Gone with the Wind, considered a classic, has been temporarily pulled down by HBO Max. An epic film with the backdrop of the American Civil War, the film is based on Margaret Mitchell’s book by the same name. The film has long been considered controversial for its depiction of slavery. The removal of the film comes on the heels of the mass protests sweeping across the US following the killing of George Floyd.

What You Should Know

  • HBO Max announced they were temporarily removing Gone with the Wind on Tuesday.
  • It won eight Oscars, including for Hattie McDaniel – the first African American to win the award.
  • Critics in recent years have pointed out how the film romanticizes slavery.
  • On Monday the LA Times published an Op-Ed calling for the film to be relegated. 
  • HBO issued a statement saying the film will return in future with ‘a discussion of its historical context’. 

About The Classic

The 1939 film tells the love story of the southern aristocrats Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler. Starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, the story unfolds on a plantation outside of Atlanta against the backdrop of American Civil War. The African American characters are shown to be content and loyal to their former owners even after the abolition of slavery.

A box-office success, the film received eight Oscars at the 12th Academy Awards, including best picture, director, adapted screenplay, actress and supporting actress. Hattie McDaniel, who played Mammy at the O’Haras, became the first African American to win the award. But due to racial segregation at the ceremony she had to sit separately from her co-stars, at a table at the back of the room. This incident gained major attention when the recently-released Netflix show Hollywood decided to include it while depicting the life of McDaniel.

Criticism in light of recent protests in the US

Many critics have previously questioned whether a film that glosses over the horrors of slavery should still be shown. In the light of the killing of George Floyd, the debate gained further momentum. The film was again put under the microscope after 12 Years A Slave screenwriter John Ridley’s op-ed appeared in LA Times on Monday. 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 “glorifies the antebellum south.” He further wrote “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.” HBO Max, which launched two weeks ago, acted immediately on the criticism.

The move comes as media companies are reassessing content in light of protests over police brutality and systemic racism. In a statement, HBO Max said it would be “irresponsible” to keep the film on its platform without “an explanation and a denouncement” of its “racist depictions”. Earlier on Tuesday, Paramount Network cancelled the long-running police reality show Cops in the wake of protests against police brutality. These moves follow the removal of the show Little Britain from Netflix and BBC iPlayer for its projection of Blackface.

A story is not just an innocent conveyer of information, it has a point of view, and it has an opinion. And it makes that point-of-view and opinion known. HBO Max makes it clear that the removal of the film is temporary. It will be added back to the content list again, providing a discussion about racism in the wider historical context. And I truly believe this is the right way to go. We cannot change the past. But we can provoke a meaningful conversation around it, and try not to make those same mistakes all over again.

Photo Credit: Google Images

Dyuti Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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