and the Confederacy truly were. Or, perhaps it could be paired with conversations about narratives and why it’s important to have many voices sharing stories from different perspectives rather than merely those reinforcing the views of the prevailing culture.”
HBO Max brass wrote in a statement that “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.” The streaming platform said the depictions in the film “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,” the HBO Max statement continued. “If we are to create a more just, equitable and inclusive future, we must first acknowledge and understand our history.”
The move is not unlike what Disney+ has done on its platform. Certain older cartoons and other titles from the past with racially insensitive material are labeled as containing “Outdated Cultural Depictions.”