Hollywood and the larger media landscape have found themselves reconsidering the television programming they're broadcasting and making available in recent days, due almost exclusively to the ongoing mass protests against police brutality and racism in the United States. It started with Cops being pulled and later outright cancelled, and most recently saw the series L.A.'s Finest delay its second season until later this year. Now Warnermedia has made quiet adjustments to their new HBO Max platform, removing what some might consider a "crown jewel" of their catalogue, the Civil War-themed 1939 film Gone With the Wind.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Oscar winning movie was quietly removed from HBO Max streaming service with no official reasoning given by the service. Searching for the title currently only yields an episode of Ellen's Game of Games, with no mention of the film anywhere else. Ahead of HBO Max's launch, the film was among the list of movies that would be included for streaming.
Gone With the Wind has long been a controversial movie despite winning ten Academy Awards in 1940 and remaining the highest grossing film of all time when adjusted for inflation. The film has long been rightfully criticized for its depiction of Black people as well its glamorization of the American south in the Civil War. Just yesterday an op-ed ran in The Los Angeles Times from filmmaker John Ridley, calling for the film to be removed from HBO Max for the time being and reinstated at a later date.
"As a filmmaker I get that movies are often snapshots of moments in history," The Academy Award winning screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave wrote. "Gone With the Wind, however, is its own unique problem. It 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."
He adds, "It is 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."
Ridley went on to suggest that when Warnermedia does decide to add Gone With the Wind back to its service it should do so with content that will broaden the conversation about what it shows and offer information about the truth of the Civil War and Slavery in America. HBO Max, to the credit, has announced they'll be doing just that.
Vulture's Josef Adalian confirmed that the film will return, with an HBO Max rep writing: "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."