As demonstrations in support of Black Lives Matter continue across the country and TV shows like The Bachelor are being called to increase their diversity, HBO Max temporarily removed Gone With The Wind from its streaming service. This move came after 12 Years A Slave screenwriter John Ridley wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times asking the network to take it off the platform due its glorification of slavery and racial stereotypes. Two weeks later, the network has brought back to 1939 film along with an in introduction from Turner Classic Movie's Jacqueline Stewart to provide important cultural context.
While Stewart's introduction acknowledges the feature as "a film of undeniable cultural significance," she points out that it does not accurately represent "the horrors of slavery, as well as its legacies of racial inequality."
The film, which stars Thomas Mitchell, Barbara O'Neil, and Vivien Leigh, is set on a plantation in the south during the American Civil War. It won eight Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actress for Hattie McDaniel, who became the first African-American to win an Oscar.
Despite this, Stewart points out that the Black actors were not allowed to attend the film's premiere, and that McDaniel was not allowed to sit with the cast during the Oscars ceremony.
“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,” an HBO Max spokesperson said in a statement back when it was first removed, according to the New York Times. “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 include stereotypes of Black characters that conveniently gloss over the realities of the Confederacy, portraying the secessionist movement as something other than "a bloody insurrection to maintain the 'right' to own, sell and buy human beings," as Ridley points out.
To help bring attention to the police killing of George Floyd, you can sign the Change.org petition here, or donate to local organizations like Black Vision Collective or Reclaim the Block via the Minnesota Freedom Fund here.