Amid ongoing protests over racist policing and a long-overdue racial reckoning that spans multiple industries, HBO Max has temporarily removed the 1939 Civil War drama Gone With the Wind from its online streaming slate. Below, all the details on the controversy.What happened?
On June 8, 12 Years A Slave screenwriter John Ridley published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times asking newly launched streaming platform HBO Max to remove Gone With the Wind from its streaming options temporarily. Ridley proposed, “after a respectful amount of time has passed, that the film be reintroduced 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.” HBO Max pulled Gone With the Wind from streaming on Tuesday, with a spokesperson telling CNN Business: “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.” The spokesperson added that the film would return to the platform “with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions.”What was the reaction?
Members of the conservative media were predictably outraged, with Charlie Kirk calling the decision, “part of the left’s sinister plot to erase American culture.” Kirk then went on to tout the fact that Hattie McDaniel was the first Black American woman to win an Oscar for her role in Gone With the Wind.
Writers and critics including Wajahat Ali, Rebecca Theodore-Vachon, and Miriam Bale criticized the film, pointing out that McDaniel wasn’t even allowed to sit with her white fellow nominees at the Oscars ceremony and noting the lack of racial progress that the film industry has made since Gone With the Wind. (It’s also worth noting that HBO Max’s removal of the film is temporary, and it can still be rented on Amazon, YouTube, and any other number of platforms.)Why does this matter?
HBO Max’s decision to pull Gone With the Wind has quickly become a flash point in a culture war between those who insist on their right to steep themselves what many see as a glorified version of slavery with unfettered ease and those who believe that not every piece of art is ideally suited to every social moment.