The move comes after 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley urged them to do so in an op-ed.

By Nick Romano
June 10, 2020 at 09:08 AM EDT
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Credit: Everett Collection

After 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley urged WarnerMedia to remove Gone With the Wind from the HBO Max streaming platform due to its depictions of slavery and the Civil War-era South, a rep for HBO Max confirmed Tuesday night that the film will be temporarily removed. It will return eventually, but only after it adds a "discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions."

"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 official statement to The Hollywood Reporter reads. "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.”

In an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times, Ridley wrote how the film, released in 1939, "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."

Starring Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara and Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, Gone With the Wind was long considered a classic of America cinema, but remained marred by heavy criticisms of its depictions of black people. The story takes place after the Civil War in the South, wherein former slaves appear pleased to remain submissive to their former masters. In 2017, a Memphis theater in Tennessee dropped the film from its summer movie series after the theater board deemed the material "insensitive" to its larger audience. In 2019, the movie returned to American theaters to marks its 80th anniversary.

In light of the ongoing protests against racism and police brutality, sparked by the death of Minnesota resident George Floyd by a police officer, works like Gone With the Wind have undergone new scrutiny. For another, Cops, a show that ran on TV for more than three decades, was canceled.

Ridley called Gone With the Wind "a film that, as part of the narrative of the 'Lost Cause,' romanticizes the Confederacy in a way that continues to give legitimacy to the notion that the secessionist movement was something more, or better, or more noble than what it was — a bloody insurrection to maintain the “right” to own, sell and buy human beings."

"Let me be real clear," he added, "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."

To help combat systemic racism, please consider donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero, which is dedicated to ending police brutality in America through research-based strategies.
  • Color of Change, which works to move decision makers in corporations and government to be more responsive to racial disparities.
  • Equal Justice Initiative, which provides legal services to people who have been wrongly convicted, denied a fair trial, or abused in state jails and prisons.

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