HBO Max Yanks Gone With the Wind From Its Library … For Now

The recently launched HBO Max has removed the Oscar-winning epic Gone With the Wind from its library, but the streaming service says the film will eventually return unaltered but with context added to address its outdated and racially insensitive elements.While the 1939 blockbuster — which won eight Oscars including Best Picture — may be widely considered a classic of cinema, it’s also long proven controversial and disliked for its romanticized portrayal of the Confederacy and Southern plantation life, particularly its depiction of the institution of slavery.

In a statement from an HBO Max spokesperson, the streaming service 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 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.”

HBO Max’s removal of Gone With the Wind comes a day after the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed from Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) blasting the picture as “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’s article isn’t the first think-piece to criticize Gone With the Wind, its romantic depiction of the antebellum era, and the film’s long-held lofty place in cinematic history. There have been multiple calls from academics and artists over the decades for not just for a reassessment of the film but for its celebration to be ceased. Director Spike Lee used Gone With the Wind’s own imagery to lampoon white supremacy in his Oscar-winning film BlacKkKlansman, and has recounted how seeing Gone With the Wind on a school trip as a kid deeply disturbed him.

Gone With the Wind was adapted from Margaret Mitchell’s bestseller, and the hype around its production and casting was as feverishly covered by the press as a major comic book movie is today. But Mitchell’s hugely problematic novel prompted the NAACP to lobby the filmmakers to alter some of the book’s most racially insensitive and troubling elements, from a scene involving the Ku Klux Klan to the book’s many racial epithets. In the end, the film adaptation removed many but not all of the slurs and altered one particularly incendiary scene featuring the KKK.

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In addition to winning Best Picture, Gone With the Wind saw Hattie McDaniel win Best Supporting Actress, making her the first African-American and black woman to ever win an Oscar. McDaniel played Mammy, the slave of Vivien Leigh’s protagonist Scarlett O’Hara.

McDaniel wasn’t allowed to be seated through the Oscar ceremony with her fellow cast members and filmmakers due to the racial segregation of the time. Her struggles were recently depicted in the Netflix miniseries Hollywood, wherein she was portrayed by Queen Latifah.


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