12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley successfully called for WarnerMedia to temporarily remove Gone with the Wind from streaming on HBO Max, according to The Hollywood Reporter. His demand comes in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed.
Ridley argued that the film “glorifies the antebellum south, [ignores] the horrors of slavery,” and “[perpetuates] some of the most painful stereotypes of people of color.” WarnerMedia agreed with Ridley and pulled the film from streaming the next day.
HBO Max stated in Vanity Fair that the film is “a product of its time and depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudice 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 denouncement of those depictions would be irresponsible. [They] are certainly counter to WarnerMedia’s values.”
For decades, Gone with the Wind has been hailed as one of the greatest films of all time. During its initial release, the film grossed an outstanding $3.7 billion when adjusted for inflation, remaining the highest-grossing film in history. It also won eight Academy Awards, including for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for Hattie McDaniel’s performance as the slave Mammy, becoming the first African American to win an Oscar.
Nevertheless, it has been the subject of numerous criticisms regarding its racist and idealized vision of the South. It has even been likened to The Birth of a Nation, as they racistly and inaccurately depicted slavery in the South, despite their technical achievements.
The film’s removal coincides with some other changes in the entertainment industry in response to the protests. The reality show Cops, which has run on Paramount Network for over 30 years, was recently canceled due to its portrayal of violent police officers. The cast and showrunner of Brooklyn Nine-Nine has even donated $100K to the National Bail Fund Network for protesters.
Ridley did not call for the movie to be removed forever, requesting that “After a respectful amount of time has passed, that the film be re-introduced to the platform along with other films that give a more broad-based and complete picture of what slavery and the Confederacy truly were.”
HBO Max plans to do the same as well, claiming that they will return the film to the platform with “historical 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.”