Should HBO Max have originally removed 'Gone with the Wind' in their movie lineup?
Gone With the Wind (GWTW) won the Best Picture Oscar for 1939, and nine other Academy Awards. Yet HBO Max was correct for their initial move to pull it from their movie streaming lineup to add disclaimers. It's one of the highest-grossing films ever, a perennial romantic favorite and highly influential cinematically, but is also regarded as deeply insulting to Black people.
It's beloved by many viewers, but there have been multiple problematic aspects to it that must be addressed. It offends people with its cringe-worthy, stereotyped portrayals of Black characters such as Mammy and Prissy, who were servants. The grueling life of slaves is largely ignored. Its depiction of the rebellious Confederacy is cast in a sympathetic and dashing manner; and it underplays the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan, referring to a KKK incident as a 'political meeting.'
GWTW also glosses over marital rape in the infamous 'staircase scene' between a drunken Rhett Butler and a scared Scarlet O'Hara. He grabs her, she tries to fight him off, and he carries her brutishly up the stairs. In the wake of George Floyd's killing and other recent horrific deaths of Black Americans, as well as the MeToo movement and heightened awareness of sexual assault, the often overwrought GWTW demands to be re-examined, and offered with disclaimers that will help viewers understand several troubling themes and scenes.
Though few critics asked for GWTW to be “canceled” entirely from our culture, they do appreciate the included worthwhile explanations and disclaimers, especially for younger viewers. Ultimately, HBO’s removal was right in reassuring the public they take racial concerns as expressed by our current society seriously.
History should not be rewritten or erased. Any erasing or removing of art from our culture will be executed through subjective markers of only a few elites, and in 100 years, what is to keep new elites from erasing works deemed offensive then? One of the first steps of any socialistic power grab is to destroy the understanding of history. Nazis targeted books that were “deemed subversive to the National Socialist agenda.” Stalin and Lenin purged any books deemed harmful to socialism or communism. Castro may have had 100% literacy, but only through state-approved books. He outlawed Martin Luther King Jr. speeches and the U.N. Declaration of Universal Human Rights (and many others) as “Terrorist literature.” Freedom is more important than literacy, and freedom to see how past generations viewed controversial issues is profoundly important.
If society doesn’t learn from history, including how we’ve surpassed old ways, we are “doomed to repeat it.” History didn't start in 1939 with the making of GWTW; it's an epic saga, with ongoing processes, which includes sorting through flaws with grace in the name of true progress. Society must acknowledge how nearly every culture, time, era, and society had slaves. Compared to the West, Saudi Arabia didn’t prohibit slavery until 1962; Africa didn’t until 1981.
What’s more, GWTW allowed for Hattie McDaniel (“Mammy”), to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, making her the first African American woman to win an Oscar. This magnificent accomplishment of progress predates the Civil Rights era. GWTW, besides being a masterpiece of a film, is something to not only learn from but celebrate.
- The 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States on January 31, 1865, and was ratified on December 6, 1865, providing that 'Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.'
- Segregation in public schools and other public facilities was declared unconstitutional In 1954 by the Supreme Court reversed Plessy in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
- Stewart, a professor of film and media studies at University of Chicago, stated that Black cast members were banned from the movie’s premiere because of Georgia’s Jim Crow segregation laws. Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Academy Award for her portrayal of the servant Mammy in the film, was not allowed to sit with the other cast members at the Oscars.
- An HBO spokesperson said to The Hollywood Reporter of the film, “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.”